Posts tagged ‘new normal’

April 16, 2012

Crowdsourcing, outsourcing, offshoring, oh my!

I read a blog post about freelance talent overseas being used as a replacement for full-time in-house employment and something didn’t sit right. (

The author used the term “crowdsourcing” to refer to this type of employment agreement and I think that the term does not always apply. The human resources functions of most organizations are not sophisticated enough to use crowdsourcing to work on project teams effectively outside of software development. Many of the newest outsourced virtual freelance employment is in the accounting, legal, and marketing occupations and those are less frequently a distributed group of people working on the same task and more frequently one person sitting in a dark room with a computer emailing documents back and forth.

This made me think, however, of the potential of a more mobile workforce with virtual teams that may or may not be freelance talent. A draft paper on another colleague’s blog ( highlights a lot of information on this topic and I’m not even close to being equipped to get into that kind of detail here. The basic link, though, is that we need not be necessarily moving towards chaos here if we are good at planning ahead as HR/OD people.

The virtual team is a rich environment where possibilities for collaboration may even be greater than project teams in-house. Greater diversity of thought can be accomplished, if you put the team together with that in mind. You can even assess the learning styles and collaboration styles of all the potential members and compose a team that has a better chance at productivity than when you’re stuck with the usual gang. Just as in “real life” the virtual positions should not just be filled with those who have technical expertise but who also are able to work well with others, give appropriate feedback, ask the right questions and innovate because they love what they do.

Some of these jobs may be overseas. I hear a lot of panic about the future of work in the US and I don’t think it’s all justified. Accounting has seen a lot of offshore outsourcing in the industry, and it is picking up with the legal profession. These professions have been hit very hard in the recession and a lot of change is happening that does equal fewer opportunities in the US for the long-term. Manufacturing, textiles, technology, and more are already spread all over the developing planet. None of this is new to us but when it starts happening to the white collar jobs it becomes a crisis? I hate to be cliche but we’re Americans. Working hard and beating the odds should still be in in our blood.

The challenge is to realize that the world is a global marketplace for talent, and that does not need to be scary. Your skills and experience are your commodity.  I had a job once that was offshored and I was crushed because I thought I had job security. This was ten years ago. I found a way to translate my skills into a new profession that was related to my old job. This is no time for complacency – you need to be active in your development on your job, off your job, between jobs, and despite jobs. Do what you love and you will be able to find the spark to keep going until the next change happens and you’ll be able to figure it out again. Everything is moving faster and requires agility, tenaciousness, and resilience. It can be as empowering as it is defeating. It’s not easy. We need education to partner with HR/OD to help plan the workforce of the future together instead of giving everyone the 50 year-old questionnaire in high school.