Why Algorithm Matching Matters to the Gig Economy

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first_imgHow a Modern Gaming Engine Can Supercharge Your… Tags:#Algorithm#contract workers#Freelance#future of work#Gig Economy#independent workers Yesterday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data indicating that independent contractors make up 6.9 percent of the workforce, down from 7.4 percent in 2005. The media has expended a lot of energy discussing the explosive growth of the gig economy, making this decline seem like a surprise. Is the gig economy tanking, or have we simply exaggerated its impact?Neither, says Robert D. Biederman, the co-founder and co-CEO of Catalant Technologies, Inc. “It’s understandable as our economy has been in rapid-growth mode, creating more full-time jobs…I think the most important data point is tied to the growth in the number of professional services/knowledge workers going independent,” says Biederman. “According to the data, people working in professional and business services are working independently in far greater numbers than other occupations.”Catalant itself was built on this surge. Realizing that the gig economy isn’t made up only of people doing ride-sharing, food delivery, and home improvement work, Catalant was founded to help companies and white-collar professionals find each other. Companies are under enormous pressure because of the disruptive forces around them — they must innovate faster and move more quickly in order to maintain a competitive edge. But they often can’t do that with the skills they’ve had on board for years.Finding Mr. or Ms. Right in the Gig EconomyBiederman’s company aimed to fill that void by using an algorithm to pair professionals — former executives, data scientists, business consultants — with businesses needing their expertise. Using this technology would enable white-collar professionals — a group many freelance platforms overlook — to find work and companies to fill gaps on their current teams.Catalant’s algorithm is built on a multi-step process. The team consolidates, parses, and compares project descriptions submitted by companies with experts’ profiles. This produces a list of stack-ranked matches between talent and the requested projects. For that to be a useful and effective list, the algorithm needs context. That means the Catalant team builds parameters to help the algorithm understand how language is being used in a specific instance.Using dimensionality reduction, or the practice of eliminating variables to focus on the core issues, the algorithm goes beyond the descriptions and profiles to take into account historical data. Has this expert tackled a similar project before? Has this company had success with experts of similar backgrounds?Taking this long view enables the algorithm to adopt the collaborative filtering method used by machine learning systems. This involves analyzing large sets of user behavior, as well as preferences, and pitting those against other users’ tendencies. This data teaches the algorithm to anticipate which pairings will have the most success. It places weight on previous behaviors, such as a high rating of a specific expert or an emphasis on keywords surrounding a particular field of study. In the end, the goal is to establish a relationship between Mr. or Ms. Right and a business in need of help.Gig Economy Matchmaking for the Long HaulTo date, Catalant hosts more than 50,000 independent workers on its platform. The platform doesn’t simply help them find project-based work; it also improves their work satisfaction and retention for future projects. “Based on what we see every day, we believe deeply that people achieve more when they can seamlessly integrate their personal and professional lives with more choice and control,” Biederman says. “The BLS data clearly supports this notion: 79 percent of independent contractors prefer their alternative work arrangement to traditional employment models.”Using algorithms to match skills to projects is a sign of how profoundly — and irreversibly — the economy is changing. Biederman says many of the companies Catalant consults with are wary of how this will impact their businesses, but Biederman believes the future of work comes down to two things: people and companies.While technology is often blamed for displacing or uprooting workers — robots, anyone? — technology has actually enabled people to not worry about how to fit their personal lives into their professional lives. “Technology has been responsible in part for this evolution, but it’s not the only driver,” Biederman explains. “There are others — an aging workforce that wishes to stay connected to work deeper into what used to be ‘retirement,’ a growing percentage of people who are driven by mission (even in for-profit settings) and find that projects with starting and end points feed that sense of mission.”And Biederman says this can be a boon to the companies ready to embrace contract work. Companies have long been constructed on large buildings and full-time positions for people to fill them. “The BLS data underscores that this just is not how knowledge workers want to work, and innovative companies will turn this into their advantage,” Biederman says. “Forward-thinking companies realize that these vast and deep pools of independent talent offer a tremendous resource to fill skills gaps at their own companies.”Many of the companies Catalant works with supplement their full-time rosters with independent workers to accelerate their efforts to innovate and remain relevant. Without this blend of employees, they can’t take advantage of opportunities as quickly or keep pace with their peers.One little algorithm can not only empower employees to design the lives they want, but it can also keep companies competitive. Technology is often treated as a necessary evil in the workplace, but the future of work just may depend on using technology to allow the gig economy to flourish. 3 Questions to Ask Your Cloud Provider Prior to… Related Posts A Comprehensive Guide to Top Blockchain Platforms Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com. Brad AndersonEditor In Chief at ReadWrite G-Suite Tips to Make Workplace Collaboration Le…last_img

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Resident assistants adjust to impact of coronavirus on residential life

first_imgAlysa Guffey | The Observer Senior Jack Harness is a resident assistant in Duncan Hall, pictured above. Harness oversees 39 Highlanders in his section, responsible for their health, safety and community building.Senior Jack Harness said he accepted the offer to be a resident assistant in Duncan Hall this year before spring break. This was before the March 11 announcement in which all Notre Dame students were told not to return to campus as the threat of the coronavirus spread across the country.“When I accepted, it was still normal school so I had no idea what [the fall] semester would look like,” Harness said.Now Harness is directly in charge of managing the 39 students in his section — as well as overseeing the health and safety of the roughly 215 members of the residence hall during his weekly nights on duty — in the middle of a pandemic.Director of residential life for residential education Bre Tornifolio said in an email that the primary role of resident assistants remains the same.“They are responsible for forming community and building relationships and, even in the midst of the pandemic, they do so remarkably well,” Tornifolio said in an email.According to Tornifolio, one student backed out of the resident assistant position due to personal health concerns.“I fully support the decision and we were able to hire and train the new RA before the first week of classes,” Tornifolio said.Harness said he feels that his role as a resident assistant has evolved to not only include enforcement of rules but also advocacy —  to focus on the bigger picture.“What I’ve tried to do is just communicate to the best of my ability to people in the section the gravity of the situation,” Harness said. “Obviously when I signed up to be a [resident assistant], I didn’t envision having to go around and tell people to put masks on and things like that, which obviously is now part of the job. But I think the more important part for me has been trying to be a leader and role model and try to communicate why it’s so important to follow the rules and why it’s a personal responsibility thing for everyone.”Every year, newly hired resident assistants are required to complete training in the spring and a formation process upon returning to campus in the fall. This year, Tornifolio said resident assistants went through additional virtual training and informational sessions.“We then brought the staff back to virtually participate in a week’s worth of training sessions and spent the first day discussing our adjustment to a COVID world and the racial injustices that are happening around us,” Tornifolio said. “We also went through the health and safety guidelines and operational procedures for the position.”Senior Killeen McCans applied to be a resident assistant because she found her place in the Notre Dame community as a member of Flaherty Hall. 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I’m really grateful for those relationships I’ve gotten to make over the last couple weeks.”Prior to University President’s Fr. John Jenkins’ Tuesday announcement that gatherings would now be limited to 10 people, residence halls were able to host outdoor programming for the community. Harness said it was good to see all of the dorm members gathered safely this past week.“One of the coolest things we’ve done so far is we had hall council outside in our courtyard,” Harness said. “We had a big projector set up with a big screen and speaker system and we were all spread out. 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