A Surprising Lag in the Tech Sector

A new Korn Ferry survey shows technology firms are struggling to find the talent to take advantage of the Internet of Things.



On a daily basis, the world’s technology firms speak about how organizations need to embrace the Internet of Things (IoT), the perpetually growing network of connected devices and machine parts that will revolutionize the world. Not preparing for the Internet of Things, the tech firms warn, tempts the worst fate possible, at least in the eyes of Silicon Valley: obsolescence.

It turns out that the tech sector needs to do a better job following its own advice.

Less than a quarter of senior executives at technology firms believe that their organization has its Internet of Things-related talent in place, according to a new survey by Korn Ferry. That number likely isn’t improving quickly, either; only 27 percent say that their organization is actively helping re-skill employees affected by automation and retraining them for other work.

“Companies clearly need to evaluate their existing talent and think about how they can upskill current employees or what new talent they need to ensure the future survival of their organization,” says Werner Penk, president of Korn Ferry’s Global Technology practice.

Over the summer, Korn Ferry surveyed more than 60 C-suite, VP, and top HR professionals at tech firms both big and small. In general, tech firm leaders feel they have the talent needs for what’s happening now. Three-quarters of the survey respondents agree their organization has the talent needed for their current business strategy. It’s the future, however, where many tech firms have considerably less confidence. Only 36 percent say that their organization has the talent needed to deliver their future business strategy, and less than half agree that their organization has a talent strategy to either build or buy the talent it needs to fill future skill gaps.

That’s not a lot of conviction around an issue that could disrupt every industry on earth. IoT could generate an estimated $4 trillion to $11 trillion per year in economic value by 2025, according to one study. IoT does lay out some tempting benefits, potentially making manufacturing more efficient and creating new lines of business. But to be able to fully utilize the Internet of Things, organizations need to develop a workforce that can not only interpret all the data that all those connected devices produce, but also market, design, and repair the devices themselves. That’s on top of the talent needed to ensure that the data collected by IoT-enabled devices stays out of the hands of criminals.

There were nearly 7 billion IoT-connected devices in the world in 2016, according to research firm Gartner, and there could be as many as 20.8 billion by 2020. Meanwhile, “the pace of technological change is only going to get faster, and for companies in this sector to survive, they need to prepare their talent,” Penk says.