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Innovation in Crowd Retention: Leveraging Payment and Network Platforms to Retain Talent in Data Labeling

Santiago Coates

July, 08, 2024

12 min. reading

Data Annotation and Labeling (DAL) Solutions, driven by the rapid advancement of AI and ML technologies, are projected to expand from USD 1.66 billion in 2021 to approximately USD 8.21 billion by 2028. 

This reflects the AI/ML industry’s increasing demand for high-quality data and human expertise to train sophisticated algorithms. While this expansion offers stable employment opportunities in data annotation, collection, and labeling, it also presents challenges for companies managing these workforces. 

This white paper explores some of these challenges.

Data Labeling Structures: Information to Make It Meaningful

The process of data labeling is crucial for ensuring the effectiveness of AI models. According to The Strategy Deck, the data labeling structure can be broken down into the following key stages:

Data Preparation:

  • Label and correct the initial dataset: This involves accurately labeling the raw data and correcting any initial errors. Proper labeling at this stage is fundamental to ensuring the integrity of the dataset.
  • Discover errors and biases: Identifying and addressing errors and biases early in the process is essential to maintain the data’s accuracy and fairness.


  • Fine-tune the model for a specific use case: Adjusting the AI model to fit specific applications enhances its relevance and effectiveness. This customization ensures that the model performs optimally in the intended context.
  • Test and validate the quality of model output: Rigorous testing and validation are necessary to confirm that the model’s outputs are accurate and reliable. This step is critical for ensuring the model’s practical utility.


  • Applying the fine-tuned models to real-world scenarios ensures they perform effectively in practical applications, thus delivering value in various domains.

This structured approach to data labeling not only enhances the quality of the data but also ensures that the AI models built on this data are robust, accurate, and reliable.

Multi-Modal Tools Facilitating Manual Labeling

The data labeling industry relies heavily on a variety of multimodal, general-purpose tools that facilitate manual labeling. These tools are essential for handling diverse data types and ensuring integration with popular machine learning frameworks and operational tools. Key players in this space include Scale, Kili, Appen, Toloka, AWS SageMaker Ground Truth, Labelbox, and SuperAnnotate.

These platforms offer several important features:

  • Support for multiple data types: Versatility in handling different kinds of data.
  • Integration with popular ML frameworks and Ops tools: Seamless connection with widely used machine learning frameworks and operational tools to streamline workflows.
  • Access to a specialized labeling workforce: Providing a skilled workforce specialized in data labeling tasks.
  • Programmatic QA: Implementing quality assurance to maintain high standards of data labeling accuracy.

While these tools play a crucial role in the data labeling ecosystem, enabling companies to manage large volumes of data efficiently and maintaining high accuracy and quality, it is essential to highlight that tools alone are not sufficient. 

Human expertise remains critical to ensure data precision, relevance, and ethical considerations in the labeling process.

The Importance of Humans in a Data-Centric World

Accurate data collection and utilization are critical for building successful AI models. This process requires substantial human interaction to ensure data precision and relevance. For instance, an AI model designed for medical diagnoses relies entirely on the quality of the medical data it is trained on. Inaccurate or incomplete data can lead to unreliable predictions and potentially harmful consequences.

However, accurate data collection alone is not sufficient. Several other factors, heavily reliant on human workers and interaction, play crucial roles in the success of AI models:

  • Quality of Training Data: Ensuring data is representative, balanced, and free from biases requires human oversight. Human workers curate and validate the data to meet these standards.
  • Data Annotation Quality: This aspect is highly dependent on human workers who provide precise and consistent labeling. The expertise and attention to detail of human annotators ensure that the AI model can effectively learn and understand the patterns within the data.
  • Feature Engineering: Creating relevant features from raw data involves significant human creativity and expertise. Human workers select, modify, and transform data features to improve the model’s ability to learn and make accurate predictions.
  • Model Evaluation and Validation: Regular evaluation and validation of the model require human interpretation and analysis. Human experts use various metrics to ensure the model performs well not just on training data but also on unseen data, providing crucial feedback for model improvement.
  • Ethics and Bias Mitigation: Identifying and mitigating biases in the data and model is essential to ensure fair and ethical AI outcomes. This process requires human judgment and expertise to recognize potential biases and implement corrective measures.
  • Continuous Learning and Adaptation: AI models should be designed to learn and adapt continuously from new data. Human intervention is necessary to update and retrain models based on evolving data, ensuring the models remain relevant and effective in changing environments.

The Future of AI Data

According to Scale AI CEO Alexandr Wang, the future of AI data rests on three principles:

  • Data Abundance: AI models are increasingly data-hungry and require vast amounts of data to improve their performance and accuracy.
  • Frontier Data: Developing more powerful AI systems requires building frontier data that pushes the boundaries of AI capabilities. This requires human experts from around the world to create and refine this cutting-edge data.
  • Measurements and Valuation: Accurate measurement and valuation of data are crucial for advancing AI capabilities and ensuring that AI models are trained on high-quality, relevant data.

Each of these factors builds upon the foundation laid by accurate data collection. Without high-quality data at the outset, even the best algorithms and models will fail to deliver reliable and effective results. Therefore, investing in meticulous data collection processes and addressing these additional factors holistically, with significant human involvement, is vital for the advancement and success of AI technologies.

The effectiveness of the humans involved in this process is closely tied to their job satisfaction and retention. Addressing the challenges faced by data annotators, particularly those in remote and freelance roles, is crucial for maintaining a high-quality workforce. This brings us to the importance of recognizing and mitigating the challenges in worker retention, as a stable and motivated workforce is essential for the continuous improvement and reliability of AI data annotation processes.

Challenges in Worker Retention for AI

Retaining talent in the data annotation industry involves addressing several critical factors that contribute to worker satisfaction and loyalty. These factors go beyond just financial compensation and touch upon the overall work experience. 

Below, we discuss the key elements that play a crucial role in retaining a skilled workforce in this sector:

  1. Competitive Compensation and Benefits: Offering competitive salaries and comprehensive benefits packages is essential. Workers are more likely to stay with companies that provide fair compensation for their work, including health benefits, retirement plans, and other perks.
  2. Career Growth and Development Opportunities: Providing opportunities for career advancement and professional development helps retain talent. Employees value the ability to grow within their organization, learn new skills, and take on more significant responsibilities.
  3. Work-Life Balance: Ensuring a healthy work-life balance is increasingly important. Flexible working hours, remote work options, and policies that support personal well-being can significantly impact retention rates.
  4. Recognition and Reward Programs: Recognizing and rewarding employees for their contributions fosters a sense of appreciation and motivation. Regular acknowledgment of achievements, whether through formal awards or informal praise, can enhance job satisfaction.
  5. Positive Work Environment and Culture: A positive, inclusive, and supportive work environment is crucial. Employees are more likely to remain with companies that promote a culture of respect, collaboration, and inclusivity.
  6. Effective Communication and Feedback Mechanisms: Open and effective communication channels between management and employees help address concerns and improve job satisfaction. Regular feedback, both positive and constructive, allows employees to feel heard and valued.
  7. Job Security: Providing a sense of job security is vital for employee retention. Workers are more likely to stay with companies that offer stable employment and a clear vision for the future.
  8. Technology and Tools: Providing employees with the necessary tools and technologies to perform their tasks efficiently can reduce frustration and increase job satisfaction. Staying updated with the latest technologies also shows a company’s commitment to innovation and progress.

Specific Challenges in the Global South

Workers in the Global South face unique challenges related to payment methods. Ensuring efficient and reliable payment solutions for these workers is especially important. Many workers face issues with high fees and verification problems with digital wallets, leading to reduced earnings. 

To address these challenges effectively, several critical factors need to be considered:

  • Efficient and Reliable Payment Methods: Ensuring workers have access to efficient and reliable payment methods is critical. Many workers in the Global South face issues with high fees and verification problems with digital wallets, leading to reduced earnings.
  • Conversion of Earnings to Local Currency: Workers face significant challenges when converting their earnings to local currency. High conversion fees and complex processes reduce their take-home pay.
  • Flexible Payment Options: Offering a variety of payment methods is crucial. Workers need flexible options that suit their individual needs and circumstances. Providing multiple payment options can help workers access their earnings more conveniently and cost-effectively.
  • Community Support: Fostering a strong community within payment solutions enhances user retention. Platforms that offer robust communities where users can support each other create a sense of belonging and trust. This dynamic not only boosts engagement but also enhances worker retention.

Oskarina, a digital worker from Venezuela, shared her struggles with us: “Some people face issues that block their money due to verification problems in certain digital wallets.” She also experiences difficulties with verification for other digital wallets due to her location, making it challenging to convert her earnings to local currency. These verification issues often lead to trapped money, forcing workers to resort to more expensive wallets to access their funds. This, in turn, significantly reduces their earnings due to high fees. 

Oskarina’s colleague has had over 100 U.S. dollars blocked in Toloka for months, unable to create an account in other digital wallets to withdraw funds: “They are asking for an international bank account because the Venezuelan account is not useful.” These financial obstacles are a significant impediment for digital workers who depend on these platforms for their livelihood.

Key Factors in Payment Solutions for Improving Retention

Efficient and reliable payment solutions are crucial for retaining skilled workers in the data annotation industry. Given the importance of fair and timely compensation, companies must focus on several key elements to enhance user retention:

  1. Speed: The speed at which payments are converted to local currency significantly impacts worker satisfaction. Slow transactions, which can take up to weeks, are a common issue in the payments industry. Ideally, payment conversion time should be less than 10 minutes, significantly boosting user satisfaction and retention.
  2. Fees: High fees associated with converting earnings to local currency can be a significant deterrent for workers. A payment service provider (PSP) that offers low conversion fees helps workers retain a larger portion of their earnings, making them more likely to continue working on the platform.
  3. Payment Method Variety: Offering a variety of payment methods for withdrawing funds to local currency is crucial. Workers need flexible options that suit their individual needs and circumstances. A wide array of methods increases the likelihood that workers will find a convenient and cost-effective way to access their earnings.
  4. Transparency: Transparent communication regarding payment processes and fees helps build trust and reduces frustration among workers. Clear, upfront information about any costs and timelines associated with payments is essential.
  5. Security and Reliability: Ensuring the security and reliability of payment methods is vital. Workers need to feel confident that their earnings are safe and that they can access their funds without encountering significant issues.
  6. User-Friendly Interface: A user-friendly interface for payment platforms enhances the overall user experience. Simplifying the process of withdrawing funds and converting them to local currency can reduce the burden on workers and improve their satisfaction.

Community Support: Fostering a strong community within the payment solution enhances user retention by fostering a sense of belonging, trust, and support among workers. Platforms that offer robust communities where users can support each other create a sense of belonging and trust. This dynamic not only boosts engagement but also enhances worker retention.

Importance of Community for Gig Workers

Building an inclusive community enhances retention for remote and freelance workers. 

Going back to Oskarina’s case, the community plays a significant role. Despite her individual work, she is part of a group of people who offer support and advice to each other. This group not only shares opportunities and strategies but also serves as an emotional support network, which is crucial in a field where uncertainty is the norm. By engaging with the community, Oskarina can discuss verification issues and explore alternative solutions suggested by her peers, ultimately helping her navigate the challenges she faces.

  1. Sense of Belonging: Remote and freelance workers often face isolation, making a sense of belonging even more critical. Building an inclusive community where they feel connected to the organization can significantly improve retention. O.C. Tanner’s Global Culture Report found that a sense of belonging improved employee retention by 43% and increased the average employee’s tenure by 84%. A connected community helps reduce negative mental health symptoms, such as burnout, by 38%.
  2. Employee Engagement: Engaged remote and freelance workers are more committed and motivated, which directly influences retention. When these workers are engaged, they feel a deeper connection to their work and organization, leading to higher job satisfaction and lower turnover rates. Engaged employees are also more likely to exhibit creativity and innovation, benefiting the organization as a whole.
  3. Meaningful Work: Providing opportunities for meaningful work, such as community involvement and volunteering, enhances satisfaction for remote and freelance workers. These opportunities help align personal values with the organization’s mission. A strong culture of corporate social responsibility can attract and retain employees by offering a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  4. Recognition and Appreciation: Recognizing and appreciating the efforts of remote and freelance workers fosters a supportive community environment. Regular acknowledgment, whether through formal awards or simple gestures, can significantly boost morale and retention. Workers who feel appreciated are more likely to stay with their employer and continue to perform at their best.

Strategies for Building a Strong Community for Remote and Freelance Workers

  1. Virtual Leadership Support: Leaders play a crucial role in fostering a community culture, even virtually. Effective leaders support their remote teams by recognizing individual contributions, promoting virtual teamwork, and ensuring open communication. A healthy community culture treats leaders as integral parts of the team, ensuring they feel supported and valued.
  2. Opportunities for Growth: Providing opportunities for personal and professional growth helps remote and freelance workers feel invested in their community. Virtual training programs, online mentorship, and clear career advancement opportunities contribute to a sense of belonging and loyalty. Workers who see a clear path for development within the organization are more likely to stay and contribute positively.
  3. Work-Life Balance: Promoting a healthy work-life balance is essential for maintaining a positive community environment. Offering flexible work arrangements and remote work options that support personal well-being can enhance job satisfaction and retention. Remote workers who feel their well-being is valued by their employer are more committed and productive.
  4. Virtual Community Involvement Programs: Engaging remote and freelance workers in community-related events and volunteer opportunities strengthens their connection to the organization and its values. Companies that actively participate in virtual community service and philanthropy create a sense of purpose and fulfillment among workers, boosting morale and retention.

By focusing on these strategies, organizations can build a strong sense of community for remote and freelance workers, leading to higher retention rates and a more motivated, productive workforce. Investing in a community-centered approach not only benefits workers but also drives the overall success and growth of the organization.

Ensuring Worker Satisfaction and Retention in the AI Industry

The data annotation industry is expanding rapidly, driven by the increasing demand for high-quality data to train AI and ML models. However, this growth brings significant challenges, particularly in retaining a skilled and motivated workforce. Companies must address several critical factors to ensure worker satisfaction and retention, including competitive compensation, career development opportunities, work-life balance, and effective communication.

In regions like the Global South, workers face additional challenges related to payment methods and currency conversion, making it essential for companies to provide efficient and reliable payment solutions. Building a strong community and fostering a positive work environment are also key to maintaining high levels of engagement and satisfaction among employees.

As highlighted by Oskarina’s experience, addressing these challenges is not only a matter of providing financial compensation but also ensuring that workers feel valued, supported, and connected. By focusing on these aspects, companies can create a resilient workforce capable of driving the success of AI initiatives and contributing to the broader goals of the organization.

In summary, the AI data annotation industry must prioritize worker satisfaction and retention to maintain a high-quality workforce. By implementing comprehensive strategies that address the unique needs of their employees, companies can achieve sustainable growth and remain competitive in the rapidly evolving AI landscape.

PS - How Airtm Helps

Airtm provides a robust and versatile platform tailored to the needs of businesses in the AI data annotation industry, focusing on enhancing retention and ensuring seamless financial transactions. Here’s how Airtm can support your organization:

  1. Global Payment Solutions: Airtm’s Enterprise Platform facilitates the sending and receiving of payments worldwide, allowing data annotation companies to efficiently manage their global workforce. This capability helps businesses retain top talent by providing reliable and timely payments, essential for maintaining high levels of employee satisfaction and loyalty.
  2. Low Fees and Fast Transactions: The platform offers competitive fees and quick transaction times, enabling enterprises to make global payments within minutes and at a lower cost than traditional methods. This efficiency in financial management can significantly enhance employee retention by ensuring that annotators are compensated promptly and fairly.
  3. Flexible Payment Processes: Airtm provides complete flexibility over payment processes, with no minimum or maximum limits on transactions. This flexibility allows data annotation companies to cater to the varied financial needs of their workforce, whether through one-time payments, recurring salaries, or microtransactions for gig workers, thus supporting a diverse and satisfied workforce.
  4. Integration and User Experience: The platform integrates seamlessly with over 400 payment methods across 190 countries, ensuring that funds are fully accessible to annotators worldwide. This accessibility maximizes participation in the global digital marketplace and enhances the user experience, leading to higher retention rates as workers feel valued and empowered.
  5. Security and Stability: Airtm uses USDC, a secure and reliable stablecoin, to safeguard users’ funds. This ensures that all transactions are secure, instilling trust and confidence in the financial stability provided by the company, which is crucial for retaining a committed workforce.
  6. Tailored Growth Plans: For companies looking to expand into emerging markets, Airtm offers customized growth plans and access to a global community of digital entrepreneurs. This strategic support helps data annotation businesses navigate new markets, unlock growth opportunities, and retain their workforce by providing continuous development and support.

By leveraging Airtm, AI data annotation companies can streamline their payment processes, reduce costs, enhance security, and expand their global reach. This comprehensive financial management capability is essential for retaining a satisfied and loyal workforce, ultimately contributing to the long-term success and stability of the business.

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