One of the 2016 Accenture Technology Vision’s tech trends emphasizes building liquid workforces—workforces built for change—and a foundational component of that is making sure you are equipped with the right skills to meet your company goals..
Facebook bought Oculus VR, a virtual reality company, in 2014. By the following year, the demand for virtual reality-related jobs increased 37 percent—not just from tech companies like Facebook itself, Google and HTC, but also from Disney, John Deere, and General Dynamics. Why? Not because John Deere wants to become the next Facebook, but because it’s become apparent that every business is indeed a digital business. To compete, companies must get their hands on the latest and greatest technology and integrate it into their products, services, and workforce.
Yet when it comes to acquiring the know-how to make the most of new technology, there’s a glut of need and a crisis of resources. When Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus spurred a demand for skilled VR workers, there wasn’t a large market to pull from. Most of the VR-related work that had been done to that point was in labs and academia, versus the kind of hands-on work experience that companies suddenly needed.
This trend isn’t going away. Technology can rapidly go from prototype to the “next big thing” faster than ever before, and with huge implications. Consider the “New IT” wave: organizations that just began to explore it four years ago are now becoming the leaders in the digital space.
Companies want to be the first to use a new technology to get ahead of the competition, as always. But the market doesn’t produce many skilled individuals to use and further develop a particular technology until there is already considerable demand for it. “Skills gap” may be the dirty word (or dirty phrase) of this era, but it’s really just a function of the fact that companies want to use technology faster than the market develops skilled people to do it.
This problem can’t be solved with new majors at universities or by collecting all of the experts in Technology X in your company. The traditional higher education institutions can’t respond to new technology trends fast enough to create workers to fill the gap; even if a university could create a new degree or concentration overnight, it would be four years before the first graduate entered the job market. And the “buy up all the workers” approach might get you ahead for a few months with Technology X, but a year down the road you’re going to need people who know Technology Y. What do you do then—fire all of the Technology X people and start over? Not only is hiring new people wildly expensive, but replacing workers will cost you the most important thing you have—industry experience.
The answer is designing a company that’s built for change: one that develops the skills it needs in-house, making training a core competency. By investing in change, you save the cost and time investment in constantly hiring and re-hiring, and gain a workforce that understands your industry while consistently developing new skills to apply to it.
It’s an ambitious plan. But so are the goals of companies who want to stay competitive when everything is a digital business. Can you afford not to build for change
Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll talk about how to make training a core competency, and build a workforce that can mobilize quickly.
Ari Bernstein is a co-author of the Accenture Technology Vision 2016. See the Accenture Technology Vision 2016 here.