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In February 2021 The Supreme Court ruled that Uber could not engage its drivers as ‘self-employed’ workers, a move it is currently challenging. Although Uber learnt the hard way that it was promoting an unsustainable labour model–not to mention the ramifications the ruling could have on agency workers in the future–its approach isn’t completely wrong. In fact, when it comes to Uber’s approach to talent management, there are some lessons that the recruiters could embrace in their own agencies.

Lesson one: Empower employees
Uber sought to meet and create new demand by flooding the market with drivers, ensuring a ride was only a tap away. It achieved this by creating a platform that empowered workers to become their own boss by choosing when and where they wanted to work. It also enabled them to fit the work around their needs and schedule.

Demand for flexible working is also now at an all-time high with workers across a variety of sectors rethinking their career choices. This point is backed up by research conducted by Microsoft, which found that 71 percent of UK workers want flexible work options to stay after the COVID-19 crisis has passed.

Taking a leaf out of Uber’s playbook, technology offers an extremely efficient way to manage the workforce needs of an organisation and matchmaking those with employee availability. For example, a large-scale workforce could invest in technology that enables shifts to be sent as push notifications to the mobile phones of workers. Staff could also share availability via mobile phone. Even recruiters could benefit with cloud-based software that facilitates more flexibility in work location. By giving employees more control over their working lives, they’re more likely to be engaged as a result. So when employers of shift workers talk about “uberising” their workforces, this is the part Uber got right. 

Lesson two: Streamline processes
Uber has simplified the process of getting a taxi and paying for it. Remember the days when you had to call a taxi service or simply wave your hand with the hope a taxi would come by? Uber changed that with a simple app that notifies any Uber driver where the passengers are, and the passengers where the drivers are. You also know how much it will cost you in advance and can pay in the app – making the experience for the customer as frictionless as possible.

In the recruiting world, despite the evolution of technology, it’s not uncommon for staffing agencies to still be using physical timesheets or spreadsheets to manually log shifts and assign workers. Alternatively, they might be using a tech platform to manage workers, but because it’s not linked to payroll – there’s still massive inefficiency in the process and manual work required, leading to errors and frustrations for agencies and workers alike.

By bringing worker scheduling, compliance, and payroll into one platform, much like Uber it streamlines the whole process and makes it a better experience for both the candidate and the recruiter.

Lesson three: find the right person faster
Let’s say you need to get somewhere in a hurry. Uber makes it easy to find the driver that can get to you the quickest. Although it’s easy to match a driver with a passenger, in the recruiting sector, compliance means you also need to factor in the right qualifications or training, even at the site level.

It’s now possible to use technology to match the right job with the right talent with a high level of certainty. While automating this process might not seem like a huge benefit if it’s just for the one worker, imagine if you’re trying to do this across a portfolio of clients and a large-scale workforce.

 Lesson four: Make it visual
As a platform, Uber is also very visually engaging for end users. Although the novelty might have worn off, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t enjoy looking at the car icon on the map as it edged closer to their location. This is a very intentional design feature and is why so much money goes into the visual look of a great performing technology platform. This is important because the human brain processes visual data better than any other type of data – in fact, it’s processed up to 60,000 times faster than text.

In a recruitment scenario, let’s say you have an urgent last minute job to fill. You could pull up your spreadsheet and look to see which candidates are located closest to the jobsite by looking at their postcode. Or you could utilise a technology platform that visualises this information in a map so you can see at a glance which candidates are closest. Better yet, you could also get the system to automatically remove any workers who didn’t have the necessary skills or training. 

Ultimately, Uber was wrong in the way it classified its workers, and there’s work to be done to protect workers, but the efficiencies Uber created through technology in the taxi sector are definitely worth replicating in other industries reliant on shift workers.  

    Benjamin Rubin is the CEO and founder of workforce management platform Sirenum. Sirenum helps organisations meet the evolving needs of the rapidly expanding dynamic workforce by putting the right person in the right place at the right time and paying the right amount. Its technology leverages mobile and the cloud to streamline the management of part-time, temporary, and hourly workers.

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