- Today’s workforce values the flexibility and autonomy of project-based work, choosing the gig economy over traditional full-time employment.
- “This isn’t just for white-collar work — we’re seeing many blue-collar employees adopt this new employment structure,” says Wonolo founder Yong Kim.
- Wonolo’s platform combines technology, business and human nature to empower part-time workers to choose when and where to work.
The employment economy is shifting. A generation ago, workers stayed at the same employer for their entire careers. Employers dictated when and where you could work, and there was little feedback between employee and employer.
Times have changed. With the introduction of new staffing platforms and apps like Uber and TaskRabbit, workers have more flexibility to choose when and where they want to work. While these platforms are great for short term work, they lack the human touch that keeps both employee and employer happy.
Yong Kim, the founder of Wonolo (stands for “Work Now Locally”), set out to create a platform to bring power back to today’s workers. After closing a Series C funding round of $32 million in November 2018, his company is set to lead the wave, empowering freelance and project workers.
Yong joined the podcast to share his inspiration for Wonolo, his predictions for the future of the employment economy and how to find the intersection of technology, business and human nature.
Interview Highlights — Yong Kim from Wonolo
The employment paradox
I really got the idea for Wonolo when I was just 15 years old. I came to the United States by myself, I didn’t speak the language, I didn’t know anyone, and I was in the middle of nowhere in New Hampshire. I needed to find a temporary job to support myself so I went into town looking for “Now Hiring” or “Help Wanted” signs. Needless to say, I had a really difficult time finding something.
Fast forward 25 years and there have been many innovations in the job staffing and recruiting industry. Linkedin owns the knowledge workforce for office work and there are tons of companies that recruit for the professional sector.
However, 60 percent of Americans make less than $50,000 per year and 70 million people work multiple hourly jobs just trying to make 40 hours a week. At the same time, 50 percent of companies have trouble getting their open roles filled. So where’s the disconnect?
The problem we’re trying to solve is this mismatch paradox between jobs going unfilled while workers are struggling to find jobs. And this is especially salient with blue-collar workers, which make up about 60 percent of the population.
We looked at existing solutions, which are largely traditional temp staffing agencies. They’re very inefficient, manual and opaque. We wanted to solve the problem using technology so it’s more efficient and transparent.
Mixing technology with a human touch
There are three main components when thinking about solutions: the business model side, the technology side and the human side. We characterize this as product, process and people.
Many of our competitors put a heavy emphasis on just one. Certain software companies looked at this as a purely tech problem. Others approached it from a business model, which is similar to how staffing companies have long viewed it. The tricky part is the people aspect.
People are highly unpredictable. There are many things that need to happen from the moment when a company realizes it needs workers, all the way to those workers showing up and getting paid on time. And because of the unpredictability of human behavior, many things break down along the way.
So this led us to the conclusion that the best solution is a combination of technology and a human touch.
Power to the part-time worker
We’re seeing a paradigm shift in not only the definition of work, but how people engage in that work. In the traditional employment model, people typically have one job for multiple years and they might switch jobs every five to seven years. The traditional relationship has always been one employee to one employer. Now, many people have between three and ten employers.
This isn’t just for white-collar work — we’re seeing many blue-collar employees adopt this new employment structure. For example, one of our community members told us that he’s worked in the warehousing industry for a decade. When he was expecting his first son, he asked for paternity leave. His employer told him that when he returned, he might not have his job anymore. Once he found Wonolo, he realized he has the flexibility and autonomy to make decisions on his own time.
Creating a more transparent workplace
Through these examples, we see that the most valuable currency for workers is having autonomy. The power dynamics are shifting from companies dictating when and where to work to workers having the power to make these decisions. We’re not only giving power back to employees, but we’re changing the way companies think about the workforce.
Additionally, we’re trying to bridge the awareness gap between blue-collar and white-collar workers. For the knowledge workforce, prospective employees have Glassdoor and sites where employees can review their companies.
This has never existed before for blue-collar jobs. With Wonolo, there is a very transparent feedback loop where workers can share feedback and their managers can respond. It’s changing how employers engage with their contract workforce and it’s forcing them to rethink their wage structure.
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