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Future Workforce: The Hybrid Employee

Multi-faceted employees must have tech and human skills to fill the job description of the future

A study from Burning Glass Technologies shows that one-quarter of all occupations in the United States are now "hybrids" and are universally the fastest-growing and highest-paying – and also the most resistant to automation. Areas of expertise that were once unrelated, and jobs that two or even three individuals used to do, are now being combined into one role.

They might have the title data scientist, cybersecurity analyst, or user experience designer, and combine technical competencies with soft skills and industry expertise. While some of these jobs are new and some new versions of existing jobs, hybridization is impacting jobs across all industries.

In the Burning Glass analysis of job postings, five skill sets stand out: big data and analytics, design and development, sales and customer service, digital technologies, and government regulation. Such skills often require an assessment of current capabilities as well as a willingness to grow in areas not previously considered.

Here are four ways to prepare for tomorrow's job market.

Develop your digital skills

From artificial intelligence to additive manufacturing and cloud computing, new technologies have augmented our ways of living, producing, and consuming. While this digital revolution has accelerated innovation, it also requires employers and employees to shape and adapt to thrive in this new automated society.

"The bulk of leadership at organizations are not digital natives," says Jennifer Carpenter, vice president for talent acquisition at Delta Air Lines. "Companies are breaking down hierarchy because they realize the knowledge they need for their organizations isn't necessarily at the C-suite."

In addition to focusing on the digital domains related to your field, you'll need social, emotional, and interpersonal skills to see the full picture. Burning Glass Technologies suggests that you shouldn't be afraid to learn these new systems and tailor them to your specific needs – this is your human value-add.

Get comfortable with data

Data analytics isn't just for statisticians and business analysts. Knowing how to analyze, visualize, and communicate with numbers are skills extending into marketing, sales, human resources and other career paths.

Nearly 70% of business leaders in the United States will prefer job applicants with data skills by 2021, according to a report from the Business-Higher Education Forum.

Digital platforms, such as marketing automation software, have helped organizations harness their data to leverage informed business decisions. In this new ecosystem, professionals must have analytical or data skills traditionally found in IT roles, coupled with marketing skills, such as communication and creativity to be successful.

"There's a need for people who understand the big picture so they can guide major corporations through reinventing themselves," remarks Dan Hawks, advisory media consultant at SAS Institute, Inc. and student in the Georgia Tech's Online Master of Science in Analytics program. "Many companies don't know how to navigate these changes, and really don't know how to embrace analytics, leverage it, and understand what it can do for them."

Know the fundamentals of business and management

As new technologies develop at an accelerating rate, employers are looking for management-level employees who understand how IT and project management systems impact their processes, timelines, and resources.

Burning Glass found that one in three IT jobs and a total of 57% of engineering positions now require business, leadership, and management skills.

"It's not just learning the tech skills, but it's understanding how to collaborate, how to build those relationships, and how to build solutions," says Sheryl Friedman, vice president of university relations at Trilogy Education Services. "Automation may change the way we interact, but there will still be a need for interaction and teamwork across time zones, across countries, and across disciplines to be effective."

Learn how to think like a designer

While machines can automate decision-making, we need human-centered innovation to translate internal and external user needs through optimized interfaces, seamless experiences, and streamlined services.

Design should be spread over the entire organization from strategic planning to process development and IT support. In fact, jobs as user interface or other types of design are growing 35% per year, according to Burning Glass.

In addition to advanced technical proficiency and a good understanding of the online platform, you'll need a firm grasp on internal business resources such as people, products, and processes. This ensures solutions are meeting the needs of the organization, which reduces redundancies and helps to foster successful outcomes.

Position yourself for hybrid jobs

Burning Glass found that only 16% of hybrid jobs are entry-level, indicating that this new career formula isn't only for newbies. All professionals, regardless of experience, will need to focus on these key skill areas to avoid becoming obsolete.

"New knowledge is being created at a pace with which we can barely keep up. If you graduated more than 15 years ago and have not stayed current in your field, you need to consider professional education to get up-to-date," says Nelson Baker, dean of Georgia Tech Professional Education.

And while technology is fueling the skills gap, it may also be the biggest part of the solution when it comes to preparing for the future workforce.

Short-term training, such as open online courses and boot camps, can quickly add new skills to old competencies. While program certificates and online master's degrees can provide flexible, project-based learning opportunities that demonstrate versatility and agility.

"Today's workers need to be T-shaped thinkers who have deep expertise required for their areas of specialization," explains Baker. "But also social breadth and the ability to collaborate and make connections across disciplines."