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5G workforce:
Is your company
preparing for 5G?

Author: Megan Williams

The "hype" around 5G is much more than that—especially when it comes to what it could mean for the workforce. An alignment of factors, including industry-specific pressures and the global pandemic, means major change for the workforce could be around the corner. It also means this change could be more pervasive than many leaders expect.

It's important to understand the 5G workforce isn't just another upgrade to technology. Unlike earlier generations of mobile tech, the shift to 5G could change the dynamics of workplace communication and even the nature of work itself. 5G could also help improve the performance of unified communication and collaboration (UCC) tools, especially if AR/VR applications are used and could help computing across public networks. This could open up new applications of the Internet of Things, automation, artificial intelligence (AI), machine-to-machine communications, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in a way that will redefine work.

And this is the challenge leaders in the workforce face—the broad potential for the 5G workforce means that, more than ever, those leaders will need to learn about preparing for 5G, their specific 5G use cases and how they relate to opportunities in their organizations and industries.

Preparing for 5G: What could the 5G workforce look like?

It will be helpful to first understand the potential of the future 5G workforce. The most obvious impact is on remote work. The low latency of 5G speeds communication, potentially enabling increased remote collaboration and, in turn, the extension of working teams across broader geographies.

Flexible work

Remote work has typically been bound by access to reliable, high-speed internet, confining workers to home offices or coworking facilities. With 5G, the workplace is extended to outdoor spaces. And this shift isn't limited to corporate settings. With the use of 5G, AR/VR and high-speed video, workers can inspect machinery and monitor system performance essentially in real time.

A wider talent pool 

This, of course, will impact who fits requirements as a worker. If remote work becomes more common, talent pools will become less local. Organizations could conduct more precise searches for the best fit for the job since they wouldn't be limited by proximity to company headquarters. 5G could show up in interview and training applications as well, with AR and VR enabling evaluation of candidate response to high-stress or dangerous situations.

Reskilling

The 5G workforce could also reflect heavier application of robotics and automation,  potentially shifting the roles of existing jobs while necessitating new ones that could require training to learn new skills.

Understanding your organization's 5G opportunity

While 5G could represent broad changes, business leaders will see the most benefit from focusing on the impact and opportunity of the technology on their areas of influence.

Internally, consider examining the opportunities and strengths in your application of 5G. For example, if you have established UCC or automation initiatives, you'll benefit from examining how 5G can enable these efforts and exploit existing strengths. Externally, partners and competitors will also be eyeing the technology, so awareness of these dynamics in terms of both threats and weaknesses will be critical. It might be worth considering performing both internal and external 5G SWOT analyses to solidify use cases and goals.

As you perform these exercises, use industry-specific trends as guidelines to stay focused. Retail organizations, for example, are facing increased challenges due to the increasing complexity of internal communications and employee retention. 5G could help address these issues through updated employee communication platforms and tools to support remote retail jobs to improve the employee experience.

Preparing for the 5G workforce by building your framework

The complexity of the shift to 5G shouldn't be underestimated. It will be valuable to develop a framework that informs your leadership on how to prepare for 5G and allows you to implement changes incrementally.

Rank your priorities

Where should your application of 5G start? Is there more opportunity in improving your employee's work-from-home experience? Maybe it's better to investigate the potential of the talent market. While you'll likely be exploring multiple 5G use cases simultaneously, let your existing strategic goals be your guide and the technology be a supporting player.

Consider systems and security

Your 5G implementation will likely involve a significant overhaul of IT systems. Local infrastructure will need to be scaled and your IT team will need to account for how systems will deal with increasing data, acquisition of devices and what all this means for security. Tech leaders should be closely involved with 5G planning, with the consideration of bringing on new, specialized talent to support your 5G workforce evolution.

Invest in employees

It's going to be important to communicate these changes with your employees—but stay mindful of perceptions and fears.

Your employees will be aware of what previous shifts in technology have meant for their jobs, so create plans for training and reskilling as you inform your teams of how the shift to 5G supports business goals and organizational health. Most importantly, make sure this is happening across all levels of the organization.

Learn about preparing for 5G and explore 5G use cases that might fit your tech strategy.