The global labour market is closer than one thinks

By Sanjiv Gossain, UK MD Cognizant.

The issue of the shortage of a skilled workforce continues to hit the headlines across Europe, with the European Commission suggesting that there will be 900,000 vacancies for IT-related roles by 2015.  There are currently about 26 million people unemployed across Europe.  The number of "digital jobs" – jobs based around IT – is growing by about 100,000 every year, yet the number of skilled IT graduates in the West is failing to keep pace.

However, in a wider business context many companies are now no longer limited to a local labour force or having to relocate staff from elsewhere; instead they can access the right people with the right skills at the right time wherever those people may be based.

It is fair to say that technology has not only transformed the world of business, but also completely disrupted the usual way of working.  Enterprises have seen—and fuelled—the rise of technologies such as virtualisation, cloud computing and real-time collaboration. The increasing adoption of disruptive technologies into mainstream business practice means that companies can find and integrate the right skills from an increasingly growing pool of global candidates wherever they may be based.  Working across borders and time zones has become ever more seamless regardless of where the expertise lies – inside or outside the organization – helping to address the issue of a shortage of specific skills.

These factors now combine to open up opportunities to improve efficiency, effectiveness and innovation in all areas that, given the fragile economy, are an invaluable source of competitive advantage. For a long time, the rewards to be gained from real-time global collaboration and 24/7 working were considered to be the future of work—but it is no longer in the future: the benefits can be achieved today.  Elements of such working methods are already being used in the Norwegian oil industry on a project basis. Now may be the right time to go one step further to overcome the current skills shortage. 

Whilst globalisation is not a new phenomenon, it is now reaching into almost every aspect of business. Today, end-to-end activities are performed globally as if they were done in one location by a self-contained workforce. Virtualisation, not only with technology, but also with people (the “anywhere, anytime worker”) and business models (increased outsourcing of key processes and sub-processes) is key to this transition.

Obviously, there are professions and industries where many tasks must be performed locally, for example nursing or oil/gas exploitation where the location is fixed.  But the new tools and opportunities for global collaboration provide an opening for companies to solve many capacity issues without having to rely on staff physically located within a few kilometres.  The global labour market is closer than one thinks.