Assessing the skills gap in the Internet of Things – and how smart recruitment is helping

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

If you look at various technologies, from cloud computing to development, the agreed theme is one of a skills gap. Too many openings; not enough skilled candidates to take them up.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is no different. Writing for Forbes in July, Daniel Newman argued that the continued proliferation of smart devices, networks and connections means any gap today will only grow if left unchecked. Citing a study from Inmarsat – albeit from 2017 – Newman noted more than three quarters of executives polled believed they needed more high-level IoT specialists.

As the industry has matured, organisations’ requirements and expectations have matured with it. But there is still some way to go.

Lauren James (left) heads up the IoT division at digital recruiter Salt as managing consultant, focusing primarily on sales roles. Having been active in the space since 2014, she notes how things have changed. “When I first started, pretty much all of the roles that I was working on for the first three or four years were newly created,” James tells IoT News. “For businesses now, what they need is a bit clearer for them, because now there’s been a few years where they’ve had people in the team. The roles that are coming to me are a lot more consistent.”

While there is a mix of clients in terms of size who have become more established – Vodafone is a frequent customer across a variety of roles – James also works with many startups looking to build out a sales team for the first time. Naturally, there is caution when it comes to making a big decision.

“It’s completely understandable – they want to be successful in who they hire, and they spend so much time hiring someone, but if they realise after six months it’s the wrong match, they’re losing out on a lot of time,” says James.

It can often be the case of these companies looking for the perfect match – which could be seen as something of a fool’s errand. James notes that multiple factors need to be considered when it comes to hiring for IoT startups. How are you going to convince this candidate to leave their safe environment for a riskier one? Are you giving the right impression to candidates?

Some startups try to cover as much ground as they can – which James cautions against. “I’ve noticed that many startups decide that the best approach is to work with multiple recruitment agencies to give them as much coverage of the market as possible. However, the message that the company is trying to deliver then becomes too scattered,” she says. “If it’s the first time that people are hearing about the business, they need to be given the right message. The first impression that they’re getting of a company is typically the one that’s lasting.”

As a general theme, rather than a leader only being as good as their team, you need strong leadership to help. This applies particularly to sales, as you need the right mix between technical knowledge and sales acumen. “I appreciate why startups want to get it right, but I don’t think that it is always realistic to find someone who is the ‘perfect candidate’. It is important for companies to let potential new starters know that they are open to giving them training and investing time in their people to build on the core skills they already have.

Senior leadership and managers can also help them by attending initial customer meetings and allowing them to settle in. If they’ve got the right attitude, a shared vision with the leadership, very good core skills, companies can train around that,” says James.

Spending extra time on the job description can make all the difference, James adds – particularly in ironing out any inequality. Plenty of research has been conducted on how women are more reluctant to apply for jobs unless they tick all of the qualification boxes. As Rachel Keane, co-founder of the Women in Data series of events put it to this reporter in October: ‘celebrate what you have, don’t apologise for what you don’t have.’

In other words, don’t puff up your job description with nice-to-haves. “The reality is the business might only expect candidates to have five or six out of 10 of the criteria on the job description,” says James. “People get too put off by these role descriptions. I won’t even send the description out to a potential candidate until I’ve had the chance to have a conversation with them and positioned it in the right way.

“I say to them – this will give you an idea but don’t take it to be exactly right. You’re going to be learning about the job, meeting with the manager, meeting with the business – take the job description with a pinch of salt.”

James is speaking at IoT Tech Expo Global on 18 March about how to find the best IoT sales talent – and if there is one message to take away, it is around keeping an open mind.

“In this market, it doesn’t need to be so cut and dried,” she says. “There isn’t a huge pool of people that have been working in this technology for several years. As the market continues to grow and expand, so will the need to take people in from different fields and backgrounds.” in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the IoT Tech Expo World Series events with upcoming shows in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

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