The New Era of Workforce-as-a-Service Is Here

Last week, I attended a fireside chat event with Gary Swart, the CEO of oDesk, where I was blown away by the concept of an on-demand online workforce and how Gary predicts by 2020, one in every three employees in the workforce will work remotely online. This topic also came up a few days ago at an event I attended at Stanford, where Mary Meeker gave her talk on 2012 Internet Trends. Mary asserted the trend towards an on-demand Workforce-as-a-Service (WaaS) using platforms like oDesk, which enable employment to be asset-light with very minimal fixed costs. I’ve now realized that on-demand workforce is a reality and many tech giants here in the San Francisco bay area are embracing it. In this blog post I’m going to discuss on-demand workforces and how oDesk leverages this trend.
oDesk is the world’s largest workplace that brings the job to the worker rather than the worker to the job. oDesk addresses the problem of job opportunities not always existing where the talent lives by creating a platform with a time-based compensation model for workers. The service has over 500K clients and more than 2.7M on-demand workers with rapid growth. Gary mentioned three trends that have helped them with their growth:

  • Internet and technology: More bandwidth and tools like Skype and Google Docs has made it much easier to work remotely. The internet has also made it much easier for people in the developing world to keep up with the latest technologies and learn market needed skills.
  • Globalization: Many businesses, including SMBs, are expanding worldwide and need a global workforce to sustain. Furthermore, the number of English-speaking people are increasing around the world.
  • Economy: The economy is forcing businesses to be agile and do more with less. An on-demand workforce is elastic and scalable.

On-demand workforces are not perfect and have some challenges associated with them. However, the main reason that I personally have not been a big believer is the importance of alignment to company values and bigger objectives, and how I thought it was impossible to have it with an on-demand/remote workforce. I posed my thoughts to Gary during his talk (image from the talk shown below) and his response changed my perspective. Gary admitted to this growing challenge and mentioned few ways they overcome this problem in their own company, which employs a high percentage of remote workers:

  • Giving an opportunity to have impact: People want the feeling of belonging to something bigger. oDesk enables its remote workers to work on a platform that has visible global impact.
  • Learning and development: oDesk engages it’s remote workers to continuously learn and enhance their skills. Furthermore, people on oDesk’s platforms are taking ownership of their own learning which is needed to stay competitive.
  • Fair compensation: People want to be paid fairly and oDesk usually exceeds that expectation by enabling workers to get paid more that the market average for their geographical location.
  • Balanced life: Many people join oDesk because of the flexibility it offers to work from anywhere. This is what they value and this is what oDesk can offer them. oDesk attracts top-notch talent who leave big companies like Amazon to gain the flexibility and life balance they desire.
  • Face time: oDesk occasionally flies in it’s remote workers to work in its head office or sometimes flies people from head office to go spend time with remote workers around the world.


After listening to Gary’s talk, I realized that what we are doing with the 7Geese platform to align employees to company values and objectives can be utilized to align on-demand and remote workers as well. Suddenly, the vision for 7Geese became more in alignment with the future of work :)

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