Blog Archive

Adapting technology to fit the modern workforce

Posted: Monday 29 April, 2013

During the very early days of our product conceptualization and validation we realized a shift was occurring in the global labor market – especially within telecommunications. People sometimes refer to it as a “skill shortage”. Essentially, what they’re saying is that there are jobs that need to be done and not enough people with the appropriate skills to do them. When developing our products what we look at isn’t the missing skills of the employees entering the market, but rather, the new skills these workers possessed which could be leveraged to do the existing job in a different and more efficient way?

If we step back a little in time and look at what the telecommunications market looked like: we had copper cables spanning pretty much the entire country. Once those cables were in place there was no need for significant new construction. Sure, extra capacity was added when areas became built up and new subdivisions needed network too, but the days of the nationwide capital works projects just faded away. We entered a time which was all about maintenance. Equipment advanced, decreasing the time to install cables and therefore the number of field staff decreased. Companies who handled new phone connections scaled back had no need for apprenticeships. Over time the goal became, not to rebuild the physical network, but finding smart ways to use and enhance what was already there. And so they came; dial up internet, ISDN, ADSL and ADSL2. 40 year old cables delivering far more than the original workers who put them in the ground could have ever imagined. Unlike the cables though, the workers who put them there and consequently, their experience, have long since left the field.

I spoke to a friend who recently changed careers and was now involved in a large scale fiber-optic installation. He had no experience working in telecommunications, no prior knowledge of how to telecommunications networks were built and I'm sure he has no idea of the complexity of the network data residing in servers around the country, but even so, he has skills we can leverage. Skills that his seniors and more experienced co-workers probably don’t have. For example, he’s been using an iPhone since they were released. Now I suspect that’s not the kind of "experience" you’d expect to find listed on someone’s resume, but only because the business benefits of such a skill have not yet been defined.

Looking forward into the future, we can be certain that it will not resemble today. As such we need to innovate and look at all the variables that will shape the landscape moving forward. What our solutions should try to deliver goes beyond the obvious technological advancements of intelligent GUI and augmented reality visualizations and into the real-world, real-use scenarios. We should always ask who is going to use this software, can they use it on a hot summer's day or a cold, dark, wet winter night and be more productive and more efficient than they would be otherwise? And with regards to the next generation of employees, how can we leverage their unique sets of skills and experiences to further improve their efficiency and the efficiency of our business?

Posted by Jason Churcher
Tags: workforce, staff, technology, future

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