YOSS: Bringing Staffing To The Platform Age
by Marcus Sawyerr, on October 2, 2019 at 7:00 AM
Interview with Marcus Sawyerr, President and Global CEO of YOSS and David Francis, Research Director at Talent Tech Labs.
Talent Tech Labs Introduction: If the world of work is changing, there’s arguably no industry poised to change more over the next few years due to the intersection of technology, workforce demographic changes, and worker preferences than the staffing industry. Rather than sit idly by and wait for the future to happen to them, some firms are making bold investments in technology and new business models, and looking to potentially transform their offerings for a new world of work. The Adecco Group, one of the largest global staffing firms with more than 20 billion euros in annual revenue, is one such company, and has a number of initiatives underway around the world. For this article, we caught up with Marcus Sawyerr, the CEO of YOSS, a global tech platform that connects global talent to enterprise clients and was built inside of Adecco, to learn what this model of work means for the staffing industry and to get a sense of what it’s like running a startup inside one of the world’s largest staffing firms.
David: What is YOSS and how did it come to be? What’s your founding ”origin” story?
Marcus: YOSS is a digital platform for flexible talent co-created by The Adecco Group and Microsoft, and incubated by AGX, The Adecco Group’s digital innovation unit. In addition to forging partners with key technology partners, a core focus of AGX was to develop new business models and create new markets for The Adecco Group. YOSS is a culmination of these efforts as it is the company’s first entry into a fast growing and highly lucrative market where technology is a core enabler.
YOSS first launched in France with the goal of bringing skilled freelancers together with an attractive set of professional opportunities, as well as managing all aspects of the talent value chain. Given that more than half of workers in the US will be freelancers by 2025, and 35 percent of millennials in France are already working independently, these two markets were an early focus.
Today, YOSS is a global business with a strong focus on the US market. YOSS has evolved in to a cloud-based talent platform that connects high-demand skills with flexible global opportunities, an end-to-end solution dedicated to connecting enterprises and flexible talent.
David: What do you think makes this business unique/attractive? That is, why is there so much hype about online staffing and temp labor marketplaces?
Marcus: Flexible work is reshaping labor markets and the economy. It’s one of the mega-trends driving the future world of work. By some estimates, 20–30% of the working-age population in developed countries are involved in flexible work to some extent. Of these, nearly half pursue it full time. In the past year, this kind of work added $1.4 trillion to the US economy alone; in Europe the annual figure is €270 billion.
As more and more people move into this type of work, technology and digital innovation have the potential to drastically improve inefficiencies in the market for flexible talent. Online talent platforms give companies a secure, fast and reliable way to match and manage specialized skills and expertise. They also help to improve relationships, communication, admin and management between companies and freelance workers.
David: What is it like running a technology company -- essentially a startup unto itself -- inside the world’s largest staffing company? Any unique learnings from that experience?
Marcus: I first joined The Adecco Group in 2016 to build the company’s digital innovation unit, AGX. That was breeding grounds to eventually run a technology company within the organization because it allowed me to build relationships and understand the ecosystem of the larger organization and market. Just like I did with YOSS in the US and now globally, I built the AGX team from scratch and was running a small global unit focused on the intersection of technology and staffing.
A core learning has been the importance of team and culture. Especially when you work in innovation, there is a lot of change and it requires a high degree of ambition, so you have to bring people on that journey and help them understand and buy in to your vision.
David: To what extent is the online staffing business disruptive or additive to the traditional staffing model? Does having this kind of business cannibalize your own market share? How do you think about those dynamics strategically, especially in the context of managing the whole portfolio of businesses that is The Adecco Group holistically?
Marcus: The market for flexible talent is growing rapidly, so the pie is only getting a larger and we are getting a larger share of that pie. Some organizations will always want to work with a traditional model, and others will be more suited to an online offering. The key is to offer the full spectrum so you can serve all types of clients and meet their various needs.
David: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced and learnings you’ve gained thus far as you’ve built out and began scaling the business? What are your most notable successes?
Marcus: When we first started, we had two teams managing two separate markets. Recognizing that France and the US are both home to large pools of flexible talent, we worked hard to achieve product-market fit in these important markets. What we learned is that while regulations and market dynamics vary from country to country, freelance work and software does not recognize borders. It became increasingly apparent that a global approach was critical for us to truly achieve our mission and to deliver a borderless solution that meets the needs of our clients.
The transformation to one global YOSS team was a pivotal moment and is propelling our growth, opening up new pastures for us to expand internationally and make the global market for flexible talent easier and more efficient to navigate for companies and talent alike.
David: How is the market evolving and where do you see it in five years?
Marcus: Globalization of the flexible work market and increasing interest in this type of work will continue at a fast clip. More and more talent want to be in control of where, with whom and how they work, while more and more companies are moving to more project-based work and leaner organizations.
Marcus Sawyerr is President and Global CEO of YOSS. YOSS is a flexible talent platform co-created by The Adecco Group and Microsoft. It is a robust end- to-end solution that gives both enterprises and flexible talent the right tools and services to maximize productivity, manage their projects and talents, and harness the benefits of more flexible ways of working. Marcus has extensive experience in the digital evolution of the entire staffing sector. He has contributed significantly to the development of Digital Innovation within The Adecco Group as the most admired, innovative workforce solutions partner, providing exceptional customer experience through talent and technology.
His current priority is on building the most trusted destination for flexible knowledge workers at YOSS.