I was speaking at Asia’s largest conference of photographers. During the break, I was seated at the table with two of the speakers - Neelima Vallangi and Shivya Nath. They are both “digital nomads”. They are travel bloggers and photographers.
After seven years as a software engineer Neelima Vallangi (@Neelimav) quit her 7-year job as a Software Engineer to write and travel full time! Her stories and images have been published in BBC, NatGeo Traveller, Travel+Leisure, Mint, Indian Express and more.
“My belongings all fit into a suitcase and my computer and camera fit into my backpack. Since I don’t have a home or even a permanent address, I have to be a minimalist.”
How did she hit upon the idea of giving up a home?
“My very first story for a travel magazine would also be published with none other than National Geographic Traveller India (in 2013). And that's how the idea was implanted in my head, that I could perhaps be a professional travel writer and photographer. I quit my job in 2014 to do this full time and gave up my home in 2015 to be location-independent.”
Shivya Nath’s first book The Shooting Star was a bestseller. Her work has been published by BBC, Huffington Post, National Geographic and several newspapers. Shivya’s work is available to more than 73,000 followers on Instagram (@Shivya). She tells me, “4 years ago, I gave up my home, sold most of my possessions and embraced a nomadic life. This journey has taken me as far within as with my feet.”
Working with a boundary less talent pool on tap will need different types of skills for HR
A new kind of LinkedIn
Neelima and Shivya are two samples of what lies ahead for HR. The talent pool is soon going to become location-independent. These are new kinds of careers that did not exist before. This work is being done by a new kind of worker and their office is their mobile. Their resume is on social media. They have no business card. The best way to contact them is to leave a message on their Instagram post. That is how they are discovered by fans and brands who use them as influencers. They need a new kind of LinkedIn. That is where the opportunity lies for HR.
HR for a 5 billion talent pool
What a game changer that little device has been. There are 5.5 billion adults and five billion mobile phones. Of these four billion are smartphones. Apple has an installed base of 900 million iPhones -- as they declared in January 2019. Then they added that there were 1.4 billion active iOS devices as of the end of 2018. Google says there are now 2.5bn active Android devices. 95% of these Android devices are phones. The 650 million Android phones in China are in addition to these 2.4 billion Android phones we accounted for.
Specialized talent pools
As the online marketplace for skills is maturing, it is going to create marketplaces much like what LinkedIn has done for people who are full-time employees in a firm and who are looking for full-time work with another organization. There is no marketplace for blue-collar work. Organizations struggle to find seasonal labor to harvest their crops. Noble House has already become the first mover to become a marketplace for gig workers. Actors, content writers and even HR professionals are beginning to share this upcoming marketplace. Already there are marketplaces for niche skills popping up all over the world. Pared.com provides caterers and restaurants with back-of-the-house operations like line cooks, prep cooks, and dishwashers, though it could theoretically extend to any part of the restaurant experience. They also provide bartenders, baristas and even Oyster Shuckers to restaurants who don’t know how to find these skills when they have an impatient customer waiting. Rover.com provides services for cats and dogs that range from dog-walking, day-care and more. StyleSheet can help you find hairstylists for the local salon. TrustedHealth is a portal that provides nurses to the health care industry. Their portal also provides storage for the nurse’s credentials. That makes applying for a job easy. The employer can pre-screen the candidates.
New talent market-places must make it easy for the employer to find the person with the right skills regardless of the duration for which they are being employed
The five big problems
Talent marketplaces must solve four problems.
- They must make it easy for the employer to find the person with the right skills regardless of the duration for which they are being employed.
- They need to find ways to verify the credentials for work that requires specific licenses and experience. Imagine being able to see the doctor’s credentials and licenses before they undertake surgery for someone (even if they are employed by a hospital)
- The employers want to know if the person is easy to work with. This is where customer reviews help. The Uber and Ola driver ratings are available for all to see. The drivers in turn can see the reputation of the drivers they have been assigned.
- The payment system for the gig workers must be made friction-free. Upwork and Uber have solved the payment problem by making payments instantaneous.
- The professional must be able to stay employable by upgrading their skills and knowledge in real time. Sometimes that may mean upgrading skills by being an apprentice to an expert.
Skills for HR
Technology is being used to solve all five problems. Working with a boundary-less talent pool on tap will need different kind of skills for HR. Being able to use technology to reimagine the employee experience is a good starting point. Working with influencers to shape the employer brand is another area for HR to scale up. Working to provide talent in real time is a new challenge for HR to address. Building engagement and employability across the supply chain means that HR must stop viewing the talent pool as being limited to full-time employees. There are new talent pools like Generation Z that are emerging that have a very different mindset and expectations. Having a research wing would be useful. When the world of work, working and workers are all changing, HR must lead the way.