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Success Story

Upwork creates four value-based pillars to drive business initiatives

A success story from HR 4.0: Shaping People Strategies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Future of Work|Inclusion and Diversity|Talent|Total Rewards|Integrated Wellbeing
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June 11, 2020

Upwork is building a culture of work without limits and empowering people with opportunities, illustrating imperatives 2 and 6 from HR 4.0.

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About HR 4.0

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is blurring lines between people and technology – changing the ways people work and businesses produce value. A white paper, published by the World Economic Forum, presents, HR 4.0, a framework for shaping people strategies in the 4IR, and examines the role of the HR function as a key driver in defining how work is done and how the workforce evolves.

Upwork, a global freelancing platform where businesses and independent professionals collaborate remotely, is committed to building a culture true to their founders’ vision of work without limits and empowering people with opportunities. Based on this, the organization established 4 values, influenced by corporate employees across all levels and freelancers: bias towards action, inspire a boundless future of work, building amazing teams, and putting the community first. The values are the pillars of the organization and permeate throughout the business, influencing decisions, prioritization, leadership promotions, and identity.

Expanding employment strategies for a comprehensive talent pool

As a platform for flexible work models, Upwork embraces these models and orchestrates a distributed workforce. They strive to build a community to drive authenticity and understand each individual and partner, connecting each through a shared mission. They partner with their extended workforce of freelancers who are aligned around their common mission and contribute their skills in a variety of meaningful ways. For example, the engineering and operations teams collaborate to scale Upwork’s offerings. Integrating the efforts of freelancers, corporate employees and vendor partners allows them to build an agile and ever-evolving business that is committed to driving their mission forward. At the same time, by extending their talent strategy geographically, they aspire to bring economic opportunities to their talented partners who live in less affluent areas.

Upwork believes that authenticity in their workforce encourages individuals to apply their whole selves to do their best work.

Leveraging processes and policies to drive diversity and inclusion

Upwork believes that authenticity in their workforce encourages individuals to apply their whole selves to do their best work. They have built processes and policies to drive this. For example, corporate benefits are designed to support a team member through a host of life stages. Twelve weeks of parental leave are available for each parent and inclusive of all types of family building. Bereavement leave includes whomever is defined as family. In addition, Upwork provides fertility support and leaves for pregnancy loss, as well as a variety of mental health resources, volunteer time, unlimited time off, and prayer, wellness, and mothers’ rooms, etc.

Culture is a critical aspect to employees bringing their whole selves to work, and Upwork encourages them to work to build it through connections in all that they do.

Investing in a culture that encourages people to bring their whole self to work

Culture is a critical aspect to employees bringing their whole selves to work, and Upwork encourages them to work to build it through connections in all that they do. Each collaborator participates in fostering their inclusive culture, ensuring all voices are heard and that their communication and collaboration styles capitalize on the insight of each team partner. The teams come together to innovate and push the business forward, but also to celebrate milestones, share moments of serendipity and grieve losses. They encourage authenticity in all interactions, and this has helped reduce the taboo on topics people might normally deem too emotional to discuss at work. Their goal is to promote the fact that their workforce is human. They’ve connected on issues such as Black Lives Matter, Me Too and preventing sexual harassment at work, immigration policy, diversity in leadership and LGBTQIA rights.


This success story was published by the World Economic Forum in December 2019 and has been reproduced with permission.

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