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Work 3.0 is just getting underway, says oDesk’s Gary Swart

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oDesk's Gary Swart at GigaOM 2011Gary Swart, CEO of freelancer sourcing site oDesk took the stage at Net:Work 2011 to talk about how work is changing in the face of remote work trends. He started by pointing to a key competitive determinator all companies seek and must compete for: talent.

Swart said that competition for talent is rapid, despite economic woes. He specified two big problems: getting work to workers, and the hiring process, in terms of investment of time and resources. How to deal with both those problems has been steadily evolving: Work 1.0 was rigid, single-employer, and on location, probably what describes your grandfather’s career. Work 2.0 was about more flexible work schedules, better collaboration between remote teams and some ability to take work home with you. It’s sort of the model that’s still in place at big tech firms in Silicon Valley.

Work 3.0 is where we’re at now and where a good chunk of work is heading, according to Swart, and it’s only just getting underway. It means “access to the best people no matter where they are in the world,” and the “ability to work with those people as if they’re in the room with you.” Swart says it’s a transparent process, one that takes place primarily online using tools with built-in reporting elements. It’s a very situation-based, ephemeral mode of staffing, too: He applied a movie production analogy: the team comes together to accomplish something specific, then separate again.

He discussed examples of companies forming in order to source and staff remote work projects. Thumbtack is one, which serves 170,000 customers today, Swart says, and provides access to the services of 230,000 service professionals in discrete areas for on-demand, just-in-time labor requirements.

In short, we’re moving from rigid, structured, non-specific workforces to on-demand, targeted transparent freelancer-based staffing. Doing so saves on infrastructure, by cutting back on costs like transportation and facilities, and also leverages talent on a global scale that otherwise might go unnoticed and unappreciated. Swart sees Work 3.0 as just getting started, with its most significant effects on how we do business yet to be felt.

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Photo by Pinar Ozger.

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