You don’t have to look too far for headlines about job losses, whether it’s business restructuring or the seemingly unstoppable march of automation.
This evolution has been a cause for alarm, according to Lilia Stoyanov, the co-founder and CEO of Transformify, a platform that connects remote workers and contractors with “socially responsible” businesses.
“People that have spent their lives with the company will lose their jobs,” she said.
According to a study from London Business School, many executives believe that at least 50% of their workforces will work remotely by 2020 with bigger players like Amazon for example hiring more remote staff and Buffer, which lets much of its staff work remotely.
It’s leading to a redefinition of what a company’s team actually is and is creating a world where more and more people are freelancers and independent contractors. In turn, this creates a demand for telecommuting posts and tasks regardless of continent.
For Stoyanov, this is a natural business progression: “It’s not necessary to be on ground.” But it’s a change that will have societal impacts as well as business ones. Companies can reduce costs and benefit from hiring more independent contractors. But the ever-growing gig economy, from Uber drivers to Deliveroo cyclists, has caused a rift over employee rights.
Transformify, based in London, wants to be the platform that connects remote contractors with companies in a fair way.
“I decided that it was the right time for me to invest into the right platform and use my technology, fintech, and management expertise to design something that would help lots of people,” said Stoyanov, leading to the establishment of Transformify with her co-founder Deesislav Kamenov. Unlike the profit-driven marketplaces like Upwork or Freelancer, Transformify considers itself a social enterprise.
Transformify hasn’t limited itself to any particular areas as it now has contractors on its platform filling roles like tax accounting, mobile and web development, graphic design, and social media marketing. This, it says, is addressing skills shortages in certain sectors and regions.
“In London it’s relatively easy to get the talent you need. It may take some time but in the end you’re likely to get it,” she said but for companies outside major city hubs or in rural regions that isn’t always the case.
Transformify has also taken part in Virgin Media’s Voom project and is a member of the European Commission’s Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, an initiative designed to bridge digital skills gaps in Europe. Other members include Google, SAP, Barclays, and Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab. According to the coalition, 45% of Europeans have just basic digital skills and this could lead to a lack of up to 500,000 ICT professionals in the EU by 2020.
The members of the coalition have committed to training one million young unemployed people by 2020 in Europe through internships and training programs for digital roles as well as updating training schemes and spreading awareness of digital skills, especially to segments of the population that may have been left behind.
“We help integrate into society people from vulnerable groups, including refugees,” Stoyanov continued.
“[A] problem they face is that they can’t open a bank account. They don’t have a credit record in a new country. They don’t have a permanent address,” she explained. “We allow them to get paid into a virtual account, which is linked to a prepaid card.”
The platform creates opportunities for people on the autism spectrum to find work, she added, pointing to larger tech companies that have started running programs to hire people with autism, including Microsoft and SAP.
“We communicate to our business clients how they can successfully interview people on the autism spectrum, how they could benefit from them,” she said.
For further protections for the workers, she added, Transformify charges the companies that are hiring via the platform rather than take a cut from the contractors, which is common on other similar freelance marketplaces. “We do not charge the people looking for jobs and we will never do so,” said Stoyanov. Contractors set their own rates.
“We do not allow the businesses to renegotiate the rates. They should never be pushed to lower their rates,” she added. In the early days of Transformify, Stoyanov encountered these exact problems where companies tried to renegotiate a contractor’s rate after the initial agreement.
The next goal for the organisation is to spread its mission more globally.
Operating costs for the organisation remains low, she said, but it will need to pump money into new markets to boost its user numbers and companies: “If we want to have sufficient presence in all these countries, we need to invest more in marketing, we need to invest more in business development.”
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