Marketplaces and Staffing Providers: Celebrate the Difference

Dorothy Mead

I was reading a long social media thread about why ‘I’m not like other girls’ is a meme that isn’t identifying you as special, but showing that you’re disparaging of the broader category.  I couldn’t agree more – celebrating difference only works if you do it while supporting the norm.

Getting Started

And so I’m a bit nervous about making this statement: marketplaces, like Talmix, are different from other staffing providers.

But several years into my marketplace journey, I’m starting to realise that this needs to be said – and it’s definitely not to knock staffing firms but to showcase why companies need to understand that they’re not interchangeable but are very compatible. Let me explain a bit further

Talent marketplaces, platforms, online networks, gig apps, digital staffing solutions -  have always been a bit itinerant - where do they really belong? Goodness knows, as a brand leader getting positioning right is a constant challenge and this is right at the centre of it.

And so, we’ve gratefully been welcomed and embraced by the staffing industry. And I’m all too familiar, and grateful to the analysts in that industry, who’ve reworked their models to include these young whippersnappers and created a very comprehensive ecosystem.

But, in the end, talent marketplaces aren’t like staffing firms. And here’s why we need to start celebrating the difference from both perspectives.

A staffing firm is a service provider, with long-established and  structured processes to handle requisitions and sourcing, providing a contingent workforce to a client, or sourcing for permanent and contract employees. The process is requisition-led, and the sourcing starts with that requisition.

Most companies with sufficient volumes of resourcing requirements will turn to an MSP to handle all the interactions with recruitment firms and effectively create a layer between the company and the more admin-heavy parts of talent acquisition.  

A talent marketplace is underpinned by technology and so its team structure will be different – you’re more likely to engage with a customer success team member than a traditional recruitment lead.

It allows a client to access talent, but through automated matching to an existing, active talent network/pool – different from starting a sourcing process when a requisition comes in. It’s fast: at Talmix we both match instantly and deliver fast, and it’s also about the convenience of on-demand to different categories and regions. The process is consistent and repeatable.

In some cases with marketplaces like Fiverr, there is direct interaction from a client to the provider, whereas in marketplaces for more complex requirements there’s a management of the marketplace process so that the client sees shortlisted sets to choose from.

And one other key fact about marketplaces; nearly all of the talent on them will be working independently. They’re using the marketplace to explore opportunities and build out their freelance careers. They work for themselves and not the marketplace – that’s a big difference compared to the staffing firms payrolling a workforce.

Why does this matter?

For many companies, the use of talent marketplaces and platforms is gaining in popularity as they recognize that the skills they need are often available in these newer solutions, and the flexibility that an on-demand model provides,  aligns with this new, extended workforce.

All good so far. And the even better news is that MSPs are recognising that adding marketplaces into their offerings provides new categories, SOW capabilities and more to their clients.

To the original point, there’s a real recognition that marketplaces can be a part of that talent strategy, alongside staffing firms. But for that co-existence and collaboration to work, the differences must be recognised.

Here’s some pointers for your Marketplace Action Plan:

What category of talent do you need your marketplace to provide? Are the end users who need this type of talent familiar with your existing processes?
Do you want to access the marketplace directly, or through an existing MSP, for example?
If your choice is indirect, how does the marketplace fit into the overall flow, and what data needs to move between systems?  Understand that that information is going to be different from what staffing firms will provide. For example – a marketplace may talk about network coverage rather than time to fill. What are the required inidicators.
Do you want your end users to access the marketplace directly or do you want them to use your existing systems, like a VMS. If you are introducing a new category, how familiar are your hiring managers with the existing process? Would they like direct access?
Recognise that a marketplace is not managing the service for you: it is providing you with a fast and convenient route to new types of talent and using the technology and data that it provides to inform your hiring decisions.
Is your contract set up for the type of work and workforce that a marketplace will provide? You may need to create a different MSA for marketplaces that addresses the differences from staffing firms. This will include compliance and classification considerations which differ with the talent used in marketplaces.
Is your management of the workforce aligned to the type of talent? For example, timesheets may be less appropriate for an interim CFO than a coder.
Are your systems set up to manage independent talent? In most marketplace models, the client pays the marketplace and the marketplace pays the talent, or there is direct payment through the marketplace when commissioning work from talent. Most traditional vendors are not set up to this model and will need to work with the marketplace to manage this.

That’s it. Marketplaces are the newest member to the broad talent ecosystem, and let’s make their differences work to the benefit of talent and the client users. That way we all come out knowing that we may be a bit different, and we’re all working to the same end goal.

Dorothy Mead

Dorothy is VP Marketing & Brand at Talmix. Passionate about the changing workforce and the future of work, she is driving market share for Talmix globally.