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Mind the skills gap!

By TERENCE MOOLMAN, Chief HR Officer at SYSPRO Corporate

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The global digital skills gap is growing at an exponential rate. According to the Coursera 2019 Global Skills Index, a whopping two-thirds of the global population is falling behind in critical skills, with 90% being in developing economies.  IDC echoes this in their 2019 Futurescape report, stating that two million jobs in artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things, cybersecurity and blockchain will remain unfilled by 2023 due to a lack of human talent. The truth is that the rate at which technology is evolving is faster than the rate at which skills are being developed.

Considering the skills shortage, many CHROs are realizing that a one-size-fits-all approach to talent management won’t work in today’s volatile, uncertain, complicated and ambiguous world. Instead many global organizations are looking towards a creative and insights-driven approach to plugging the gap. 

Instead of favoring a localized approach, many are accessing the global talent pool. A good example of where this could work well is in a market such as Canada. According to the Robert Half Salary Guide 2020,  with its burgeoning startup culture and immigration policies, Canada is looking to attract skilled technology from across the world. 

The three key factors to considering when selecting from the global talent pool

Where the world is your oyster, it is important to know where to find the best people for the job. In order to achieve this, global organizations need to consider three factors:

  • Concentration of talent
  • Labor costs and efficiency
  • Business Environment

Concentration of Talent: Finding the right people to fit the job

In a world where connectivity allows for a flexible and global workforce, leveraging pockets of excellence across the globe can be a step towards closing the digital skills gap. Businesses therefore need to identify where concentrations of talent lie. A study by HackerRank identified the countries with the most comprehensive IT skills. Eastern Europe came out on top with the top four including Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Countries with the best developers included China, Russia, Poland, and Switzerland. 

Another area of expertise that CHROs are looking into include innovation hotspots. The JLL Global Innovation Ranking report identified San Francisco in Silicon Valley. Yet the top positions are not all dominated by U.S. cities, but rather evenly spread across the three main global regions, with Asia Pacific cities like Tokyo and Singapore having a stronger presence in these rankings than they would have had even a few years ago.

Labor costs and efficiency: Matching the right talent with competitive compensation

Labor costs and competitive compensation also need to be taken into consideration when identifying talent across the globe. One study by CapRelo looked into the average salary of a Software Engineer globally. Unsurprising, Silicon Valley came out on top with $85,000 as an average salary for an American software engineer and the second highest in the world, trailing only Switzerland’s $94,567. The key is to map out a company’s specific labor requirements while remaining competitive. 

Business environment: A nimble response to the changing business environment

The ever-changing business environment should also be considered when building a global labor force. In response to changing business needs, the 2019 Global Skills Index showed that the global appetite for developing technological skills is slowly increasing at the expense of traditional business skills. According to the report, the demand for business skills such as sales or communications have been diminishing, while the demand for skills in technology and data science have grown exponentially. In fact, technology enrollments increased 13% since last year, while business enrollments fell by 11%.

While the industry plays catch up, it is vital for businesses to proactively continue with training initiatives in foundational business skills with current employees. According to the World Economic Forum ‘HR4.0: Shaping People Strategies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ report, the workforce rates the opportunity to learn among the top reasons for taking a job. The report goes on to say that 94% of CHROs prioritize the move from episodic training to perpetual reskilling to enable a nimble workforce and respond to the changing nature of work.

At the same time, companies should be aware that those adopting a flexible approach to globalized talent will be left with a new emerging challenge of creating a remote culture experience as well as enhanced management skills to manage an increasingly dispersed workforce. Implementing effective global talent hubs will require a solid foundation, which without will prove to be costly; however if implemented properly can provide a healthy supply of technology talent to fulfill the growing demand.

Ultimately, technology can provide global organizations with the opportunity to access a global workforce. By having the right knowledge around pockets of excellence and compensation needs, a new flexible workforce can emerge. The key is to also continue with the implementation of ongoing training initiatives to arm the workforce with the right skills in an ever-changing world. As a global organization, SYSPRO continues to invest in our global workforce to leverage the right skills for unique market needs.

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SA’s Internet goes down again

South Africa is about to experience a small repeat of the lower speeds and loss of Internet connectivity suffered in January, thanks to a new undersea cable break, writes BRYAN TURNER

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Internet service provider Afrihost has notified customers that there are major outages across all South African Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as a result of a break in the WACS undersea cable between Portugal and England 

The cause of the cable break along the cable is unclear. it marks the second major breakage event along the West African Internet sea cables this year, and comes at the worst possible time: as South Africans grow heavily dependent on their Internet connections during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

As a result of the break, the use of international websites and services, which include VPNs (virtual private networks), may result in latency – decreased speeds and response times.  

WACS runs from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, up the West Coast of Africa, and terminates in the United Kingdom. It makes a stop in Portugal before it reaches the UK, and the breakage is reportedly somewhere between these two countries. 

The cable is owned in portions by several companies, and the portion where the breakage has occurred belongs to Tata Communications. 

The alternate routes are:  

  • SAT3, which runs from Melkbosstrand also in the Western Cape, up the West Coast and terminates in Portugal and Spain. This cable runs nearly parallel to WACS and has less Internet capacity than WACS. 
  • ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), which also runs up the West Coast.  
  • The SEACOM cable runs from South Africa, up the East Coast of Africa, terminating in both London and Dubai.  
  • The EASSy cable also runs from South Africa, up the East Coast, terminating in Sudan, from where it connects to other cables. 

The routes most ISPs in South Africa use are WACS and SAT3, due to cost reasons. 

The impact will not be as severe as in January, though. All international traffic is being redirected via alternative cable routes. This may be a viable method for connecting users to the Internet but might not be suitable for latency-sensitive applications like International video conferencing. 

Read more about the first Internet connectivity breakage which happened on the same cable, earlier this year. 

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SA cellphones to be tracked to fight coronavirus

Several countries are tracking cellphones to understand who may have been exposed to coronavirus-infected people. South Africa is about to follow suit, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From Israel to South Korea, governments and cell networks have been implementing measures to trace the cellphones of coronavirus-infected citizens, and who they’ve been around. The mechanisms countries have used have varied.  

In Iran, citizens were encouraged to download an app that claimed to diagnose COVID-19 with a series of yes or no questions. The app also tracked real-time location with a very high level of accuracy, provided by the GPS sensor. 

In Germany, all cellphones on Deutsche Telekom are being tracked through cell tower connections, providing a much coarser location, but a less invasive method of tracking. The data is being handled by the Robert Koch Institute, the German version of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In Taiwan, those quarantined at home are tracked via an “electronic fence”, which determines if users leave their homes.  

In South Africa, preparations have started to track cellphones based on cell tower connections. The choice of this method is understandable, as many South Africans may either feel an app is too intrusive to have installed, or may not have the data to install the app. This method also allows more cellphones, including basic feature phones, to be tracked. 

This means that users can be tracked on a fairly anonymised basis, because these locations can be accurate to about 2 square kilometers. Clearly, this method of tracking is not meant to monitor individual movements, but rather gain a sense of who’s been around which general area.  

This data could be used to find lockdown violators, if one considers that a phone connecting in Hillbrow for the first 11 days of lockdown, and then connecting in Morningside for the next 5, likely indicates a person has moved for an extended period of time. 

The distance between Hillbrow and Morningside is 17km. One would pass through several zones covered by different towers.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that South African network providers have agreed to provide government with location data to help fight COVID-19. 

Details on how the data will be used, and what it will used to determine, are still unclear. 

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