Navigating cloud-based recruitment platforms to solve talent problems was, once upon a time, an efficient solution for businesses. But a shift in mindset, behaviour and demands from the UK’s top talent is fuelling the growth of the freelance technology consulting sector, meaning traditional cloud technologies are now in danger of losing their shine. Perched on the precipice of a new cloud era, CEO and Co-founder of business-to-consultant matchmaking platform, Worksome, Morten Petersen explores the changing tech recruitment landscape and looks at what might happen when cloud meets machine learning

The global consulting market has been on a path of continuous growth these last few years: with a total value of around $250 billion, it is earmarked as one of the largest and most mature markets within the professional services industry. Zoom in closer to understand its composition, and you’ll find that the technology and IT consulting services account for roughly 20 per cent, translating into an estimated value of $48 billion.

A 2.5 per cent year-on-year growth since 2011 presents good news for the technology consulting sector, but it’s not without challenge: in 2017, 65 per cent of IT leaders worldwide reported a skills shortage was holding their business strategies back. And in today’s highly competitive and changing climate, where companies are trying to keep pace with the slew of new technologies emerging on the scene,  a skills drought could prove harmful.

As the pressure mounts, companies have two choices to acquire these new and critical skills:
1) they can train their existing staff
2) they can hire new talent who already possess the necessary competencies

But still there is challenge, because the talent scarcity and the fact that tenures within the industry are decreasing makes it even harder to acquire new knowledge. Savvy companies recognise that if they want to compete, they first have to win the war for the brightest minds. And an ever increasing number of those people are freelance consultants.

Since 2009, the freelance economy in the UK has increased by 25 per cent and generates about £109 billion a year, according to IPSE and so it’s perhaps unsurprising that 51 per cent of IT leaders have now turned to employing freelance IT specialists to fill the skills gap. This makes freelance IT specialists the most popular solution to the skills shortage problem.

Model challenges

The problem for cloud-based recruitment-associated platforms like LinkedIn is that freelance consultants challenge their business model: they stray from the traditional 9-5 job in order to gain greater freedom, flexibility, and the ability to hone in on their skills. LinkedIn offers plenty of opportunities for people who want to work in traditional full time positions, but they haven’t managed to encapsulate the growing freelance market, yet.

This has opened up a gap for emerging players.

While the IT market is mature, it’s still growing – and rapidly, too. There seems to be no way to satisfy companies’ appetites for IT specialists, and there’s a rising demand for people with skills in both IT legacy skills, such as Cobol, as well as people with bleeding edge skills in Blockchain and ML.

As of now, professionals with both these competencies are getting flooded  – by LinkedIn, phone or email – by eager recruiters trying to meet their quarterly targets. Some recruiters may know very little about the competencies and skills they are recruiting for, but they still charge up to 20 per cent of first year’s pay.

However, the fact that the market is this fragmented, calls for a more sophisticated way for supply and demand to efficiently match the right talent with the right job.

Essentially, recruitment is an information problem. Factors such as years of experience, specific technical skills, coding languages, and industry experiences are all part of an equation, which is inherently better handled by cloud-based platforms, than by human beings.

It’s important to also factor in the fact that people with in-demand skills don’t want to be flooded with calls from recruiters. They want to take back control, particularly on how they are employed. The best way to give them this, is to provide them with a complete overview of the jobs that match their skills and preferences precisely.

Cloud-based platforms do exactly this, by essentially displaying all available options, leaving the candidates with the ability to choose which option suits them the best. But there’s still more work to be done by cloud-based platforms, and many opportunities are on the table if they too embrace technology to create a whole new wave of cloud-powered possibilities.

A machine learning curve

In essence, cloud-based artificial intelligence lies at the heart of newly emerging business-to-consultant matchmaking platforms. Advanced algorithms take care of the matching of supply and demand, by considering a number of different factors to ensure a perfect match. These algorithms are continuously improved and are becoming more and more sophisticated. The next step for the frontrunners of tech recruitment is machine learning in the cloud.

Those who are innovating smartly in this space should already have the setup to develop cloud-based machine learning, it’s just a question of getting the sufficient amount of data to feed the algorithms. The tipping point is coming though, and when it does it will bring a host of new and exciting opportunities with it.

What machine learning will have better success at is finding the right candidates for companies’ open positions. The algorithms will be able to find correlations and patterns that humans overlook, which will result in higher-quality candidates.

While machine learning can help reduce the recruitment cycle time, cost, and number of bad hires, people still need to handle the “candidate experience.” Technology can’t yet assess cultural fit or imitate chemistry. Thus, humans will still play a vital role in finding the perfect fit for the job – cloud technology just makes the road to getting there so much easier.