Last week, I looked at the Fortune 100 workforce growing from 30% to 50% contingent as an #hrwins Trend that could shake up #hr and #hrtech more than just a little.

This week Kelly Services and oDesk have announced a partnership where Kelly will make oDesk freelancers available to their  Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) and Managed Service Provider (MSP) (and possibly other?) clients.

**Update:  12/18/2013 oDesk and eLance announce a merger, combining for a total of 8 million registered freelancers globally.  Great news for Kelly Services’ customers.  Even more interesting news for the HR and HR Technology markets as the workforce continues it’s shift to contingent.

If you were one of the HR Technology Vendor Executives in the room at InfluenceHR in October, you heard me present over lunch on the shift to the 50% contingent workforce.  You also heard me say that

…while HR Technology vendors are just thinking about this shift, the staffing providers are getting ready for it, and in many ways enabling it.

You can look at the partnership with oDesk as just another source of talent for an existing talent supply chain through Kelly, but I think it represents more than that.  It’s one of the first visible moves – albeit via partnership – where you can see the pace to a Free Agent Nation and 50% contingent workforce quicken before your eyes.

A 50% contingent workforce does not mean that all of what we know today in HR, or all of our existing HR Technology, becomes deemed irrelevant.  It does, however, start to pose some interesting questions:

How do you measure engagement of a project team, or division, that is 50% contingent throughout the staff and management ranks?  How do you address an engagement problem with a 50% outsourced workforce?  What about performance management, or rewards/incentives?  How do you reward performance based on department goals, or incentivize your team to deliver results when 50% of that team isn’t actually your employee to begin with? Just to name just a few.

The future of HR and HR Technology seems to have two major shifts to account for in the near term (2020 by most accounts).

  1. The shift to a largely contingent workforce
  2. The push to truly develop and manage a High Peforming Workforce enabling a move to end-to-end platforms that address work management, engagement, performance, incentives, and comp

These two shifts, happening simultaneously, should push HR and HR Technology vendors to think about the Employee/Employer relationship differently at many levels beyond just the “at will contract”.  The Employers and Tech shops that get this right will have an advantage over those driving status quo HCM process and tech.  The large staffing firms are already out of the starting gates.