Across the country, businesses in every industry are bracing themselves for a new wave of digital disruption. In the last year, Amazon announced it is creating supermarkets without salespeople, McDonald’s decided to replace all of its cashiers with self-serve kiosks, and Caterpillar began investing in driverless tractors.
While the tech industry is accelerating these advancements with pivotal contributions to artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation, these innovations are also causing unprecedented levels of job loss.
The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2020 over five million jobs, in fields like manufacturing and customer service, will disappear. Yet, the demand for jobs that require technical skills continues to rise and not be met. Jobs that require coding skills are multiplying and growing fifty-percent faster than the market overall.
As more industries become digitized and compound the need for technical talent, the problem only becomes more exacerbated. For instance, when AT&T needs its 280,000 workers to be proficient in cloud computing and mobile skills, they are no longer just competing with Sprint and Verizon for talent, but also Google and Amazon.
In the increasingly competitive market for talent, tech companies are leading a new type of labor innovation: retraining as the new recruiting. Although investments in computer science education and vocational schools will be invaluable in the long run, retraining offers a more immediate solution. As companies race to be on the forefront of innovation, they should adopt not just Silicon Valley’s technological contributions, but also the blueprints for retraining talent.
Retraining Replaces Job Boards
To date, companies rely on competitive salaries and perks to attract technical talent. Companies have placed such a premium on technical roles that jobs requiring coding skills now make up the top income quartile. Even as companies try to lure in talent for technical roles with a variety of benefits , they sit on vacant job openings. Roles that require technical management skills take over a hundred days to fill, on average.
Rather than pour more money into the recruiting battle, companies are testing new strategies for developing the technical talent they need. At Box, VP of Sales Engineering Matt Norton found that the best recruiting pipeline for solutions engineers was not yet another job board, but Box’s own customer support team.
“Enabling employees from the customer support team to retrain as engineers allowed us to fill open technical roles faster and also retain the institutional and product knowledge our best-performing employees had already developed,”explains Norton. By creating an internal pathway for filling technical roles, Norton believes other teams can ease the recruiting bottleneck and scale their teams faster.
Tech companies are also pioneering new training programs to develop emerging skills. When Flexport decided to take on the shipping logistics industry with modern software, they needed to find workers that both understood their complex technology and the intricacies of a multi-billion dollar industry.
Flexport CEO and co-founder Ryan Peterson explains, “We could not just go out into the recruiting market and hire the ideal candidate, because in many cases those people did not even exist.”
Not only was Flexport taking on a stodgy industry, but they were also taking on an outdated way of training employees. Peterson spent many of the early days at Flexport developing a robust training initiative that would enable employees to acquire technical skills and become experts in the freight industry.
“This hybrid skill set within our company is what now allows us to take on companies that are 10-15x our size,” says Peterson. As industry behemoths undergo this technological evolution, they should look to developing similarly resourceful and nimble training practices to develop their existing talent.
A commitment to educating and upskilling workers also allows companies to differentiate themselves in the recruiting process. Guild Education, an education technology startup, enables companies like Chipotle to articulate their training programs and offer Education as a Benefit to their employees.
“As employers strive to retain and recruit their workforce, providing employees the opportunity to develop new skills and progress in their careers is one of the most competitive benefits companies can offer,” explains Brittany Stich, Guild co-founder. Stich believes this benefit will become as common as healthcare and 401k's, given that sixty-one percent of Americans under 30 expect that it will be essential to develop new skills at some point in their careers.
Whether it is to develop technical talent that has yet to exist or to provide career opportunities for existing employees, companies at every stage are beginning to use retraining as a dynamic tool for developing a modern workforce.
The Emerging Workforce of the 21st Century
While Silicon Valley companies are certainly contributing to job loss by eliminating face-to-face doctor’s visits in healthcare and disassembling the brick-and-mortar model in retail, they are also pioneering training practices to develop the type of talent that the digital economy demands. As other industries will soon learn, thriving in this new era will no longer just be about inventing cutting edge technologies or creating disruptive business models, but also developing internal training and employment initiatives that allow companies to stay competitive for years to come.