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Making the human cloud work for everyone

10 Jul 2019 By Roberto de Vivo

The use of online portals to hire flexible workers is on the rise, says Roberto de Vivo, but it needs to be fair to employers and employees

People are radically changing the way they work. They are looking for jobs that will provide flexibility, are closer to home and will enable a good work-life balance. Businesses have started to recognise this shift and are evolving the way they hire and retain new talent. In fact, many businesses beyond the traditional hospitality sector are turning to flexible workers. This has created the human cloud –  and it’s growing fast.

The human cloud is the virtual collective of skilled workers that have made themselves available for work through online staffing platforms. Think Deliveroo, but for staff instead of food. Businesses use an online portal to access a huge talent pool, helping them to fill skills shortages and bolster their teams. User-based ratings enable employers to select reliable workers with the right mix of experience, allowing them to proactively manage their recruitment needs.

While the human cloud is very different from the traditional nine-to-five, it is not a new phenomenon. However, it has reached a new stage of maturity. The human cloud is now helping more organisations than ever to tackle skills shortages or scale up for upcoming projects and peak seasons.  According to SIA's 2018 report, The Gig Economy and Human Cloud Landscape, total human cloud spend reached an estimated $82 billion globally, growing by a huge 65 per cent in 2017. 

The role of regulation

With the human cloud becoming increasingly popular for accessing skilled staff, the benefit for employers is clear. However, it's crucial that we safeguard the rights of employees too, ensuring that everyone involved gets a fair deal. 

The issue of regulation and workers’ rights in the gig economy has been undeniably contentious and made headlines on numerous occasions. Concerns include the lack of benefits such as sick pay or holiday pay, as well as the inability to join a union to protect workers’ interests. Regulation in the gig economy has been well overdue an overhaul but thankfully change is coming.

Earlier this year, new EU legislation was introduced that will help to develop the gig economy into the secure workplace that everyone should be entitled to. It proposes that all businesses using the gig economy must be transparent and upfront with essential information such as a clear description of duties and pay information. The introduction of regulated hours and compensation for staff for work that is cancelled were also included in the discussion. In addition to the progress made by this legislation, calls for the UK government to recognise the demand for flexible workers and protect their rights have not gone unheard. Reports show that discussions have now started about the exploitation of young employees and that a push to let gig workers join unions are well underway. 

With the world of work shifting fast, the human cloud is ensuring that both employers and employees see the benefits of flexible work. However, regulators, staffing platforms and employees must come together and commit to making gig working fairer. Some are leading the way, ensuring that staff receive a higher hourly rate to compensate for the fact that they don’t get holiday pay. By improving regulation and increasing initiatives of this type, we can create a world where working flexibly is simple, safe and satisfying for both workers and businesses. 

Roberto de Vivo is head of operations at Coople

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