My career is rooted in the tech industry, but the lessons learned there are universally applicable across all sectors. Tech has always been synonymous with a frantic pace of change; the industry conjures up images of engineers working at breakneck speed to deploy new version after new version, with stagnation being a dirty word.
AI is spreading this speed of innovation further and accelerating the workplace cadence across all sectors. As company founders, this allows us to look closely at the trends and strategies within the tech industry and use these insights to predict what will happen everywhere, shaping our hiring approaches for the next few years.
CTOs (chief technology officers), often responsible for the hiring and firing of talent in tech, are the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to future-proof recruitment. They have been operating in a high-speed moving environment for longer than most. As the pace of change accelerates for all of us, they’ve uniquely positioned to identify emerging trends and shifts, particularly in skills and roles that are gaining or losing relevance. Their decisions and insights, therefore, provide valuable foresight into the new demands of the tech industry.
In a recent survey I conducted with leading CTOs, a consensus emerged in hiring for longevity rather than immediacy, not prioritizing traditional skills but instead placing emphasis on adaptability and problem-solving acumen. I know this firsthand, having dropped out of university twice due to its rigid structure. Only later in life did I understand the key to success, and it’s not about formal qualifications but rather a willingness to learn and adapt. In engineering teams, it’s not just conventional technical skills, such as coding in the case of tech, but rather the aptitude for learning, teamwork, and proactive problem-solving.
Only later in life did I understand the key to success, and it’s not about formal qualifications but rather a willingness to learn and adapt.
Generative AI making more inroads into workflows, as seen recently in companies like Duolingo, is a timely reminder that the need to adapt is now here. The company cut its contractor workforce by 10%, using AI to fulfill some of its duties, hinting that imminent change is here. This move signals a broader trend: The ability to adapt swiftly and proficiently utilize new technological tools is becoming indispensable.
The shift toward AI-driven changes in the workforce underlines the importance of upskilling. More importance should be placed on upskilling existing employees rather than recycling workforces. Telecom giant AT&T is an excellent example; after conducting a skill gap analysis, they found that almost half of their employees needed more adaptable skills for the company’s future needs. Instead of extensive recruitment, AT&T focused on upskilling and reskilling initiatives, particularly in areas like AI. In 2022, the company spent $135 million on employee learning and development, providing online education platforms for convenient learning opportunities.
What does this mean for startups? Upskilling, especially in fields like AI, is more than just a remedy for skill shortages. It is a strategic long-term investment and will help cultivate a dynamic, adaptable workforce, which is crucial for driving innovation and growth in your business.