Talent in the Cloud: Revolution or Devolution?

548px-Karl_MarxCarmen Hudson recently shared an article about the future of hiring, referencing Elance’s new private talent cloud:

The cloud cuts out waste and that’s why people love it. Companies and individuals call upon storage space in the magical ether as they need it, without spending a penny more than they use. Gone are the days of servers idling half empty in a building, barely used hard-drives cluttering up desks. Everything becomes more efficient, organizations get leaner, the fat is trimmed.

But what if the fat that the cloud cuts out isn’t machine fat at all? What if it’s human fat?

I’m not talking about Fitbit making you fitter or some freaky new plastic surgery in the cloud procedure. I’m talking about applying the principals of the cloud to managing the human workforce. Imagine, instead of just drawing on servers and processing power on an as-needed basis, companies also draw on people that way. A workforce that operates like the cloud, swelling and shrinking at a moment’s notice.

The way organizations are using people in their organization is changing, and it is diverging with two radically different paths and two different promises.

One ideological path takes us away from humans as resources into something of an organizational alignment. Finding people and teams with shared ambitions, moving toward a common goal. The other further entrenches people as resources, to be bought like any other good. Plug and play and if one resource burns out, replace it with another to meet your objectives.

Funny enough, both promise freedom and progress and play with the idea that business ambitions are simply a collection of human ambitions. They just try to go about solving for that reality in a different way.

I don’t have anything smart to add in here other than to acknowledge that this, more than many of the other articles I typically read on the subject, made me think about what work in the future might look like.


  1. Lance, great post.

    I think the future, at least in my view, will end up somewhere in between. I say that because I think it is currently somewhat structured this way.

    There will need to be a core set of employees that are setting direction/strategy, determining the organizations operating approach and managing that, managing risk across the organization, etc.

    But, there are some skill set that are pretty ubiquitous for which demand ebbs and flows based on the current strategy and direction of the organization. Right now, you have to work with an agency of some type, build a network through trial and error, etc. to find these folks.

    Having a “cloud” where you can find individuals that are vetted, rated, proven (or whatever adjective you choose to use) by a large community vs. what they say they can do, the agency tells you they can do, etc. would be a huge benefit, I think.

    There is obviously still risk in this approach, but having more information and supply should help lessen that risk if you go about using this pool of resources appropriately.

  2. Lance, you present a great perspective into what the “cloud” might do for business. I agree that the cloud will create a leaner organization, although I disagree in the way it will do so. In terms of having a pool of individuals you can call upon is unrealistic. Top talent, the people you would want coming into your organization will rarely be the ones performing on a sub contract basis. To create a leaner company with the cloud, an organization must utilize it to reduce administrative and procedural tasks. By reducing the time spend on manual processes staff become freed to accomplish other objectives and see increased improvement in the business core mission. It is with these improvement that management can begin to create a leaner organization.

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