This is the first in a series of posts of what I call “Next Practices”. These are practices that look beyond today’s conventional HR approaches to achieve improved business outcomes.
Business Situation: In a slow growth economy, it is difficult to get approval to hire new employees. However, there is a strong desire by CEOs to grow the business and innovate. How can HR help the organization with conflicting goals of controlling costs, yet innovate and return to growth?
Practice: Crowdsourcing – This is not a new idea. It is explored in great detail in books like “Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business” “Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything”, and “The Wisdom of Crowds”. However, it is not a practice that is in the typical talent management toolkit of most HR/Recruiting organizations. Crowdsourcing allows you to leverage talent that is not part of your organization to achieve your objectives.
TopCoder – Here is a description from their site:
Our business brings clients into the TopCoder community to get their work done in a new way. These projects range across the full spectrum of software and digital work. They engage our community in a range of disciplines: creative design, software engineering, and analytics. These projects are focused on innovating and implementing new products, releases, and features. At the core of this work is competition – each task is completed by members competing with each other to be the best at that task.
We believe that customers should be able to focus on what they want to build and create, not on measuring how many hours someone spent on a task. We believe engineers and designers should be free to chose when and if they work on a project or task, and be rewarded based on the quality of the results they produce. Empowering individuals to make their own decisions generates the most value for all parties.
When customers and members are brought together in a community and a market based approach is used to getting work done, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.
TopCoder has more than 300,000 people in the community. That talent pool is significantly broader than one employer could build on its own. LendingTree uses it as a virtual software factory on an ongoing bases to supplement its own website development efforts, for example.
InnoCentive – InnoCentive also provides a platform for what it calls “challenge driven innovation”. In that sense, it is similar to TopCoder, but is used for a broader problem set. Here is an example from its website:
Roche’s challenge was to find a means of better measuring the quality and amount of a clinical specimen as it is passed through one of its automated chemistry analyzers. Both Roche and its partners had been wrestling with the challenge for fifteen years. So the company devised a test. It posted the challenge on InnoCentive.com, and through the power of crowdsourcing, exposed the challenge to a diverse, global, and open network of problem solvers. Within two months of posting the challenge, nearly 1,000 unique solvers from around the globe had signed on to the project, and a total of 113 proposals were submitted to Roche.
The result? Roche solved a challenge that had been plaguing it for fifteen years in sixty days. And interestingly, the submitted proposals replicated the entire history of Roche’s research and development program into this particular challenge. In other words, all of the solutions Roche had tried over a fifteen-year period had come in.
Think about that for a minute from a talent perspective. Roche was able to find nearly 1,000 people for two months to work on its business challenge. The prize for the winning solution was $20,000. That was a pretty cost-effective source of talent.
Of course, crowdsourcing is not appropriate for every talent need. However, HR needs to get outside of the box that says that talent is limited to just employees or contractors.
How many sourcing professionals in your HR/recruiting organization are leading the charge in working with these kinds of solutions (especially if you are not hiring anyone right now)?