In this era of chronic skills shortages, rapid automation, and digital transformation, companies are confronting a growing talent problem, one that has the potential to become a strategic bottleneck. How can they find people with the right skills to do the right work at just the right time? The half-life of skills is shrinking fast, and many jobs now come and go in a matter of years. Not only that, but major demographic changes are under way: Boomers are aging out of the workforce, and Millennials and Gen Z are taking over, bringing with them very different priorities about who should do what work—and where, when, and how it should get done.
To help companies address these challenges, a new generation of talent platforms—such as Catalant, InnoCentive, Kaggle, Toptal, and Upwork—has emerged. In contrast to Uber, Amazon Mechanical Turk, and TaskRabbit, these platforms offer on-demand access to highly skilledworkers, and our research shows that their number has risen substantially since 2009, from roughly 80 to more than 330. Much of that growth took place during the past five years alone. Today almost all Fortune 500 companies use one or more of them.