Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Working from home: The future of business is remote

Why an Uber-equivalent is needed for tech workers to avert the skills crisis

The global tech skills gap -- which has not been averted despite a decade of frantic discussion -- is now turning into a yawning skills chasm due to the pandemic.

According to a recent report from IBM, over 120 million workers across the world's 12 largest economies may need to be re-trained in the next few years. However, only 41% of CEOs say they hold the skills necessary to drive the business forward.

While executives recognize that advances in intelligent automation will bring multiple benefits, they also realize that potentially millions of workers may require retraining or reskilling.

Different management styles are required, too -- ones that encourage an agile work environment that includes autonomous decision making, work product iteration, experimentation, peer-to-peer coaching, and flexible team structures. But how many workers have the skills needed to deliver?

In a grim wake-up call, the World Economic Forum launched the Reskilling Revolution in 2020 to try and persuade employers and educators to foot the bill for providing one billion people with better education, skills, and jobs by 2030.

Freelancing is one potential solution for employers, but it comes with unforeseen problems, requiring skills in sales, client management, and marketing, all of which are not typically strong points of highly skilled technical talent.

However, despite these issues, in its yearly reporting on the freelance marketplace, Upwork predicted that "freelancers are expected to be the majority of the US workforce by 2027."

This trend toward freelancing is reducing the ability of employers to attract qualified local in-house teams. Hiring takes too long, is a costly process, and turnover is very high.

Yet tech companies who have been hit hard by the skills gap can not afford to wait a decade to get the tech solution they need. UK-based tech start-up, Distributed, has had a big idea that it believes holds the answer: Elastic teams.

The premise of elastic teams is a focus on job skills rather than job roles, offering freelance teams available on-demand, which cost zero to hire and retain, and have a richer range of skillsets due to an unlimited global talent pool.

Elastic teams can remove many of the barriers that technical freelancers face in their self-determined independent careers.

This Uber-equivalent for tech workers could help avert the looming skills chasm.

The gig economy has acted as a safety net for low-skilled workers, but as many high-skilled workers are discovering after being furloughed or losing their jobs, there has been no equivalent for high-skilled labor.

With Elastic Teams, organizations can scale up and down team activity based on requirements and compose their teams of any programming skillsets.

Distributed CEO Callum Anderson said: 

"Elastic teams give tech companies access to top developers they could never dream of hiring locally, with commoditized yet highly skilled teams available as easily as the push of a button.

The fact that Distributed has been very successful this year while many businesses have sadly been hit hard by the coronavirus economic downturn is proof that this 'new normal' is happening right now."

Elastic Teams is a brilliant idea. Businesses of the future will manage to thrive without the need for technical development teams-in-house across enterprises. It is about time for a shakeup of permanent staff.

Cultures and organizational competencies need to shift to reflect these new ways of working and enable the training and conditioning of a workforce with new, relevant skills.