October 8, 2019
by Michael P. Morris, CEO of Topcoder | Global Head of Crowdsourcing for Wipro
Heading into the final quarter of 2019, manufacturing is facing one of its greatest challenges: a shortage of skilled workers. According to research from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, over the next 10 years, manufacturers will need to add 4.6 million jobs (yet well over half may go unfilled). Technology skills now top manufacturers’ lists of must-haves.
Whether at the C-level or in the HR Department, the biggest myth complicating the apparent skills gap issue is that there’s a talent shortage – and that, simply, isn’t true.
There’s really no war on talent, but more of a “persistent blind spot” in technology talent acquisition.
Highly skilled developer, data scientist, designer and testing experts across the globe have never been more accessible than they are today. The key is figuring out how to find, attract and connect that talent with the manufacturers that need them most, and then creating opportunities too attractive to dismiss and loyalty programs that keep them coming back.
One successful “bridge” companies have made to reach that talent is through collaborative on-demand talent marketplaces. Manufacturing innovators have caught on to the competitive edge this type of staffing strategy offers to solve advanced challenges in diverse areas of business, from supply chain operations to web-based customer interfaces.
Leveraging on-demand talent has advantages over the traditional employee-employer model. Talent marketplaces increase the candidate pool and bolster the likelihood of finding skills to match a specific technology need. Even better, the solutions developed are outcome-based and often found faster at a higher quality level.
In addition, companies pay only for the solutions that satisfy their requests. This removes the burden and costs of adding in-house employees, while allowing on-staff hires to be more focused and productive. Land O’ Lakes, and another Fortune 500 leader, are two companies already using the gig economy to their advantage.
Digital Transformation, IoT Innovation at the $14B Purpose-driven Industrial Organization
With 60+K employees in 60+ countries, this global tools and storage, security, and oil/gas infrastructure business is investing heavily in digital transformation and the internet of things (IoT).
This company was facing business challenges and transformation initiatives that included:
- helping identify ways to improve inventory management and supply chain operations,
- crunching big data for better decision-making,
- predicting machine failures, and
- capturing individual knowledge to turn it into shared, structured knowledge for the benefit of the whole company.
To fuel these solutions, it turned to the world’s largest on-demand talent network to develop a series of competitions for its community of digital technologists. In just four weeks, the company had in hand a collaboration tool design and visualization prototype poised to revolutionize plant management and set benchmarks for other manufacturers in the industry.
This collaborative effort between the company’s IT team and on-demand workforce allowed for an ensemble development methodology that produced multiple solutions that iterated over time until the best one was selected and deployed. High quality outcomes were faster than expected, which had a direct positive result on the bottom line. HR time and costs were reduced, while business operations and customer experiences enhanced.
Fast Solutions to Dairy Giant’s Design Challenges
Land O’ Lakes is one of the largest producers of butter and cheese in the United States. Under its umbrella, the company includes brands that offer animal feed and seed/crop protection such as Purina, Calva, Nutra Blend and PMI Nutrition. Recently, Land O’Lakes began working with talented website designers and technologists from the gig economy through a leading on-demand talent marketplace provider.
Prior to taking an open talent approach to development, Land O’Lakes leaned heavily on internal IT staff develop applications and web elements to avoid the high cost of external agencies. Each line of business didn’t have a huge budget, yet Land O’Lakes knew that each brand needed unique treatment. Designs and solutions could not be one-size-fits-all.
The on-demand talent network met Land O’Lakes’ project requirements and provided affordable ideas with high quality outputs that were customized to individual brand needs.
Much like the previously mentioned Fortune 500 organization, an ensemble approach to development produced more solutions to choose from than Land O’Lakes anticipated. It received 15 to 20 options for each brand need, narrowed them down to five or six, and then presented them to internal stakeholders for review and further advancement.
“The flexibility of crowdsourcing made sense,” said Allen Niere, Digital Development Manager for Land O’Lakes. “The variety of approaches is something you don’t get with an agency. With an agency or a single designer, you get one person’s solution and their flair applied to the design. If they move things around to update it, it tends to look the same.”
An On-Demand Talent Workforce is Manufacturers’ Next Strategic Play
The “war on talent” may eventually knock on the doors of corporations, but it isn’t yet. At the world’s largest annual design and development competition this November, the manufacturing industry will see and experience evidence of the thriving gig economy as leading organizations like Google, GE, NASA and Anadarko seek to learn from, and engage, this talent.
For the foreseeable future, the real (and achievable) battle involves changing the approach to how organizations acquire the talent they need, when they need it, and ensuring they are receiving the quality outcomes that they’re paying for.
Mike Morris is the CEO of Topcoder (a global community of 1.5M+ design, development and data science experts disrupting enterprise software innovation through competition) and Global Head of Crowdsourcing for IT-services leader Wipro. Second only to his commitment to family—and perhaps waterskiing—Mike has served in leadership roles at Topcoder since 2002. A gig economy expert, he speaks worldwide about cultivating a passionate workforce to drive the transformative nature of digital asset development across every industry imaginable.
Previously a GM|SVP at Appirio, Mike led its crowdsource offering (Cloudspokes) through the acquisition of Topcoder, and then managed customer, sales and services teams to solidify the Topcoder brand as the largest crowdsourcing provider in the world. He was an integral part of Topcoder becoming a Wipro company through the acquisition of Appirio in 2016.
An active Boston College alum and engineer at heart, Mike continues to lead the crowdsourcing revolution by empowering organizations with limitless software development possibilities and unprecedented access to Topcoder’s talented multinational technologists.