THE BLOG
09/16/2015 01:38 pm ET Updated Sep 16, 2016

Are You Investing in the Workforce of the Future? Or the Workforce of Yesterday?

Six tips for building a more agile, digital-savvy workforce to compete in the IoT economy.

Five years from now, the workplace as we know it won't resemble what we see today.

Seventy-five percent of businesses will be digital businesses by 2020, according to analysts, but only 30 percent of these ventures will succeed.

Why? The growing deficit of multi-skilled talent is a major contributing factor. If analysts' projections are accurate, we're looking at a global shortage of 38 to 40 million college-educated workers by 2020 -- just five years from now.

If that's not alarming enough, the average employee tenure has dropped from 5-7 years to 2-3 years today, further compounding the gap between talent supply and demand.

It's an assault on all sides. It's not just a lack of business-ready college graduates. The more pervasive issue is that the existing workforce isn't skilled in critical areas needed to drive digital transformation of business in an Internet of Things era. As pointed out in a recent article published by the World Economic Forum, "Some employers say that schools and universities educate the graduates of tomorrow in the skills needed in the industries of yesterday."

Compounding these challenges is the fact that we now have the most multi-generational workforce in history, which means there is a greater diversity of development needs, experience, expectations, and skills. As an industry, however, we are still reliant on a relatively linear set of skills requirements and job descriptions that narrowly define immediate needs -- as opposed to long-term problem-solving for the organization into the next three, five and 10 years.

Never has talent been more central to the long-term success of business -- and certainly, the Internet of Things.

Just as the way we cultivate and acquire talent must evolve to keep pace with the fluidity of a new wave of IoT market demands, the workforce must evolve from point-in-time learning to continual learning, acquiring new and relevant skills and expertise.

Here are six tips to aid in preparing a workforce to compete in the IoT economy:

1. Think exponentially about your talent portfolio, not linearly. The way people learn has changed and as a result, traditional training is only part of the equation. An increasingly diverse workforce requires continual, adaptive and agile training models at every stage of one's career. Bear in mind that knowledge doubles every year, yet skills have a half-life of 2.5- 5 years, which means that 75-90 percent of the workforce requires continuous reskilling.

2. Map talent development to learning outcomes and explore new and inventive methods for learning through collaboration. Culture and technology are critical to enable successful melding of the world of work with everyday learning and knowledge building.

3. Identify and engage experts within your organization who are underutilized, or being leveraged at a fraction of their ability and knowledge. Consider the cost-to-benefit ratio of investing in new recruits versus existing staff. Don't overlook existing employees with untapped potential. Transferable skills can be re-skilled and re-deployed in different ways and scenarios.

4. Don't overlook unconventional candidates when hiring. Resilience, the ability to solve problems and on-the-job collaboration say as much about a person's potential as a perfect resume or academic credentials. A balance of technical skills and strategic business skills are critical. But cognitive skills, social skills, and life-learned expertise are paramount (and often undervalued or overlooked).

5. Invest in the right tools to foster organic, employee-driven collaboration and non-traditional learning and up-skilling. Doing so will enable your most valuable asset -- your people -- to glean from the collective knowledge, experience and skills of the wider talent pool. Offering 24/7, mobile-ready knowledge-consumption models will give your talent on-demand access to knowledge anytime, anywhere, on any device and convert knowledge into a scalable asset. To learn about how the New York Academy of Sciences is doing this, click here.

6. Join the IoT Talent Consortium and major players in the industry working to build the workforce of the future.

The workforce of the future is not only in the hands of employers, but also lies in the hands of the employees.

"You don't build a business. You build people -- and then the people build the business." - Zig Ziglar