We live in a world where technological change is frequent and seemingly perpetual. It is a world where gadgets and tools once considered cutting edge are now a routine part of our daily lives and obsolescence of these tools happens on a two to three year cycle. With such a short time to keep pace with a changing landscape, it is imperative that organizations take stock of the skills held by their labor force as they similarly do with their technology and infrastructure investments. Doing so will help identify skill gaps and help leaders put together a continuing education plan to retain talent longer.
Talk About The Past
Let's start with a bit of observational history. The rapid pace at which technological advances take place is mind boggling if you consider that the internet, the vehicle that has enabled the Information Age, was operational in the 1980s. With computers becoming mainstream in the 1990s, routine-cognitive jobs became the staple for computers replacing the demand for clerical workers and technicians and creating a shift in the labor market. This created a surge in demand for professionals possessing analytical skills, formal education, and training. The workers who were replaced by computers and not able to keep pace struggled to remain relevant. This caused an increase in unemployment, increased the time it takes us to come out of a recession, and created a host of other social problems many of us are familiar with.
Part of the work force impacted by the technological advancement have found ways to retrain by either paying for the education themselves or finding grants and programs that will pay for the education needed to become employable. Some of these workers have eventually found employment to once again become productive citizens. However, with automation and machine learning becoming better understood and implemented, these workers and the professionals who previously replaced the clerks and technicians will also find themselves in the same quandary where the new wave of technology will make them less relevant to their employer as companies work to keep their products and services relevant for their customers.
Broadly speaking, in the current corporate landscape, learning is generally left to the individual worker. Some workers are better equipped than others to manage their careers themselves while others may require some assistance to reach their full personal potential. As leaders in an organization, it is vital to believe that every worker is capable of doing more than they perceive they can achieve. This is where I propose that organizational leaders take stock of their work force skills and begin formulating a plan where they can improve their labor pool through training and education and retain talent that is better equipped to handle the needs of your customers over time.
Training and education of your existing workforce should not be an exercise in simply letting every employee find a course that interests them and signing them up. The learning should align with your business roadmap and overall corporate vision. This should hold true for all business units. Doing so will allow a mutually beneficial experience for the workers and the decision makers.
Let's Talk Benefits
There is another reason to make this a common practice in your organization. As workers age and spend time with an organization, there is a depth of knowledge that is amassed which cannot be replaced by simply employing knowledge base systems. These workers are a source of guidance for new workers as the broader society moves towards automating away more of the cognitive tasks. By becoming an active participant in growing the skill level of workers, organizations can earn a level of good will that cannot be measured. While tangible benefits help retain talent, a workforce that can rely on an organization to keep pace with the changing landscape and partner with them in their personal growth is priceless.
Taking stock of employee skill levels within an organization has a potential future benefit. With machine learning becoming more of a commodity, more recruiting firms are making use of social media data and candidate profiles they have on file to build systems that better match employees with employers. Having a strong understanding of your labor force will allow you to understand skill trends in the marketplace and improve your overall hiring speed when additional workforce is required. Presuming a scoring system that works across your organization, it is not difficult to imagine a world where the requirements for a new team member can be quantified and quickly communicated via recruiting channels.
A software engineer, product nerd, educator, and martial artist with a knack for solving business problems.