The Future of Work: Changing Roles

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Work remains the constant of modern life: Where we spend a good part of our best energy and hours awake. And big stuff is happening to it. Gone are the days of narrow work descriptions, when we could show up in the office and do only what we do best. Today, job roles are fusing together and new tools and technologies are requiring quicker-than-ever adaptability and knowledge handling.  So what does tomorrow hold and how do we best prepare for it?

In this first chapter of our Hybrid Humans Report, we look at how job roles are changing and what kind of skills are required from us – today and in five years. Our dive into our changing professional landscape has two elements:

Scope of our research: An indicator of trends

We talked to a focus group of 124 future workers. We have focused on these voices because they are a part of companies, where work is deeply fluid and there is an openness to new approaches. They are all employed within startups and born after 1982. Our research is qualitative and limited in scope by nature. The findings should be seen as early signs of future trends and a foundation for discussing where work is headed.

 

1. How are our roles changing and overlapping into others?

Today we are all Hybrid Humans, expected to be experts within our field, but also to be comfortable with, and competent at, performing tasks outside of our core area. Terms like “T-shaped” are turning up in job advertisements, expressing an increasing demand for professionals with strong vertical skill sets combined with softer and more general competences.

Overlapping job roles

 

6 out of 10 professionals experience that their job roles are overlapping into others. This is perhaps mirrored by the ratio between hard skills and soft skills required for jobs today. Even within an sector like technology, the majority of us use almost four times as many soft skills as hard skills during a workday. These soft skills mostly fall within the category of design or entrepreneurial skills. Perhaps you used to be a software developer who spent your workday coding away, but today this doesn’t make the cut and you will find yourself more and more involved in other aspects of the business, such as user experience, product development, marketing and sales.

“It is common sense to cease the silo thinking. You need specialists, but you’ll develop faster and come up with better solutions, if those specialists are capable of taking on the perspectives of other business entities in their work.” Pia Tobberup, Communications and PR Manager, McDonalds

 

A 50/50 division between hard skills and soft skills is the most common requirement today. It is, however, twice as common to use soft skills than hard skills at the workplace.

Job roles are also following a more general digital transformation process, where technology is becoming the dominating work tool within most professions. This requires an agile and continuous training in specific technologies. Similarly, technology has taken over much of the ways in which we communicate at work. Digital channels for communication with internal and external stakeholders are many and varied. Emailing is not enough anymore, but is our digital communication being perceived as a support or a burden? The future workers we talked to, mostly exhibited a positive view on technology at the workplace, but perhaps the answer would have been different coming from a less digitally savvy group.

Your job is different

From product development and validation to marketing and sales, jobs today require more entrepreneurial skills than what is stated in the job description.

2. What skills do we lack today?

When asked what professional skills the respondents felt that they lacked today, specific technical skills, quite expectedly, ranked high. The second skill set, however, was design skills, which was mentioned by almost 6 out of 10 respondents. Design thinking and UX belong to a set of competencies which transcends industry silos – at least in digital/tech jobs. Design thinking is now becoming a way to structure workflows, meetings, task management, stakeholder communication and more. Leadership skills were desired by just over 40% of the respondents, and so were entrepreneurial skills.

The most essential skills for digital workers today are, not surprisingly, job-specific, technical skills. This is followed by design skills, which transcends industry silos. Leadership skills and entrepreneurial skills share a third and a fourth place, followed by public speaking skills.

“No matter the industry or job role, it is paramount to understand people and find creative solutions to their specific problems. Then, test these solutions and find out what works. This is the essence of Design Thinking.

And while empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping and testing, may seem self-evident at this point – the skills and methods needed to do so effectively, certainly aren’t. That’s why we all need to keep getting better at design. Because bettering our design skills, is bettering our ability to make choices that solve real problems.”  Simon McGilbray, Service & UX Designer, Alm. Brand

 

All of these – except for specific technical skills – are what we could call soft skills – a result which corroborates the fact that the great majority of respondents stated that soft skills were more important for their jobs than hard skills – a somewhat surprising result considering that most of the respondents work in tech companies. It does, however, align with the notion that design skills and entrepreneurial skills are increasingly important across all job roles.

3. New technical skills for a project-based future?

Almost one third of our respondents also stated that their jobs are increasingly project-based. This can mean that you are hired for a particular project and that your contract ends with its completion, or it could simply mean a new way of structuring a workflow. Regardless, it implies a certain discontinuity at work, which might, again, call for new skills and adaptability.

As for the way in which our respondents believe that their jobs will change within the next five years, both data-drivenness and AI ranked high. The most important change, however, was believed to involve specific technical skills, which can be explained by the rapidity with which the technology landscape changes our work processes. New tools appear almost every week and for certain professions and businesses, competitiveness is dependent on a quick implementation of these tools.

In five years, vertical technical skills will still be on top of the list. However, leadership skills and entrepreneurial skills will have taken the place of design skills, whose importance is diminished. The majority of us use almost four times as many soft skills as hard skills during a workday.

When asked what skills they thought they would need five years from now, the answers turned out somewhat different. Specific technical skills were still believed to be the most important ones, but leadership skills and entrepreneurial skills suddenly became more important than design skills. This change could be explained by the career ambitions of our respondents, many of whom envisioned themselves in leadership positions – or perhaps as founders of their own startups – in the upcoming years.

Within the next five years, jobs will require more technological know-how. Entrepreneurial skills, like prototyping, marketing and business development will also become a vital aspect of almost every job. One out of five respondents states that their jobs have become more data-driven.

 

Let’s talk it over: Future of Work Forecast on February 20

We know that our research is not definite. So we would like to discuss and elaborate on the themes from The Hybrid Humans Report.

We host a live event on February 20, where we share cases of great work cultures + facilitate an open conversation: The Future of Work Forecast at Talent Garden Rainmaking. You get a chance to learn from companies like these:  

  • Soundboks: On how they are building a new kind of work culture from scratch
  • Abzu: On implementing self-leadership on all levels of their company.

Click here to sign up for the event: The Future of Work Forecast.

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