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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Elance Pairs Hunt For Temp Work With Cloud Computing

Cloud computing does not move computing power to small phones and big data centers. It is rearranging how we allocate work â€" maybe to a state of permanent, temporary work, for the mostly nontechnical ranks of the work force.

On Tuesday Elance, an online service for hiring temporary workers, announced a service that enables companies to hire, manage and pay freelance workers in a virtual private environment. Trusted consultants, designers, programmers and other freelancers can be cataloged and called upon as needed, and paid through the same network.

“More and more of the U.S. work force is independent and going online,” said Fabio Rosati, the chief executive of Elance. “We want to make it so you can see who your best workers are through profiles and history, then check their availability, hire them with a couple of clicks, then pay them securely.”

Companies like Elance, ODesk, and Freelancer.com have long provided a means for people and companies to seek each other across the globe. For the most part, companies use their cloud-based service to post jobs publicly, indicating their needs and possibly getting more applicants than they wanted.

Judging from the Web sites, this kind of work, which gives workers more flexibility at the price of less stability, falls mostly to the more humanities-oriented tasks. Job categories on all three of the major sites include design, search engine optimization and marketing, and (gulp) article writing. Where there are programming jobs, they are usually less-technical tasks like Web site development and data entry.

Under the new system, called the Private Talent Cloud, companies will pay Elance a fee to have a closed network of trusted freelancers, based on factors including previous jobs they’ve done and how other employees felt they performed.

The financial Web site Motley Fool uses the service to manage a group of some 600 writers and core employees. Specialties the writers have, along with their availability, are posted. Other companies have used the service during its development phase, Mr. Rosati said, to hire graphic designers, and marketing talent. In most cases Elance manages the payment.

Elance will also recommend other outsiders who might be good for new tasks, and, if a company wishes, it will post jobs in the larger community. New workers may be subject to background checks or have to sign guidelines of behavior in order to be admitted into a private talent cloud.

This may all sound a little like a cloud-computing cross between Facebook and a hiring boss stopped his pickup truck in front of hungry day workers. More likely, it’s another sign of change in a world where information is flying fast. Companies are competing in new areas faster than ever before, and no one seems to want a long-term relationship if they can avoid it.

That means that corporate work is more likely to come in bursts, and teams for projects are likely to grow and shrink quickly, adding and losing different skills. Oracle and Workday have spent big on talent spotting and recruitment. Higher up, LinkedIn increases the range of people a company can look at for mostly full-time jobs, while Task Rabbit and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk offer lower-paid, very short-term positions.

Elsewhere, companies like Quip and Box have introduced word processing products that stress fast collaboration. New kinds of office design, with blank surfaces that can be reconfigured to any need, are another symptom of the trend.

Mr. Rosati said that what his Mountain View, Calif., company does is a benefit to the economy. The average hourly wage on Elance, he said, is $28, and in the second quarter of this year that amount grew by 5 percent from a year earlier, or 10 times faster than overall wage growth in the U.S. There is no way to check those figures, as Elance is privately held.

“This is mostly for accretive, fractional work that probably wouldn’t get done if you couldn’t find people fast,” he said. “There are a lot of jobs now that only exist because a fractional work force â€" a retiree in Florida, or someone far from a city in North Dakota â€" can be reached online.”

Within two years, he predicted, half of U.S. companies would be employing these fractional workers. Elance itself consists of 300 people - 120 full time, and 180 freelance, running on its own private cloud.