Not Ready to Fully Retire? Try Crowdsourcing


The explosion of online technology, smartphones, apps and tablets have forever altered our work schedules.

Working 9-5 behind a desk in a cubicle is no longer the only choice for employees, which is good news for boomers not ready to fully retire.

Most boomers plan to work after retirement age or never retire at all. And for these boomers, crowd working might be the perfect fit.

Lionbridge Technologies, a crowdsourcing/crowd working practice employs 100,000 people around the world on a contract basis, and those ages 55 and older make up more than one-third of its workforce.

I reached out to Rory Cowan, Chairman and CEO at Lionbridge Technologies, to discuss what is attracting the boomer generation to the new workplace trend and what they need to know. Here is what he had to say:

Boomer:  What is crowdsourcing and what is meant by “crowd-in-the-cloud”?

Cowan: The concept of crowdsourcing is relatively simple: It involves the breaking down of large projects in to small tasks that can be completed by groups of qualified independent or “at home” professionals using the cloud. Lionbridge was an early entrant with this model more than a decade ago. Today we recruit and assemble “smart crowds” using over 100,000 pre-screened professionals that perform specific business projects for Fortune 1000 companies.

Our “managed crowdsourcing” approach combines a global, multi-lingual, virtual workforce with cloud technology and operational efficiencies to deliver highly accurate, fast turnaround results for clients.

Boomer: Why is this model gaining traction today, and how does it differ from a “traditional” job?

Cowan: Through our crowd, we’ve noticed a trend in workers of all ages becoming tired of the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. office job, which leads them to alternatives. Our crowd workers take on projects how, when and where they choose to. We also notice that corporations are approaching the concept of “employment” very differently. With the security and flexibility of cloud computing and a growing labor pool of individuals who are very accustomed to communicating via their laptop or mobile device, the model seems to offer a “win/win” for everyone.

For example, for one recent project, we were able to use our crowd to reduce processing time by 92% for the client.  So a program that used to take the client 48 hours using a traditional IT services model, our crowd was able to complete in four hours.

In short, this model offers levels of personal, professional and labor flexibility that a typical office job cannot.

Boomer: Crowdsourcing is a relatively new trend and requires a solid grasp of technology, how can boomers get over any “age discrimination” issues?

Cowan: With a crowd model, age is irrelevant. To be accepted into our pre-screened crowd, we take into account factors such as skill, qualification, education level, past professions, and any specific capabilities – such as knowledge of a certain language or domain expertise – that would directly benefit the clients for whom we are managing projects for.

Boomer: What are the essential tools and equipment boomers need to be able to compete in the growing crowdsourcing industry?

Cowan:  When a crowd worker joins Lionbridge’s crowd, they simply need a computer with internet connectivity to get started. All work is completed via a secure proprietary, secure cloud platform, where workers can download and upload projects, or speak with a representative for further information on assignments.

They are also required to complete training before beginning working with Lionbridge. The goal of this process is to match the right workers with the right jobs, which is how we ensure maximum efficiency and accuracy in our clients’ projects.

Boomer:  What expectations should boomers set when entering the crowd-working industry? What traits do they need to succeed? 

Cowan:  Upon entering the crowd and committing to an assignment, boomers – and workers of any age – should be cognizant of deadlines. A major benefit for clients using Lionbridge’s Business Process Crowdsourcing is the speed it takes to complete a project, a direct result of the timeliness of our crowd.

Along with the willingness to meet deadlines, we also look for crowd workers that show attention to detail and an interest in language and/or technology, as this are the core of our BPC services. Also, any added skill – such as proficient knowledge of an indigenous language – is greatly valued amongst our crowd, although not mandatory during the screening process.

Boomer:  Describe the average 37,000 baby boomers who currently make up the Lionbridge Crowd? Age, work they are doing, hours spent, etc…

Cowan:  Of the 37,000 baby boomers who make up our crowd, 25,000 workers are between the ages of 55 and 64, while 12,000 are 65 and older. Mostly, these are people who want to work on their own terms without traveling to an office every day. In Lionbridge’s crowd, 90% of contract workers have an undergraduate or graduate degree.

Once accepted into Lionbridge’s pre-screened crowd, workers complete assignments, our crowd performs tasks in three areas, as follows:

Language services: These services can range from video, telephonic and in-person interpretations, such as helping a doctor communicate with a patient who does not speak English or a social worker speak with a child who doesn’t know English, such as the situation along the border right now, to translating user generated content. User generated content can include product reviews, tweets and community forum comments, which helps a business vastly expand the reach of its global marketing initiatives.

Global testing: Examples of this include in-country mobile device testing to make ensure no bugs or glitches are present at launch, as well as mobile application field testing, like driving around U.S. cities to confirm mobile mapping functions are working properly.

Data services: Big data is important to many businesses, but with so many different sources it is important to have everything in the same format to optimize analytics. For our crowd, this includes assignments such as data cleansing, classification and normalization (such as data digitization, data updating, data de-duplication, or data tagging), which ultimately makes the data more valuable.

Boomer:  What makes crowdworking appealing to older workers?

Cowan: Working from Lionbridge’s crowd is appealing to older workers mostly because of the flexibility that comes with the role. Crowd workers operate from home and can choose how many hours each week they’d like to work. Many use it as a supplemental income. They can also choose when to complete the work assigned to them. For example, if their afternoons are filled with hobbies and family time, then completing assignments at night is perfectly acceptable. Crowd workers can also work off of the technology of their preference, as well, ranging from PCs or Macs to laptops or even tablets.

An added benefit of working from Lionbridge’s managed crowd is that crowd workers receive monetary compensation. Other crowdsourcing providers pay workers in credits or e-payments that have limited redemption value, but we offer compensation in the form of direct deposit in their country’s currency.