Staffing In The Age Of The Sharing Economy

From commuting to commodity lending, holiday accommodation and fundraising, the sharing economy is revolutionising the way people live and work. The concept of sharing in this fashion is not new, but more so enabled through recent technological developments in web and app-based platforms via mobile interfaces that are facilitating the direct communication and transaction between consumers (C-2-C) and businesses (B-2-B and B-2-C). A socio-economic movement, the sharing economy is fundamentally re-shaping the form and processes historically established in the UK economy.


Where people would have previously sought verification through a third-party intermediary or personal recommendation for a new product or service, the sharing economy is creating a new currency of trust, most commonly through online peer-to-peer ratings and reviews. Being interviewed by Mary Ann Sieghart on BBC Radio 4, sharing economy expert, Rachel Botsman commented, “These ideas do not work without trust…technology is facilitating trust between people…[Now] it’s a rating, review and a photograph, and that’s the basis that we make a decision whether to get in a car with a total stranger” [1].

These mobile platforms are therefore enabling individuals to make decisions based on mutually-beneficial review and rating feedback systems, that are both enforced by and continue to empower the community. The process is self-reinforcing, creating positive feedback through bilateral relationships, providing either monetary and/or social benefits to product users. The sharing economy in its most primitive form dates back centuries, but it is the rise of peer-to-peer platforms that demarks the new generation of collaboration and innovation; expanding across sectors including transport, accommodation and money-lending.

In spite of the recent clashes arising between sharing economy startups and regulative authorities for the greater part, the sharing economy is being embraced by the masses as a means of alternative income employment opportunities. Corporations that were once described as disruptive have become the norm and part of peoples’ daily thread. This is what Clayton M. Christensen coined ‘disruptive innovation’, whereby displacement of current establishments relinquish business to highly mobile technological competitors through sustained innovation, as well as responsive, targeted developments and receptive markets.

One of the latest sectors to benefit from the sharing economy is recruitment. The employment technology field is quickly becoming crowded out with competitors, looking to remodel traditional job board and agency models, including Jobandtalent, Job Today, Corner Job & Syft. The UK’s hospitality sector is currently suffering from a deficit of skilled hospitality staff , but also from inefficient and costly recruitment methods. These new mobile-based companies are therefore looking to simplify the recruitment process, using algorithms to match candidates to roles, for temporary staff and full-time hires within the hospitality industry.

The rise of recruitment tech startups is also visible beyond the UK and beyond the service sector, with companies such as JOBDOH, inploi and HIRED launched in Hong Kong, London and San Francisco respectively.

Looking to transform the on-demand working economy, JOBDOH’s founders noticed a niche in the market whereby job seekers – particularly students and active retirees were suffering from the inefficient systems available for part-time workers to find jobs. Starting out in Hong Kong, the company is also looking to take advantage of the mass-market available across China. New entrant into the sector, inploi has created an app and web-based network (more akin to LinkedIn than your usual agency model) for London’s service sector economy – enabling job seekers to create sustainable working relationships and build their career profiles within the hospitality and retail sectors. HIRED, on the other hand offers highly-skilled individuals with tailored recruitment opportunities, providing insightful information for both job seekers and employers. Their aim is to empower a community of job seekers to find a job they love by building a platform that enables a transparent application process, from the point of application to hire.

These company models therefore provide interesting examples of Christensen’s theory of continuous innovation, whereby a previously abstract product has the potential to become part of the status quo, the same way that companies like Airbnb and Uber have become part of the daily fabric of the cities they inhabit. Co-founder and CPO of inploi Alex Hanson-Smith commented, “Staffing is something almost every industry has trouble with. It is a highly nuanced process that will eat the cookie cutter ‘Uber for X’ approach for breakfast. We are constantly in discovery mode, trying to better understand how we can shape our product to solve a very complex problem with a simple solution.”

It may seem ironic that mobile technology has the capacity to create more human interactions and relationships than traditional business models, removing friction from previously time-consuming and costly systems. However, worldwide, we are witnessing an end to the days of trawling job boards, walking door-to-door, or inefficient, closed-shop agency models. We are entering into a new era of staffing, propelled by new human consumption patterns, highly-mobile and digitized communities based on trust and transparency, and the rise of an optimized mobile sharing economy.


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