In the era of globalization and rapid technology change, there is a continuous and significant change of skills required by the job market. New job opportunities are emerging every day in areas such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and data analytics. Enterprises are increasingly empowering their business models through leading edge technologies such as IoT (internet-of-things), Big Data, autonomous robots, smart cities and advanced software development techniques but do not have the talent pool to support such technology shifts. The reliance of business operations and advancement on these technologies creates a need for personnel specializing in their deployment and use.
Despite the evolution of university courses in a direction that include newer technologies, it is almost impossible to ensure that these curriculum evolve in a timely fashion and fully in-line with them. Moreover, new technologies are surfacing at an exponential pace, which far exceeds the pace by which the average human being can understand and use this technology. As a result, enterprises have a very hard time finding skilled employees to fill the above-listed positions. This problem is widely known as skills shortage and is continuously growing. Skills shortage is a global problem, as it is experienced by most developed countries. According to the 2016 Manpower Talent Shortage survey, 40% of all employers worldwide report talent shortages and skills gaps. In order to confront talent shortage and to alleviate skills gaps, enterprises resort to outsourcing and lifelong learning.
In one of our previous posts we explained that modern outsourcing is mainly about attracting talent from all over the world, regardless of the employees’ time zone and location. Thus, outsourcing provides an effective way to recruit skillful employees or freelancers from all over the world. Whether in need for Big Data analysts, AI experts or full stack developers, outsourcing helps you recruit people with the skills needed for your project. Moreover, modern marketplaces make it very easy to locate employees or freelancers with the right skills, while at the same time facilitating communications and contractual issues. The most important characteristic of these marketplaces is the fact that they enable the management with trusted information about the skills and quality of work of any prospective employee. Ratings, recommendations, skills ontologies and customer referrals are popular mechanisms that marketplaces use to help access employees and choose based on proven talent, expertise and productivity.
An alternative approach to confronting skills shortages involves lifelong learning. Enterprises are increasingly integrating training and continuous learning as prerequisite elements of their contracts with employees. This ensures that employees will train and re-train themselves to update their existing skills and acquire new ones as needed in order to remain competitive. Lifelong learning is a win-win value proposition for both the enterprise and the employees. Enterprises become capable of leveraging leading edge technologies, while at the same time employees learn new skills and remain competitive in a fast-moving world. Nevertheless, lifelong learning requires commitment from both sides, the employer and the employee. Enterprises must develop well-structured programs for the re-skilling of their employees, while the latter must commit to an ongoing process that helps them improve and expand their skill sets. Furthermore, new social contracts between employees and enterprises are required. These contracts provide work security to the employee, as soon as he/she commits to lifelong learning and delivers on this commitment.
Recently AT&T, the telecom giant, established an ambitious, company-wide learning program, which aims at rapidly retraining 280.000 employees. To this end, the company has partnered with content/training provider Udacity (udacity.com). It has also changed the ways it regulates relationships with employees, as soon as the latter enlist and commit to lifelong learning.
Outsourcing and lifelong learning could be seen as complementary rather than competing efforts. Lifelong learning works best in cases of companies that already have talented employees, along with a clear roadmap about which new skills should be acquired. This approach is efficient when considering the blending of new technologies in the scope of existing processes and operations.
However, enterprise environments are not always structured and predictable. For example, high tech startups are likely to be in need of entirely new multidisciplinary skill sets, which can be hardly acquired or presented by existing employees. That’s the case with vast number of companies that develop innovative products in areas such as additive manufacturing, augmented reality and autonomous vehicles and in such cases outsourcing makes perfect sense.
As outlined, enterprises could also benefit from an approach that combines lifelong learning and outsourcing. No matter the selected approach to confront the problem, modern enterprises cannot afford to ignore skills shortage, otherwise they will be at the risk of losing their innovation capability and competitive advantage.
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