Guest blog by Ruud De Jonge
The world of employment is changing. There is a huge trend towards contractor-based relationships, where employers use teams or individuals for specific projects or timescales.
In the IT sector alone, our research shows that the percentage of contractors within the workforce in the UK & Ireland has increased from just over 8% to 29% in two years. Other research suggests that contractors could represent as much as 60 – 70% by 2020.
Clearly, the world of work as we know it is changing fast.
But, for many employers and contractors, finding one another can be difficult and time-consuming. Sure, recruitment agencies or advertising can help, but that can be expensive and often isn’t targeted enough: many contractor roles are very specific, so while on the face of it three hundred candidates may be suitable, the reality may be that only three fit the criteria. Filtering candidates is frustrating if you are trying to build up a team very quickly.
On the other hand, there are a lot of contractors out there struggling to find projects. Even in a buoyant market, contractors can at times struggle to find projects and this can be heightened in a challenging job market with many people out of work, is something that has to be addressed.
This is what gave me the idea for RoleConnect, based on my experience first as an IT contractor for 10 years and then as the Chief Technology Officer for a major Irish company. I could see that there had to be a better way to ‘matchmake’ employers and contractors. We sometimes call it ‘speed-dating’ for employers and contractors, so that they can very quickly make up their minds about each other.
Cloud-based RoleConnect creates a direct relationship between prospective contractors and employers and, most importantly, the depth of information is very rich. Immediately, employers can see not just a contractor’s experience, but their availability, their proximity and their rates. This is the kind of information that wouldn’t normally be available on a more public skills-matching site and saves a lot of time spent filtering candidates.
Other cool features include a networking feature, where an employer can see that a contractor also has ex-colleagues who could also form part of a team. Contractors can also use the site to go through background screening (essential for many public sector jobs) and proficiency testing (for instance, to show that they are up-to-speed in a particular technology).
When I first started planning the IT infrastructure for RoleConnect, it quickly became obvious that we’d need a lot of servers to make this a scalable service able to operate in different countries. That was going to take a long time and be expensive. Then Microsoft launched Azure and it was the obvious solution for us: not only could we avoid building our own IT infrastructure, the service can scale as we grow. The support we’ve had from the Microsoft team in Ireland has been great: being part of the BizSpark program has meant we haven’t had to spend lots of money on software licences, as well as giving us considerable support, networking and market visibility. I’m not sure that we could have launched RoleConnect so quickly, so successfully if we’d gone with another technology vendor.
RoleConnect’s beta site has attracted thousands of users in just a few months and will be going live in the first quarter of 2012. We’ve also attracted quite a few employers – from large organisations to quite small – with more joining us all the time. Apart from IT, other industries we are looking at include construction, marketing, accounting and legal.
As we all know all too well, we have a jobs crisis in much of Europe, with people struggling to find employment. Smarter, faster matching of employers with potential employees may not be the answer to the jobs shortage, but it at least helps to make the most of what is available.