Uber Works CEO: Startup bridges visibility gap in temporary-worker market

Uber Works is bridging the visibility gap in the temporary worker market (Photo: Shutterstock)

Rapidly evolving consumer trends and customer expectations regarding expedited delivery have forced supply chains to be proactive. Scrambling stakeholders increasingly look to make their logistics operations more flexible, stocking inventories based on real-time demand and trend forecasts to avoid over-holding, and opting for on-demand warehousing if volumes exceed available warehousing capacity.

But in addition, logistics businesses need a supple workforce that can expand and contract based on market needs. Over the years, it has been common practice for companies to recruit temporary employees during peak seasonal demand periods. With demand spikes becoming more commonplace and global supply chains increasingly volatile, the need for consistent availability of temporary workers in the supply chain ecosystem becomes more pronounced.

Uber unveiled Uber Works, a platform for finding temporary workers, last year in Chicago and quickly found traction. FreightWaves caught up with Works CEO Andrey Liscovich, to discuss the company’s impact in the temporary-staffing space.

“We are offering a marketplace for entry-level work — the kind of work that generally doesn’t require a substantial amount of training in advance and can be performed on a temporary basis. We are focusing on services in verticals where such work is required — like within the industry vertical, you have warehouses, manufacturing facilities, distribution centers, third-party logistics companies that all need temporary workers,” Liscovich said.

Works makes the transactional process simpler for workers, helping them earn consistently and get paid instantly, unlike typical weekly or biweekly payment cycles. Liscovich explained that businesses and workers have 24/7 human-driven call assistance, engaging queries related to the marketplace experience.

“We put significant emphasis on providing white-glove support to business customers and the workers. This vertical brings in a lot of ambiguity, as workers joining the temporary-staffing companies often have limited visibility of what they have to expect at the job,” he said. “At Works, we want to make sure the folks have the right expectations before work starts.”

The temporary-staffing industry, though worth roughly $150 billion a year, has been a very opaque market, with services never matching demand, due to both shortages and a visibility disconnect.

“About half the entry-level applications within the sector have low fill rates. For on-demand requests, the fill rate is below 50% — meaning, half the time someone requests a worker, they don’t get one,” Liscovich said. “The industry has a huge problem with reliability. Another issue is the net promoter score (NPS) that is always negative … . The market has significant challenges with service quality and needs progress forward through tech-based matching that can be trusted by both parties.”

By making sure the system is reliable, Works could manage to bridge the fill rate disconnect between the businesses and temporary workers. Fill rate is the ratio of the fraction of jobs accepted to the actual number of jobs put out by businesses. Liscovich pointed out that Works’ fill rate percentage was over 98%, calling it “industry beating.”

That said, Works owes a lot of its success to the market validation studies it undertook before launching its pilot. Works had the comfort of borrowing from Uber Eats’ customer base, connecting with restaurants that sell through the platform to discuss their frustration with finding a temporary labor force to meet peak demand.

“Many of them had a hard time meeting peak demand. We spoke with a wide variety of companies, including mom and pop stores, family-owned restaurants, small regional chains, and large national chains,” Liscovich said. “We saw that half of them needed to access a temporary workforce. It was then we understood that businesses weren’t just saying this was an issue, but they were willing to pay for such a service.”