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Outsourcing tasks to a network of people, commonly known as crowdsourcing, has recently been quite popular in the world of business. According to a study by the research firm massolution, crowdsourcing has shown a growth rate of approximately 75% in 2011 in comparison with 2010.

One could say that crowdsourcing is becoming one of the most important decision support schemes in the modern world of business.

Crowdsourcing vs. Employees

Despite the growing significance of crowdsourcing within the Enterprise 2.0 world and good intentions of using the collective intelligence of a crowd to aid your company, a recent case has shown that this approach can also be prone to misuse.

According to several media reports (Reuters, Techgig) IBM is planning a big restructuring of their workforce, resulting in a massive job reduction.

Through a Fire & Re-Hire strategy IBM is planning to release about 70% of its worldwide workforce -- up to 300,000 employees -- and then get them back on board as freelancers. This would allow IBM to save on fringe benefits and other labor costs.

However, for the employee all of this might not be good news. Firstly, this could mean long times of unemployment for former workers. Secondly, the loss of medical and social benefits would mean an extra burden for employees. Additionally, all of this could increase work-related stress levels.

Crowdsourcing with Employees

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An alternative to traditional crowdsourcing approaches is employee-based crowdsourcing using people from within the organization.

Traditional crowdsourcing is usually about outsourcing minor tasks or creative tasks to external consumers or freelancers. To increase the quality of the contributions these external crowdsourcing initiatives, employees are given incentives in the form of fame and/or prizes (coupons, discounts, material prizes).

Employee-based crowdsourcing is taking crowdsourcing inside the company. The main difference is that you cannot ask your employees to do minor tasks or creative tasks because that’s what you are already paying them for anyway. You are going to crowdsource the knowledge, experience and opinions of your employees.

Social Forecasting uses your existing workforce as experts in their fields and also as a consumer relevant group. This is often underestimated, as employers often see their staff only as workers, coming in and going out. But what happens after work? Each and every employee is a consumer himself, even if not always of your particular products. Your employee knows more about the market, competitors and trends than you might suspect.