COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Two years ago, a start-up called Adia was created in Austin, Texas.
Back then, it connected people with gig jobs in the hospitality industry, but today, its business model has shifted because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
They were catering to about 2% of the market, according to Kristin Kulpinski, head of marketing for Adia US.
This week, the company is trying to connect local grocers with 1,300 employees to fill their needs.
To use the app, a person downloads it on their phone, signs up and gets hired by Adia as a W-2 worker. The app then lets them locate jobs at the times and places of their choosing.
This is helping grocers like Kroger bring in the manpower they need to run the stores during the stay at home order.
Most of the people using the app when this global health crisis started were predominantly in the hospitality industry. Many of those people didn’t qualify for unemployment for one reason or another and because many states have restricted restaurants and bars to to-go or delivery only — and hotels are not seeing the travelers they normally would — the need for employees in that industry dried up fast.
As a result, Adia turned to an industry in dire need of help; grocers.
Bonita Ward, a single mother in Columbus, was working as a private security guard before the crisis started. She isn’t working as a private security guard anymore and says she cannot wait for unemployment to come in because it takes too long.
She isn’t the only one fed up with how unemployment is going, and she was joined in using the app by Michael Ambrose. Ambrose was a customer service manager for a healthcare provider until he lost his job recently.
Both of them learned about Adia from Bonita’s cousin. They have been using it for a few weeks now and say not only do they enjoy it, but it makes them feel proud to be working on the front lines ensuring people’s safety.
Ambrose and Ward were working at a Kroger supermarket Monday. Their job that day was wiping down commonly touched surfaces.
“I sanitize the carts, the handbaskets,” Ambrose said. “The hand freezers, the break rooms, the doors where the people come in touching the meat,” Ward continued.
“Everywhere that employees and customers touch,” Ambrose chimed in.
“We wipe it,” Ward completed.
The company pays Ward and Ambrose the same wages they normally would get if they had been hired by Kroger, according to Kulpinski. The money is sent to Adia and Adia can directly deposit it into their bank accounts. The worker gets every dime they earned, Adia doesn’t take a cut.
Instead, Adia pays its costs off of what they charge the businesses looking for workers, like Kroger. Kulpinski says Adia has lowered its billing rate because of the pandemic.
The billing rate pays for vetting the worker, handling HR administration, employee benefits, insurance, taxes and the like. Kulpinski said due to the efficiency of the company’s technology, businesses can save up to 30% on their workforce compared to the cost of hiring them directly, while still paying them the same amount.
Kulpinski said Adia is all about flexibility and workers like Ambrose and Ward.
“As we think about the future of work, flexibility is a huge part of it,” Kulpinski said. “The app gives them just that, but the cool part is they don’t lose the employee benefits with it, too, so it’s kind of bridging the gap between employment classification without losing flexible work schedules.”
From a worker’s perspective, that can mean, “If you don’t want to work that day, just don’t reserve it,” Ward said. “You won’t get penalized, you can work the days you want to work without getting penalized, like, that’s the great part.”
The experience for Ward and Ambrose has been good so far and neither have complaints about it.
Ambrose still plans to return to a job as a customer service manager after the crisis has passed and jobs are available again. Ward is less eager to go back to the way things were.
“Actually, I’m gonna stick with Adia for a while even after the [crisis] is over,” Ward said.
What remains to be seen is if the employment landscape will have shifted enough or permanently to make businesses like Adia attractive to grocers when the need for workers subsides.
Kulpinski said it is hard to tell and they are taking things day-by-day.
In the meantime, if you don’t have a job and need to make some money, doing so can be as easy as a few button presses away.