It wasn't just their shared shade of green that drew them together.

Kelly Services, the second-largest employer in the United States (behind Walmart) has been placing workers for 67 years. Its size, name recognition, and deep roots make it a heavyweight not just in the world of staffing, but in the economy as a whole. In the mostly-separate world of online staffing, oDesk is a big name, too (if not the biggest). They maintain an impressive database of nearly 5 million freelancers who have earned a collective $1 billion so far. Together, Kelly Services and oDesk move the online staffing model into the national consciousness.

Of course, while news outlets from the Wall Street Journal to Crain's Detroit reported it was the "first" time a traditional staffing firm teamed up with an online work platform, we at Staffing Talk know there have been others. We reported on one such "brick-meets-clicks" model in June, between Nesco Resource and Field Nation. Andrew Karpie lists a few recent hybrids in a Staffing Industry Analysts post.

This particular partnership is newsworthy because of the sheer power of the two players. At the same time, the move shows us that power, size, and name recognition are not enough anymore. You have to adapt. (Perhaps even cannibalize).


The relationship will involve KellyOCG, the Outsourcing and Consulting Group of Kelly Services, which will manage the talent supply chain just as before, but with expanded resources. KellyOCG will leverage the massive online pool on behalf of new and veteran providers, all while ensuring compliance with employment laws and cost-effectiveness for employers. Their approach will blend local hires with virtual ones, integrating freelancers into a truly flexible workforce.

"This is a significant move on several fronts," said Gregg Dourgarian, founder and former CEO of TempWorks. "You've got an old school company partnering with a new-fangled one, which foreshadows the evolution of that industry. It also puts the spotlight on labor acquisition over the internet and reminds us that our knowledge economy is truly global."

oDesk is as global as it gets, hosting freelancers from more than 180 countries, all vying for buyers. Pakistani "article writers" sell their skills for $3.33/hr alongside German software developers seeking $180/hr. But isn't the point of online work platforms to bypass the third party entity? Not exactly. Online-intermediated work arrangements are only expected to grow.

As Andrew Karpie predicts in this Staffing Industry Analysts post, "I am certain we will look back on 2013 as the year when the first signs of this extremely significant, transformative industry trend of hybridization became apparent."

Tags: TempWorks, Gregg Dourgarian, Technology, Wall Street Journal, Kelly Services, Nesco Resource, Walmart, Field Nation, ODesk, Crains Detroit, Andrew Karpie, KellyOCG