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Wonolo brings transparency to the unorganized blue-collar job market

For the smooth sailing of operations within a supply chain, it is critical to have a consistent supply of skilled blue-collar workers who can keep the logistics running without hiccups. However, as the labor shortage hits different pockets within the supply chain, the management of logistics companies have had a headache in finding both temporary and permanent staff to fill the gaps. 

As such, the traditional temporary staffing industry has been one of the largest addressable markets in the world, worth about $500 billion globally and nearly $140 billion just in the United States. Moreover, the industry still uses paper-based conventional methods for sourcing and recruitment, remaining swaddled in practices that are essentially manual, highly inefficient, complex and opaque. 

Wonolo, an on-demand temporary staffing platform, is looking to solve this problem by helping companies fill their immediate labor demand by connecting with qualified blue-collar workers sourced through the mobile marketplace. 

“Let’s say that you are running a company and today you need 10 workers to come in and help you get the job done. You can open our platform, request 10 workers, and at the push of a button, 10 workers will show up directly to your place and get the job done for you,” said Yong Kim, CEO and co-founder of Wonolo. 

Kim immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea in the early 1990s, with minimal knowledge of English. And since that was the time before the internet, it was extremely hard for Kim to find a job in the unorganized blue-collar work market. Kim mentioned that he used to pick up local newspapers and check their job sections, make cold calls and even walk into places that had a hiring sign out front. 

“This experience was 25 years ago, but it stayed with me throughout my career. Now, the Silicon Valley has done an amazing job at innovating the human resources space, especially on the white-collar side,” said Kim. “But if you look at the underserved, frontline blue-collar workforce, there hasn’t been much innovation at all. If you’re an hourly worker, constantly looking for multiple different shifts and jobs, life is pretty hard, and there isn’t much available service or solution that can help you meet your needs.”

Wonolo’s differentiation in the market is about its intent to automate all the manually done processes – like getting workers onboarded, vetted and background checked, and finally matching them to different companies in need of temporary staff. Kim pointed out that apart from this, processes of paying workers after every shift and providing them with insurance cover have also been automated to bring about a positive experience for both companies and workers. 

“As a result, we offer significantly higher, almost double the rates that traditional services provide. Also, the time for filling a position through traditional services is anywhere from four to six weeks, but with Wonolo, we are talking minutes to a few hours,” said Kim. “There also has been a lot of discussion around the participants in the gig economy – from Uber to Lyft to DoorDash – companies that do not take care of their workers, even though they are part of the whole equation. At Wonolo, we care and are always workers’ first.”

Wonolo has a carefully constructed platform that looks into what workers desire, the ways of enhancing experiences and even helping workers move up their career ladder. The idea behind Wonolo, Kim explained, was to empower workers to make their own choice and decide on when and where they would like to work. 

Though finding traction among workers was pretty straightforward, Kim agreed that convincing companies to shift from using traditional services to recruiting temporary staff on a digital marketplace like Wonolo was an arduous task. “When you want to disrupt the existing legacy systems, there’s a lot of education that you need to impart to help them change behavior,” he said. For companies, Wonolo is a huge leap of faith as it goes against their usual behavior of vetting potential staff by looking at them in person and reading through their resumes. 

However, having crossed the initial hurdle of convincing companies and snowballing its numbers month-on-month, Wonolo now is making a difference in the unorganized blue-collar job market. “By providing transparency in terms of pay and work, we have almost achieved income equality between men and women workers on our platform,” said Kim. “This transparency has also encouraged more female workers to opt for job opportunities that traditionally have not been popular or accessible to females.”

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Vishnu Rajamanickam, Staff Writer

Vishnu writes editorial commentary on cutting-edge technology within the freight industry, profiles startups, and brings in perspective from industry frontrunners and thought leaders in the freight space. In his spare time, he writes neo-noir poetry, blogs about travel & living, and loves to debate about international politics. He hopes to settle down in a village and grow his own food at some point in time. But for now, he is happy to live with his wife in the middle of a German metropolitan.

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