The number of digital nomads is set to top one billion by 2035 according to some estimates, and with the IT skills shortage still sitting at the top of the technology agenda, it appears that people are still the tech sector’s greatest resource in the new economy.
Digital nomad is a term used to describe individuals who work online without a fixed location offline, and today, thousands of people around the world are starting companies, working with startups and helping businesses grow - all remotely. You will be able to spot a digital nomad hanging by the pool, in a coffee shop, in a library, a co-working space - basically wherever they can plug their laptop in and get internet connectivity.
Flexible and remote working is on the rise as the Fourth Industrial Revolution - a combination of AI, IoT, Big Data and other game-changing technologies - is expected to fundamentally alter how businesses have traditionally operated. Although these new ways of working present challenges to businesses' IT departments, there are a variety of benefits which outweigh the tech headache of enabling for this flexible way of working.
In the last few decades, technology has advanced at an extraordinary pace, and with new innovations popping up every so often, the future of work has been rapidly changing. Employees are no longer constrained by traditionally designated office cubicles and some admin-based tasks are now being automated, freeing up more time for workers to focus on tasks which can add true business value. As we move further into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning and the very human development of the digital nomad, are all destined to improve the operational efficiencies of workforce around the world. Whilst the former two technologies are still yet to be utilised properly, it’s the digital nomads that businesses are starting to reap the rewards from.
Digital nomads are part of a growing community of professionals who use various different technological tools to perform their daily tasks remotely, at their chosen location, in the same manner as they would in a company office. One industry that is very accommodating to remote workers is the technology sector. It’s critical for tech start-ups to employ sought-after professionals from different countries around the world, due to their exceptional talent and specialist skills, as a way of keeping up with the competition.
The technology industry has been thriving over the past few years, so much so that unemployment rates are now at an all time low and many businesses are struggling to even fill vacancies. This is more apparent in the tech sector as not only are there more job openings becoming available there are also roles which are hard to fill because technology has become so advanced that there are skills gaps. The tech industry absolutely thrives on innovation, and the digital economy has fostered the right conditions for ambitious tech startups to scale. However, we now face the following dilemma: how can we ensure that the pace at which companies are scaling is proportionate to that with which appropriately skilled tech workers are emerging?
Digital nomads are able to negate this problem as they enable companies to hire based on skills and experience, instead of geographic proximity to the company offices. But this will only happen if companies embrace this way of work and are open to casting the recruitment net out wider, tapping into talent pools from around the world. Digital nomads in the shape of marketing consultants, graphic designers and software engineers are all able to work remotely and still be effective as part of a team, regardless of where they are located.
It is only due to the fact that we embrace flexible working that we are able to hire a top marketer who understands the way of working in somewhere like Argentina but who currently resides between Paris and Barcelona. When our designer wants to avoid the cold winter in Northern Europe, he is able to move to Thailand and work from there for two months. Jobbatical’s own team, for example, regularly has staff joining the weekly team team meeting via Google Hangouts from all over the world. This enables the team to feel the presence of digital nomads, despite being located thousands of miles away or only a stone’s throw away from the office in a co-working space.
This type of workforce setup can and should be able to fill the skills gap in certain countries. Why? Because the flexible working nature of digital nomads also means that they are easier to upskill, as their working conditions enable them to attend workshops and enroll on university courses to further their knowledge and skills. This is notoriously something that their office-bound colleagues have struggled to do and helps companies avoid the hassle of hiring multiple candidates to do different tasks, allowing digital nomads to step in and in the gaps.
Other industries can and should be following the footsteps of the tech sector, as companies are always in need of the right people to help them turn their business goals into tangible economic solutions, regardless of the sector they operate in. But this requires cultural change. The banking and finance, travel and hospitality sectors are all good examples of industries that should be looking to hire digital nomads with the right skills and expertise from around the world. However, without an open mindset and the willingness to explore opportunities with a new workforce, these industries will miss out on a significantly large and highly skilled talent pool.
Digital nomads are assets for companies in the new global economy and are seen by many as the possible saviours of the burgeoning skills gap that is affecting countries around the world. As the market for nomadic talent matures, businesses and local economies will have to realise that the productivity of the workforce is no longer constrained by geography. Moreover, with instant access to an international pool of talent, businesses - tech or otherwise - can make sure that they have the people they need to solve their most difficult challenges.
Karoli Hindriks, Co-Founder and CEO of Jobbatical
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