David Brackin, managing director of Stuff U Sell, the leading eBay trading assistant in the UK and a regular Tamebay contributor, has been using flexible, temporary staff booked through the Coople marketplace. Today he shares his experience:
Writing in 1532, Machiavelli had a lot to say on the subject of hiring temps – in those days it mainly concerned the use of mercenaries to supplement armies:-
“Mercenaries and auxiliaries are at once useless and dangerous, and he who holds his State by means of mercenary troops can never be solidly or securely seated. For such troops are disunited, ambitious, insubordinate, treacherous, insolent among friends, cowardly before foes, and without fear of God or faith with man. Whenever they are attacked defeat follows; so that in peace you are plundered by them, in war by your enemies. And this because they have no tie or motive to keep them in the field beyond their paltry pay, in return for which it would be too much to expect them to give their lives.”
I’ve worked with temp agencies before and it’s been pretty hit-and-miss. Get an agent who cares and they happen to have a good temp that they will let you have. Book in for a week’s work the week before and it can go smoothly. The alternative is not great. Over the years I’ve come to a similar conclusion that full-time staff are the answer. However as the winter weather and seasonal shopping peaks conspire to produce sales spikes and marketplaces increasingly breathing down our neck to ensure prompt dispatch, I think that even a Medici Prince might be looking for an extra helping hand in the warehouse on a Monday. Indeed, we all need a little extra help from time to time, whether it is for coping with peak period, staff sickness and holidays or simply in advance of hiring as you grow.
So when I heard about Coople, the new marketplace for temp workers, I was interested to try it out. Those of us who sell on eBay forget how early an idea it was as a two-sided marketplace, but they have grown more and more common these days in transportation, groceries, food delivery and accommodation – so why not temp work?
The process of getting on board was pretty smooth. I signed up online one Sunday morning and got a call a few hours later asking if I had an urgent hire that was needed. I didn’t so arranged to speak to the account manager the following week. He was keen to explain the service and even came over to the warehouse to see what we did and help set the account up. We created a template for a job (picking & packing for a shift, describing the nature of the work, clothing requirements etc) and we specified the rate of pay for the worker. Coople then add their commission on top and we have an forecast cost for the shift. With that set-up, it is then very simple to put that live – all in just two or three clicks on the phone app.
Last weekend we realised that sales were going well on Saturday – a little too well, in fact – so we put an ad up for Monday’s shift. All done on the phone. By Sunday evening we had 20 applicants all ready and willing to come to work for us.
This is where it gets interesting – each applicant is screened by Coople and has a CV online that you can see – but, critically, also a score rating how other employers have found them (and for what type of work). It is quick to scan down a list of applicants and see the ones who have consistently got good ratings and select them. There are a lot of wait-staff and bar-staff roles and workers as well as the traditional warehouse roles (top tip: wait-staff make good pickers!).
So late in the evening on Sunday I spotted a worker who had previous experience supervising a picking team and who lived locally and one click later, we had a great worker in for Monday.
Overall I’m impressed by the service offered by Coople. It’s clearly a fairly new service and we’ve seen a few temps who have just started on the platform as we have. The Christmas period is traditionally when there’s a lot of pressure on getting additional staff, but it’s also when a lot of casual student labour is available, so it will be interesting to see if they are attracted to the gig marketplace. While there are some technical wrinkles to be ironed out, the speed and flexibility with which I’ve been able to create and fill a series of short vacancies is a breath of fresh air in this industry. I’m starting to wonder if Machiavelli’s advice might be a little out-dated.