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Are you ready for the digital workforce?

We hear a lot today about the emergence of the “digital workforce” or “digital workplace” and it’s importance for the future of business. What exactly is the DW and what does it mean for your organization? One credible resource has described the phenomenon this way: “It is part of a new way of working that is more open, collaborative, engaging and ultimately productive for people and organizations. The digital workplace lives at the intersection of people, organization, and tools.”




The digital workforce thus goes beyond just tools and describes the changing nature of work in the digital age. It’s an approach to business ownership that focuses on keeping the competitive edge when technologies are changing at lightning speed. Gartner, in fact, is currently projecting that 2015 is a benchmark year, or the time when companies need to start introducing policies and programs for a “digital workforce” in order to stay in the top quartile of productivity by 2020. The digital workforce is about attitude, mindset, and training. The digital workforce will require individuals who are agile and adaptable, who can stay relevant within the matrix of innovation and transformation.

In what follows we provide a rundown of some of the approaches, attitudes, and course corrections necessary to stay ahead of the tsunami of rapid technological change that will sweep the globe during the next decade. This is about staying relevant and keeping your head above the water. It’s about preparing for the digital workforce!




Learn to code

There are more opportunities than ever for people from all backgrounds to jump into code learning right away. They can try free online tutorials like the popular teaching platform Codecademy or explore options on any number of MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Course that have sprung up in recent years such as Udacity, Coursera, Khan Academy, and edX. For the real ambitious, you can try out a growing number of coding bootcamp, where you enroll onsite for usually 6 weeks or more of full-scale immersion. Another option that gives a similar approach but with more flexibility is the online coding bootcamp. Firms like Bloc, Tealeaf Academy, and Thinkful represent a growing option for teaching code to newbies through a rigorous combination of online learning interactions, exercises, and projects, along with the guidance of either an assigned mentor or various teaching assistants.

Go the extra mile on your day job

When offshoring and outsourcing do come to your organization, you’ll want to be well-positioned as a person who is irreplaceable. To prepare ahead, get into the mindset of over-delivering on your work and providing the highest results. Become a thought leader and subject matter expert across different lines of your business. Develop an innovative mindset that embraces creativity and out-of-the-box approaches to solving old problems. Take ownership of your role and imagine where you want to see yourself in the next 5-10-15 years.




Try freelancing

Technology growth also means that employees  need to think and act innovatively and brainstorm new ways of doing business in order to keep their job skills updated. Have you considered freelancing? More and more attention has been focused lately on this online working revolution. According to the results of a recent survey, 1 in 3 people in the U.S. workforce, or 53 million, are freelancers. There are lots of reasons why freelancing is a smart career move. Rapid growth in technology, rising business operating costs, growing competition for jobs, and high costs of living are all factors that are leading millions of skilled professional to join this growing revolution.

Focus on what you’re good at

Ultimately, you’re going to want to focus on what you’re most passionate about. This goes for both individuals and organizations. For a great read on this topic, check out the recent book called Creativity, Inc. It’s a story about Pixar, its beginnings and early years, the struggles, the successes – and the ideals and techniques that went into producing some of the most successful films ever made.  Ed Catmull, the author of the book and co-founder of Pixar, recounts his own dream as a young man to make the first computer-animated movie, and how that vision unfolded and led to the philosophies that have guided Pixar through the years.




Try a startup

Eventually you may not have a choice but to try a startup. The following blurb will explain why:

Consultants and freelancers are cheaper than full-time staffers with benefits, software developers overseas cost a fraction of what they cost in the U.S. and, by 2030, robots will be able to perform most manual labor . . . Even employees who are employed in large corporations are encouraged to be “intrapreneurs,” meaning that they are in many cases given company time to come up with disruptive ways of thinking about corporate organization and practices.

You get the point. Competition is getting more and more fierce and employees today will increasingly find themselves constrained to think and act innovatively and to brainstorm new ideas and ways of doing business. All of these on-the-job skills easily translate to entrepreneurial opportunities that transcend the day job. In other words, skilled workers today are more and more likely to try additional gigs in their off hours. In the not too distant future, it just might be that everybody will be running a startup!

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About Jeffrey Walker

Jeff is a business development consultant who specializes in helping businesses grow through technology innovations and solutions. He holds multiple master’s degrees from institutions such as Andrews University and Columbia University, and leverages this background towards empowering people in today’s digital world. He currently works as a research specialist for a Fortune 100 firm in Boston. When not writing on the latest technology trends, Jeff runs a robotics startup called virtupresence.com, along with oversight and leadership of startuplabs.co - an emerging market assistance company that helps businesses grow through innovation.