Alliances with ecosystem partners, competitors and government agencies will become increasingly important as companies scramble for highly sought-after digital expertise and experience.

The global shortage of critical talent is hampering companies across almost all industries.  Digital skills and experience, vital for success in today’s fast-changing business environment, are especially scarce. Competition for these resources will almost certainly intensify.

Investing more in staff training, as well as reskilling workers so they can tackle more valuable tasks, will undoubtedly help organizations bolster their talent pipeline. To significantly boost their skills resources, however, employers need to forge partnerships. Alliances with ecosystem partners, competitors, companies in other industries and especially government agencies are going to be essential in the scramble for digital expertise.

The extent of the digital skills shortage was highlighted in research we conducted with non-profit organization Girls Who Code. We found there were more than 500 000 unfilled computing jobs in the US in 2015 and fewer than 40 000 computer science graduates entering the job market, the previous year, to take them. Furthermore, the US Government reckons it will be looking to fill 2.4 million science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs by next year.

The skills shortage stretches well beyond traditional STEM jobs.  The digital transformation that is sweeping most business sectors is creating a tremendous demand for “human skills” such as the ability to collaborate, resolve complex contextual problems and display empathy. The World Economic Forum, for example, anticipates a 52 percent growth during the next three years in the demand for jobs that require considerable cognitive abilities, such as creativity, logical reasoning and the ability to conceptualize problems. Demand for jobs that emphasize systems skills is expected to climb 42 percent while the need for jobs that involve complex problem solving is likely to grow 40 percent.

Companies working on their own are unlikely to make much of a dent in this huge skills shortfall. By collaborating, however, businesses can begin to redress the problem. Here are some steps that will help organizations improve their own talent pipeline while also encouraging the development of scarce skills across local, and even international, markets.

  • Foster local and international skills development programs: By providing funding, infrastructure or expertise to support skills development initiatives, companies can increase their access to key talent while also encouraging more people to acquire much-need digital expertise. Pôle emploi, the French national labor agency, has teamed up with vocational learning platform OpenClassrooms to give jobseekers free access to hundreds of online courses. SkillsFuture, a government initiative in Singapore, offers the country’s citizens stipends to encourage them to continue learning and acquire new skills.  
  • Co-operate with partners and competitors to build skills: Organizations that collaborate become more effective at steering skills development initiatives in the private and public sectors. For example, the National Association of Software and Services Companies in India is working with public sector agencies to develop educational courses that teach digital technologies such as the Internet of Things, analytics and robotic automation.
  • Build close ties with academia: Establishing good relations with local community colleges, tertiary institutions and universities allows companies to share their changing skills requirements, promote the development of new areas of expertise and address talent bottlenecks. Accenture, for example, teamed up with the Harvard Business School and researcher Burning Glass Technologies to draft recommendations for employers, academia and regulators that would help meet the big demand for workers to perform “middle skills” jobs. These jobs need more education and training than is required for a high-school diploma but less than a college degree.

For further information about managing the workforce of the future, have a look at this report. I think you’ll find it very helpful.

Harnessing revolution: Creating the future workforce.

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