New research by Burning Glass Technologies, a company that analyzes nearly a billion job postings and employee resumes from millions of companies, has documented a growing and under-the-radar trend in the workforce. Jobs are rapidly becoming more “hybrid,” combining skill sets that previously never would be found in the same job. Think jobs that combine marketing and statistical analysis or design and programming.
Approximately 25 percent of jobs in the U.S. economy are showing signs of hybridization, and they are among the fastest-growing, highest-paying jobs on the market—and the most immune to automation.
Hybrid jobs are complex and typically multi-disciplinary. They blend left-brain characteristics (logical, organized) with right-brain characteristics (creative, artistic). Research shows that hybrid jobs are often specialist roles, such as data scientist, security analyst, product manager, marketing manager, and UI designer. These types of jobs often require some type of design sense, user knowledge, data analysis and interpretation, as well as business acumen.
Hybrid jobs are growing at twice the rate of average growth in the overall job market and are 40 percent higher paying than traditional counterparts. They are also growing in prevalence in every business domain. The following are just a few examples:
- Marketing and public relations managers now must have a combination of right-brain thinking (creative design) with left-brain thinking (analytics and analysis), combined with in-depth knowledge of the business in order to succeed. Today’s advertising managers are creative designers and analysts rolled into one. Digital marketing managers must have design and programming skills, as well as hands-on experience with a wide variety of technical tools.
- Once considered highly technical, jobs in computer science and machine learning now require writing, problem-solving, and research skills, as well as skills in teamwork, collaboration, and business knowledge. The software engineer or data scientist is now part business person, designer, and team worker.
- Highly analytic jobs, such as a financial analyst or scientist, now require skills in visual and written communications, creative thinking, and consulting.
While single-role jobs can be automated, hybrid work can only be done by people who can interpret data, apply it appropriately, and ensure its use is ethical and aligned with business strategy. Burning Glass research shows that 42 percent of traditional jobs could be automated, compared to only 12 percent of highly hybrid jobs.
The skills needed for these “super jobs” fall into four broad areas:
- Knowledge of digital tools and technology is critical. We are all now “augmented” by machines, so an employee’s ability to learn new systems, configure and customize these tools, and code them, if necessary, is very important. For instance, marketing managers who know SQL make 41 percent more money than those who do not.
- A knowledge of data analytics, including data interpretation, visualization, and communication, is also important. Almost every hybrid job requires facility with analytics and data.
- Third, you must understand the fundamentals of business and management. One in three IT jobs requires business and management skills. A total of 57 percent of engineering positions now require business and leadership skills. Overall, jobs that require business management experience have an average salary premium of 19 percent. And workers who have experience in project management make 21 percent more than those who do not.
- Fourth, employees must now think like a designer or creative. More than half (54 percent) of all IT jobs now require some form of digital design. More than one-quarter (26 percent) of technology jobs now require design. Burning Glass research showed that 815,000 job openings last year outside of IT—in fields spanning business analysis to finance to manufacturing—also required design and creative skills. Jobs in areas such as user interface and employee experience are growing at 35 percent per year. While machines can automate and recommend decisions, we need people to design the user experiences, nudges, and interfaces we use every day. Software engineers who don’t keep up will see their salaries plateau.
In some ways, this is how jobs and careers have always evolved. Automation has changed every job over time. Those employees who don’t keep up with the value curve fall behind. For instance, the steno-pool typist of the 1970s became an executive assistant in the 1980s and 1990s and is now a customer service agent or sales support specialist today.
What’s different now is both the pace of change caused by automation and the skills combinations we see. Who would have guessed that today’s most valuable marketing managers would need to know SQL? Who would have expected an engineer to understand the ethics and design aspects of their code?
To me, the biggest takeaway from this research is the importance of life-long learning. Only 16 percent of high-paying hybrid jobs are entry level. Hybrid jobs depend on skills learned through years of experience and self-development. If employees aren’t spending a few hours a week “sharpening the saw” in their career toolboxes, they are likely falling behind.
A recent study of 2,800 professionals found the number one issue that employees leave their jobs is the inability to learn and grow. We as leaders must make sure continuous learning is built into the flow of work, enabling each employee to become more hybrid in his or her own special way.