At Upwork, we’re busy rewriting the rules of work, innovating on behalf of the clients and independent talent on our platform and making work better for all of us. Already two decades into our mission, a spirit of scrappiness and invention remains core to who we are. Innovation exists in every pocket of our business, but today we’re going under the hood with Upwork Labs, our rapid experimentation and incubation team that’s dreaming up and shaping the next wave of transformative solutions for our customers.
The innovation engine
Before any product becomes part of our core offerings, it goes through a process of experimentation and incubation inside of Upwork Labs and is then scaled up.
In the experimentation phase, our Labs team explores many hypotheses in order to validate whether there’s a quantifiable customer need and what viable solutions might look like. By design, many of these ideas are not successful. However, those that show promise make it to the incubation phase, where a larger team and additional testing gauge customer adoption and product-market fit. The strongest products “graduate” from Upwork Labs and enter the scale phase, where they get the full weight of a cross-functional development team behind them. In this phase, the ultimate goal is creating the best version of this product for our customers at scale.
A great example of this system in action is our full-time solution, which we brought to market earlier this year. We’ve always known—and been proud of the fact—that businesses and talent forge long-term relationships through Upwork. What we saw through our data was a growing number of instances of both talent and hiring managers signaling they'd like to work together in a full-time capacity. So we built a feature in Labs called contract-to-hire to test this hypothesis. The contract-to-hire functionality enables businesses to hire talent on a short-term basis and then seamlessly transition this talent to a full-time engagement once both parties want to do so.
Any Hire, our payroll offering and a critical complement to contract-to-hire, was also born in Upwork Labs. By coupling contract-to-hire with Any Hire, we’re able to provide an end-to-end solution that enables businesses of all sizes to find, vet, hire, onboard, and pay highly skilled professionals virtually anywhere in the world via full-time work arrangements, with less of the complexity commonly associated with global hiring. This offering came to fruition and transitioned to the scale phase as part of our expansion into full-time hiring in early 2023.
Exploring new frontiers
What’s the Upwork Labs team’s main focus area today? You probably guessed it: generative AI. There’s no doubt generative AI is going to have a huge and lasting impact on the world of work. Our platform has seen explosive growth in this category, with a 450% increase in weekly job posts related to generative AI compared to last year. We’re focused on exploring myriad ways to help our customers take advantage of the opportunity this new technology presents to be a force multiplier for businesses and talent alike.
Earlier this month, we announced a major expansion of our AI offerings and resources, making Upwork the preeminent destination for businesses to find trusted AI talent and solutions, and for skilled professionals to find flexible AI work opportunities and access emergent generative AI tools. One of the product features highlighted in that launch was our new job post generator, which began as a kernel of an idea in Labs. Let’s dive a little deeper into how this offering developed.
Like everything we do in Labs, the best work starts with the right questions. In this case, we started with the question: How can we leverage generative AI to solve some of the core challenges our customers face in using our platform today? We knew that clients often encountered the obstacle of starting with a blank page when describing their work needs. As such, we set out to determine how we could use generative AI to overcome this challenge and thereby enable more work opportunities for talent. That led to the idea of a job post generator. We introduced an experiment that leveraged generative AI to help clients quickly describe their job, with the goal of increasing their likelihood to post a job, thereby providing more work opportunities to talent and, ultimately, higher earnings for professionals on Upwork.
We looked to OpenAI, a leader in the space, to power this feature. Based on just a few key phrases and simple inputs from a client, the tool drafted a comprehensive description for their job that dramatically reduced the effort required from them. The resulting post aided our goals around job post completion for clients, encouraging more job posts and more jobs for talent.
V1 of the job post generator was certainly nifty, albeit pretty basic, and we tested it on our platform to understand how we could improve it. We saw that new users found real benefit having a job post draft created on their behalf, while longstanding customers who were already very active on Upwork used the new feature less often. Having identified that there was a real need for our new clients, we aimed to maximize the reach of our second variation of job post generator specifically with our new users. Instead of just creating a project description, job post generator V2 has the ability to draft an entire job post with a host of new descriptors like scope, duration, and skills, creating more complete and accurate job posts for clients to use, and with even less effort than before.
This is the job post generator live today, which you can find as part of our AI Services hub. We’re closely monitoring feedback and measuring various success metrics, like job post completion, so we can learn more about what is needed from subsequent iterations. As ever, our goal is for the product to be as impactful and beneficial to our customers as possible, and we’ll continue to explore even more useful and innovative approaches to posting jobs on our platform.
Fostering the next transformative solution
Within Upwork Labs, we prioritize three key things: speed, agility, and impact. What motivates our team every day is simple: making bold bets, exploring new possibilities, and ultimately advancing successful products that help achieve our mission of creating economic opportunities so people have better lives. We’re always cooking up something in Labs and look forward to sharing more over the coming months and years.
For more information on the latest product innovation from Upwork, follow our Product and Innovation updates.
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