We’ve all heard the projected stats. By the end of this year, there will be 26 billion devices connected by the IoT. But that’s not the half of it. The IoT is still expanding exponentially. By 2025, that number will nearly triple to more than 75 billion. How will we manage and maintain the networks, data, clouds, and connections that govern and transmit this data? An IoT skills gap may be standing in our way.
Indeed, it turns out, that’s a pretty significant question. A recent survey showed that 76 percent of respondents felt like they needed more higher level IoT specialists and 80 percent felt like they didn’t have the skills needed to keep their IoT working as it is. Another report showed that 1/3 of respondents felt there was a major skills gap in IoT readiness. The question remains: if we’re already struggling in 2019, how will we possibly manage in 2025? And what can we do within the next five years to prepare for that change?
If your company is not yet feeling the pain of the IoT skills gap, take heart: you soon will. The following are some tips for lessening the damage to your business.
Upskilling and Retraining
The easiest way to deal with the IoT skills gap in your workforce is upskilling and retraining programs. In fact, I believe we need to start looking at employee training and upskilling as a standard part of the IT budget. There is truly no way that we will be able to maintain a solid pipeline of employees knowledgeable about the IoT without starting with training our current employees to do the work. This goes not just for the IoT, but AI in general. Grab your best and brightest. Grab your eh-they’re-OK-too. And start arming them with the knowledge to understand not just the technology but the big picture behind it. The more people knowledgeable about the IoT and your company’s plans for it, the more powerful your IoT will be.
Major companies like Cognizant and AT&T already have upskilling programs in place and are seeing positive results. They are making investments in their employees that is resulting in more loyalty and higher employee retention. These two intangibles make a huge difference in today’s candidate-led job market. Which leads me to my next point…
Revisit Your Recruitment Plan
When was the last time you freshened up your recruitment plan? Take a look at the types of people you are hiring. Are they the kind of people who get the big picture? Are they the kind of people who can see the value hiding in data segments? Who understand the why behind the how? Tomorrow’s technology will always be different from today’s. You need to recruit employees who have the soft skills to shine in both environments—today and tomorrow—with the help of upskilling. If you can’t imagine them doing more than churning your current algorithms, give them a hard pass.
It’s more than just hiring for the hard skills like the knowledge of IoT. You need to find people who are willing to learn, grow, and change with the changes that come with new technologies.
So you’ve started working with your current employees and have changed up your recruitment plan, but still no luck in closing that IoT skills gap. So ask yourself: Are you a company that a highly-sought professional would want to work for? If not, why? Is it budget? Culture? In the legacy era, companies didn’t really have to work too hard at recruiting top talent. There were always people willing to do the job, especially if they paid competitively. But in digital transformation, the demand is always for more. Just as customers want things bigger, faster, and better, employees also want more from their employers. What’s your vision? How do you involve your employees in it? How do you reward them for hard work? How do you make their lives easier, in terms of managing time with family and time at work? You may need to make some adjustments to become a company that IoT experts want to invest in themselves.
This isn’t a one-time deal. Demand for IoT jobs rose from 3,338 in Q4 2018 to 4,968 in Q1 2019. It won’t stop anytime soon. Don’t become complacent by finding one or two strong candidates and calling it a day. No one is “safe” in digital transformation. The golden IoT expert you find this afternoon may be poached quickly by another firm tomorrow morning. What’s your plan for creating a solid, consistent, undisrupted IoT pipeline that your company and customers can depend on?
The IoT skills gap is a real problem that could cause the IoT to stagnate in your organization which could have major consequences down the road as this technology continues to proliferate all aspects of our lives. Some would say it already has begun to stagnate. But even with a shortage of employees specifically trained to manage the IoT, your company does have the power to stay on track by focusing on upskilling, recruiting, incentivizing, and intelligently growing your pipeline of talent. The power of the IoT is still very much in your hands.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.