Widespread, democratized reskilling is critical to post-pandemic economic recovery.getty
America's nation-wide labor shortage continues to serve as a major barrier to economic recovery, with nine in ten state and local Chambers of Commerce reporting that worker shortages are holding their economies back. To address this “national economic emergency,” the Chamber proposed increased investment into employer-led job education and training programs to provide Americans with needed skills for the most in-demand jobs. While this is a crucial first step, organizations must take this opportunity to rethink how they approach job training more broadly, especially given the fact that rapid advances in technology often mean that even newly acquired skills have a limited shelf life.
In addition to investing in reskilling initiatives, it is critical that organizations realize that reskilling is not simply a one-time exercise, but a continuous, career-spanning journey that must be informed by data and predictive analytics. Only through a data-driven, targeted reskilling approach can we successfully help individuals' future-proof their careers by teaching them the right skills at the right time. This will ultimately result in higher wages for workers, bring more people back to work, and provide businesses with the talent they need to get our economy back on track.
Talent scarcity is so widespread and varied across the entire workforce. This is one reason the current labor shortage is so difficult to tackle. Both small businesses and large corporations have open positions they can’t fill, and while much has been made of the dearth of workers in service industries like restaurants and retail, higher paying sectors like healthcare and tech are also struggling to find talent with the specialized skills they require.
While businesses are having trouble attracting talent, workers have also expressed difficulty adjusting to the new normal. According to a recent worker survey from Monster, 86 percent of workers feel their career has stalled during the pandemic, 54 percent don’t believe they have the skills to succeed in the new world of work, and 34 percent think the best way to advance their career is to leave their current job and find a new employer.
When you combine the fact that women left the workforce in unprecedented numbers during the pandemic with the reality that Americans are quitting their jobs at record rates, something needs to change in the way that organizations engage with and nurture talent. And let’s not forget the relentless progress of the fourth industrial revolution, in which automation and artificial intelligence are anticipated to displace 85 million jobs by 2025 while simultaneously creating 97 million new roles that will require new skill sets.
For these reasons, we must prioritize reskilling both for low-wage workers who are at risk of losing their jobs to automation and want to acquire new competencies to increase their earning potential, as well as highly specialized talent who require new skills to keep up with technology, remain relevant in their fields, and continue to advance their careers.
So, how can organizations take both a wide, democratized approach to reskilling while also addressing the unique needs of individual workers? First, you can move beyond the outdated notion of hiring for a role and instead focus on hiring workers who possess the skills for the work that needs to get done. Additionally, organizations should invest in developing the skills they need internally by reskilling or upskilling existing employees. The good news is organizations are increasingly aware that providing training opportunities to their current workers is an ideal way to boost institutional knowledge and improve worker satisfaction and retention through internal mobility. In fact, according to Randstad RiseSmart’s 2021 Guide to Severance & Workforce Transition, 88 percent of organizations encourage employees to apply to new roles internally.
Second, by utilizing technology, employers can use predictive AI to create meaningful insights from both market and internal employee data to develop a long-term road map of skills demand and availability — and where there are gaps — within your workforce and the labor market overall. This includes the ability to determine what skills will become obsolete in the near future and what skills can be redeployed to create a more agile talent pool. Encouragingly, according to Randstad Sourceright’s recent Talent Trends survey data, employers are increasingly incorporating these tools into their talent management strategies, with 42 percent of human capital leaders surveyed saying that they are increasing their investments in talent analytics.
Those same insights can also be used to empower workers to take more ownership of their own career paths. For instance, platforms like Randstad RiseSmart’s BrightFit use AI algorithms to assess an individual’s existing skills and make recommendations on what new competencies they need to acquire for in-demand roles now — and for desired roles in the future. Artificial intelligence can also suggest a customized list of classes and reskilling opportunities workers should consider to help them take their skills to the next level and ultimately future-proof their careers. Such technologies afford organizations the ability to develop more engaged and sustainable workforces.
The current talent shortage is unquestionably one of the biggest hurdles to America’s post-pandemic economic recovery and a potential long-term roadblock to economic growth. While broad workforce reskilling is a critical component for both workers and businesses to adapt to an increasingly digital economy, determining what skills are needed can prove to be difficult given the constantly shifting goalposts that are part and parcel of rapid technological innovation. However, technology can and should also be used as an indispensable and predictive tool to guide talent strategy and help employers and workers alike determine which constantly evolving skill sets they need to drive personal, business, and economic growth.
The push toward voice adoption across mobile apps, websites, cell phones and smart speakers underscores consumers’ fervent interest in engaging with devices through conversation. There have been small but numerous signs in recent years throughout the media and entertainment world that this industry is ready to embrace, learn and, most significantly, leverage voice technology.
According to technology resource company Voicebot.ai, voice assistant users on smartphones rose 11% between 2018 and 2020, while daily active users climbed 23%. In January 2021. The site also found the installed base of smart speakers in the U.S. reached 90.7 million, which is equivalent to a third of the U.S. adult population.
The public’s adoption of voice has grown at an even faster rate than smartphone ownership. By 2023, voice commerce is predicted to hit $80 billion, with its uses advancing rapidly as it becomes the desired entryway for consuming video content.
Comcast was a leader of this movement, with the introduction of the Xfinity X1 remote in 2015. As viewing choices multiply, streamers, broadcasting and cable companies are finding uses for voice commands and developing new voice-controlled experiences to help customers search and discover their programming.
Today, we’re seeing voice functions becoming a standard for TV remotes, such as those by Roku and Amazon Fire TV, and voice-enabled apps for both are available on iOS and Android platforms.
A study conducted in July by Los Angeles market research company Guts+Data showed that 50.2% of 1,000 active streaming consumers surveyed have used voice commands to help find and view movies and series on streaming services, up from 44.4% last October.
But even harkening back to 2018, the U.K.’s Juniper Research predicted that “the fastest-growing category for voice over the next several years will not be smart speakers. It will be smart TVs.” And by the end of 2020, smart TVs were already number one in the smart-home adoption category, with some 37.9% of U.S. households incorporating them into daily life.
As more and more technology adds voice function, the line blurs between dedicated in-home voice assistants and mobile devices. Texting by voice in the car, searching for content and resources through hearables like Airpods, accessing shopping lists at the market — all of these uses and dozens of others are prompting behavioral changes important to media and entertainment, marketers and content creators for engagement, search, discovery and retention.
Finding a Voice: Early Media & Entertainment Experiments
As the public first learned to access voice skills and apps through conversational agents — think Apple’s Siri, Comcast’s XFinity X1 and Samsung’s S Voice — marketing teams at some media and entertainment companies pushed the boundaries.
In one of the earliest examples, Warner Bros. launched a 2016 collaboration to create the first Amazon Alexa skill to combine voice-first technology with produced audio assets for music and sound effects. The choose-your-own interactive task was called the Wayne Investigation, aptly named to promote the feature film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
John Limpert, former Warner Bros. VP of emerging marketing technologies, noted that during its first week, the Wayne Investigation engaged seven times more (per weekly average) than all other skills combined, earning the top spot for both total time spent and average time spent per user.
In 2017, Showtime Networks launched an Amazon Alexa skill that provided program scheduling and featured audio clips of the stars from its series Billions, Shameless and Homeland. Two years later, to promote its Shazam! superhero movie, Warners released the first voice-activated “haunted reality” lens on Snapchat, a speech-activated filter that responded to the voice command “Okay, Shazam!” and allowed users to see themselves as the superhero.
Engaging over voice adds an information-rich layer to the experience that can also be mined for audience insights, though companies will have to grapple with privacy policies and the security of user biometric voice data. While it will be of enormous value to media and entertainment companies in delivering targeted messaging and content to high-prospect audiences, it is also smart business to allow consumers to control its use.
Back in 2019, marketing insights firm Gartner forecasted, ”Brands that put in place user-level control of marketing data in 2023 will reduce customer churn by 40% and increase lifetime value by 25%.”
Brandon Kaplan, CEO of voice-first agency Skilled Creative, which has worked with HBO Max, Warner Music, Pottermore and other entertainment brands, believes there’s a great opportunity for media and entertainment as companies adopt voice as a strategic element in marketing to support the natural growth of awareness and demand.
Media companies have the scale and audience to do that. And studios will continue to experiment, mindful of the opportunities at their disposal as well as the legal and technological challenges in such a rapidly developing industry.
As voice technology matures, so does the testing and learning by those companies willing to engage at the beginning. In some cases, they discover what they don’t want, in an effort to move closer to defensible results and something resembling a ROI.
Audio Natives Lead the Way
In 2014, when the first Amazon Echo hit the market, a partnership between NPR and Amazon allowed users who asked Alexa to “play the news” to hear the most recent NPR hourly newscast. Now years later, that has extended to the automatic delivery of a continuous listening stream from the public-radio king, still all controlled by a simple voice command for information. Both companies saw the connection as a natural extension of the NPR.org brand.
Pandora was among the first to start testing interactive voice ads with early adopters, such as Comcast and Turner Broadcasting. These new advertising formats were ideal for people busy with activities that were occupying their hands, such as cooking, driving, or housecleaning, and success was measured using a new metric called say-through rates.
Spotify, too, grew up as an audio native. The company’s March 2021 acquisition of Betty Labs, creators of the live social-audio app Locker Room, signaled its shift as a community facilitator for anyone with fans — from musicians to sports teams. The platform provides options to process subscriptions, sell merchandise or jump into pay-per-view. Spotify launched the remade Locker Room as Clubhouse competitor Greenroom on June 14.
Ear-worn devices are another fruitful avenue for the voice-tech industry. Spending rose some 124% in 2020 — totaling $32.7 billion, with an expectation of hitting $39.2 billion in 2021, according to Gartner. This growth has been largely attributed to remote workers upgrading their headphones for video calling and consumers purchasing earbuds to use with their smartphone devices.
Voice technology is moving quickly and offers media, entertainment, advertising and other industries a broad range of possibilities to generate value by creating accessible ways to engage with audiences, connect communities and maximize the value of existing digital assets through voice interfaces and platforms.
Donald Buckley is a media consultant and veteran Warner Bros. digital marketing executive. He serves as media and entertainment industry advisor at the Open Voice Network and was formerly chief marketing officer of Showtime Networks.
This article was adapted from the Open Voice Network’s expansive white paper “The Future of Media and Entertainment Informed by Voice,” cowritten by Buckley and communications consultant Janice K. Mandel.
PLANO, Texas, Aug. 5, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Ribbon Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: RBBN), a global provider of real time communications software and IP optical transport solutions to service providers, enterprises, and critical infrastructure sectors, today announced that it will be presenting at the Oppenheimer 24th Annual Technology, Internet and Communications Conference, taking place August 9-11 in a virtual format.
Bruce McClelland, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Mick Lopez, Chief Financial Officer, will be presenting at 9:55am Eastern Time on Wednesday, August 11.
The presentation will be made available live via webcast, as well as archived replay on the Investor Relations section of the Ribbon Communications website at investors.ribboncommunications.com.
About RibbonRibbon Communications (Nasdaq: RBBN) delivers communications software, IP and optical networking solutions to service providers, enterprises and critical infrastructure sectors globally. We engage deeply with our customers, helping them modernize their networks for improved competitive positioning and business outcomes in today's smart, always-on and data-hungry world. Our innovative, end-to-end solutions portfolio delivers unparalleled scale, performance, and agility, including core to edge software-centric solutions, cloud-native offers, leading-edge security and analytics tools, along with IP and optical networking solutions for 5G. To learn more about Ribbon visit rbbn.com.
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