Well it had to happen eventually. Yesterday (or today depending on where in the world you are), Uber announced the launch of their “Uber Works” platform, with an initial trial being rolled out across Chicago. Being the doyens of all things “gig”, the only surprise is that they waited until October 2019 to tackle the biggest gig of them all- the temp recruitment market. Here is how most of the world, and indeed many Uber investors will think it works, and get ready because it’s a beautiful vision…
Historically, businesses have used a very slow, expensive, unreliable, analogue unit to match a person with a pulse to a job a waxed monkey could do. These “units”, or “Temp Recruitment Consultants” as they’re also known, connected Pulse A to Shitty Job B and charged an exorbitant amount for this service.
Uber, being the best business in the world who will potentially never turn a profit, will replace these old units with a slick app. Now, Pulse A will be suave, electric-scooter riding, artist/juggler/lawyer who lives in a converted factory in a fashionable former shipyard, all funded by their “gigs”. Shitty Job B, well that will still be a shitty job, but it’ll be called a “gig”, so Pulse A will find it cool. Businesses will seamlessly hire the best talent, cheerily waving them goodbye at a drop of a hat, as the temp e-scoots away to their next gig as a vegan dog walker.
Reading the PR from Uber, and the subsequent reporting from the likes of the BBC, one could be forgiven for thinking this is the business model. And indeed, following my conversations with investors for our sister business JOYN, it’s clear that no one with big money to invest has any real interest in businesses that rely on those ghastly, unreliable, stupid units called humans. Mentioning that JOYN requires human expertise to pair a business with the right Consultant is the investment equivalent of your mum shouting “dinner!” during your first wank.
It only takes some knowledge of the recruitment industry however, and the ability to read the last paragraph of an article, to highlight that Uber Works isn’t quite as described above. The last paragraph of the BBC online article explains the current reality:
“Uber Works has agreed partnerships with staffing agencies in Chicago that employ, pay and handle worker benefits, potentially side-stepping this issue with the new platform.”
So it would seem that for now, what Uber Works really is, is an app to be used by those slow, expensive, unreliable, analogue units to punt jobs out to their candidates. A bit like what we were doing via text messages in the 90s. This would suggest two things to me. Firstly, Uber are fed up with being taken to court and losing for not looking after their drivers. Even their home state of California has deemed their claim that they’re not an employer to be bullshit. By putting the employment onus on recruitment agencies they can be what they have always claimed to be- a tech platform. Secondly, and this is a presumption, maybe they’re smart enough to know that connecting a human to a job, no matter how menial, still takes a tiny bit of help from another human…
Welcome to the new world of work. It’s like the old one but with an app.