The face of business is changing rapidly. Rather than a set staff given a consistent stream of work, workloads are flexible, and the workforce needs to be easily scalable. Even a small company can have hundreds or thousands of freelance workers, all over the world. Crowdsourcing is the workforce of the future, and making this work in the corporate environment is a key factor in improving your growth. Most importantly, the crowd is diverse, containing skill sets, knowledge, methodology and solutions more expansive than those behind your company’s doors.
The first step in creating an effective crowdsourcing plan is to decide what you will actually send to the freelancers. There are certain tasks that crowdsourcing is a poor replacement for skilled labor. Trusting thousands of random people with balancing your books- probably a bad idea. Doing the grunt work of categorizing thousands of products for your e-commerce site is the exact reason Amazon built a crowdsource platform from the ground up. Amazon Mechanical Turk has grown from there, and there are now thousands of tasks available at any given time. Simple, repetitive tasks that can be easily broken into bite size pieces will bore a single employee to the point of tears. Broken up into a crowdsourcing platform, and you will often get the same job done for less money with higher accuracy. Chances are that every time you click a product on Amazon, a different person put it the item into its category.
A single point of contact should be assigned to handle assigning, and maintaining the workers. Regardless of whether this is a single person or a full team, this allows them to familiarize themselves with the platforms and workforce. Who to ban, who to assign special projects, and what level of oversight is required is something that takes some time to master. Having multiple teams going through this process will bog projects down and sap the resources that you were trying to save. Depending on the level of skill required, you may need to stick with a large pool of people, or a small workforce that is ready to jump on your projects.
Since the best workers feel that communication is often more important than a pay increase, having consistent feedback will also help you maintain a talented workforce. The internet marketer Jon Ledger is a great example of how feedback can be more important than high pay. While he primarily creates software to be used for internet marketing, he decided a few years ago to dip into content creation. Rather than bringing a product to market and then looking for people to write for him, he took his existing writing team and had a realistic discussion of what he wanted and asked what kind of money they would take for the work. In the end, he got better work from his writers, for less money than he would have to pay otherwise. Why? Because he created a forum for communication and actively responded to questions and posted announcements on it as necessary.
Speaking of the skill of your workers, this is another important aspect to consider. Inexpensive labor may mean bad results. By all means, if the task is easy for anyone to do, don't waste much money on it but make sure you don't sacrafice quality. Just like with your regular employees, if you are looking for someone who can work quickly and accurately, expect to pay them a little extra for their efforts. A good worker does not give away their services.
Crowdsourcing is a great way to have a workforce that is only paid when they are actually working. Whether it is a one-time project, or an integral part of your business, this is a great way to improve your efficiency. The crowd provides diverse problem solving, bulk data crunching, and specialized skill sets. The crowd is not just for large companies with big budgets. In fact it may be more useful for small companies who can’t afford another software developer or marketing content creator. Instead you can pay a highly skilled engineer for a couple of weeks’ worth of work to develop an iPhone app or a blogger a minimal amount for a blog post.