Hays UK blog


The jobs and skills to seek out in 2018

By Alistair Cox, CEO of Hays

It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, the fourth industrial revolution, combined with a more globalised, competitive world, is changing the way we all work – both now and in the future. We must all be prepared for more change during our careers in the next five to ten years than we’ve ever managed through before.

However, despite the more sensationalist headlines predicting the demise of the human worker, at Hays we simply don’t see this happening. Just the opposite in some ways as we are, in fact, seeing an explosion in new roles around AI and data and a relentless demand for specific soft skills such as adaptability, creativity and collaboration. After all, and as I’ve said before, we’re yet to see an algorithm that can read things like humour, temperament or enthusiasm as effectively as a person can.

No one can afford to stand still though. Employers must future-proof their talent pipelines, because their better competitors will be doing just that. Employees and jobseekers must do everything they can to secure their future employability. It’s never too soon to act on these issues.

To help in this quest, I recently spoke with several of our consultants around the world to get a real-time picture of the job and skills trends we expect to continue into 2018 and well beyond. I hope this proves useful when looking forward to the year ahead – no matter which side of the hiring process you’re on. It’s not meant to be an exhaustive list in any way, but should at least identify some of the key trends we see as common across the world.

Data-driven and AI jobs are shaping the future

AI is about to become the new UI. With the rise of virtual assistants in the home such as Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, we are already beginning to engage with technology in a whole new way. This makes technology a lot more accessible to a new demographic and offers a different way to engage existing users. Businesses need AI developers who can apply AI technology in a consumer context to help fuel this trend.

Meanwhile, AI candidates who don’t just understand the technical aspects of AI, but also the wider business opportunities, are also in high demand. Developers who can tailor AI applications to enhance companies and optimise business processes will do very well. Recruiters and employers will be clamouring after these developers – and this high level of competition will be reflected in their salaries too.

Data feeds the AI machine and it’s the new corporate currency, overtaking oil as the world’s most valuable resource, according to The Economist. Digital information mountains have grown, and the rise in Internet of Things technology is accelerating this. However, data without insight is of no value, which explains why we are seeing a sharp rise in Data Scientist, Data Analyst, Data Artists and Data Visualiser vacancies around the world. These professionals make sense of a business’ data, helping to turn zeros and ones into actionable insights, whether that’s changes in customer behaviour or new opportunities which haven’t yet been spotted by human eyes.

Data is driving demand for several sector-specific roles too. In marketing for example, Marketing Automation, Performance Marketers, Customer Analytics and CRM Specialists are in demand as businesses seek to target customers in even more sophisticated and personalised ways. That doesn’t mean that these roles are constrained to one dominant industry though. Financial services, manufacturing and logistics are all emerging as sectors requiring AI and data experts, together with a recent growth in popularity of government-focused data scientist roles. We expect the role of the data scientist to be ubiquitous across all industries.

Don’t ignore more ‘traditional’ roles

All of this doesn’t mean more ‘traditional’ tech and non-tech specific roles will become less valued, although certain traditional job roles will be under increasing threat.

Skilled Software Developers are in high demand, particularly those with front-end user interface experience, as organisations evolve their digital offering to meet changing consumer expectations. Java and scalable programming languages remain preferred, although there is still a need for C++ fluency despite increasing migration from legacy systems.

Preparation for regulatory changes across several industries, as well as a continued focus on digital transformation, are creating a myriad of large-scale projects. This will drive increasing demand for project and change management professionals, particularly in project manager and business analyst roles.

We are also seeing a healthy demand for part- and newly-qualified accountants in many countries including the UK. Those looking for roles in these fields would do well to seek out organisations in the private sector, particularly in medium to large organisations, where these professionals are being sought to help conduct increasingly complex data analysis to drive better-informed commercial insights.

New entrants to the boardroom

With the advent of AI and the IoT, there will be an increased need for leaders who can test and retest systems to ensure their security, provide solutions if a hack should happen and keep up with the evolving technical landscape to produce future-proofed and secure systems. As a result, we are seeing an increase in demand for Chief Cyber Security Officers (CCSOs) to oversee an organisation’s approach to cyber security and the growing teams of engineers who implement it. 

As companies scramble to comply with the impending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25 May 2018, demand for data governance experience is also escalating. This regulation is predicted to create demand for at least 75,000 Data Protection Officer positions worldwide. Within data science, the GDPR imposes limits on data processing and consumer profiling, and increases the accountability of organisations storing and managing personal data. It’s a vital piece of legislation and any leader of an organisation must understand its impact because it is profound. I’m amazed at how many businesses have only just started to think about the issue. They will have a lot of catching up to do on what is a complex new area to navigate and Boards need to be on top of the situation.

Meanwhile, managing increasingly complex customer touch points and data has triggered a new era for Boardroom customer champions. My colleagues at Hays have identified an increasing demand for Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) who help break down silos within organisations, improve the customer journey and innovate in the areas of high demand.

Across the Boardroom table you may also start seeing a Chief Automation Officer (CAOs) as businesses recognise AI’s revolutionary potential, but remain alert to the unforeseen impact it could have on their business model. At the same time, the fierce battle to innovate quicker than competitors is fuelling an increase in Chief Innovation Officers whose role is focused on managing the process of innovation and change management in an organisation.

Human skills for a tech driven world

While technical skills, specifically around data and technology, are in great demand, soft skills will continue to be as, if not more, important to employers. As I wrote in a previous blog, while the best technical skills and qualifications in the world can be taught, they will have limited impact unless your business is equipped with managers who understand what motivates their employees, can communicate with their team effectively and listen. Those organisations who can marry the best technology and ‘technical’ skills with teams who have an abundance of emotional intelligence will win.

That’s exactly what we are doing within our own business. As I outlined in my last blog, a new ‘Find & Engage’ model of recruitment has emerged. This takes the best recruitment practices and candidate relationships and combines those with today’s emerging technologies and data science techniques to ensure that recruiters can find the very best candidates for any role, whether those individuals are overtly looking for a new opportunity or not.

From my discussions with our consultants, it’s clear that creativity, collaboration, human interpretation and communication skills top the list of things that employers are looking for in candidates. The most coveted job titles focus on translating the complex into something digestible, either for colleagues in an organisation or for the customer. The candidates that shine are those who not only produce smart solutions to challenges, but can package them up creatively and communicate how, where and why to implement them.

In this fast-moving world, a willingness to learn and adapt has never been so important. My advice for any candidate would be to plug any gaps in your knowledge by keeping on top of current trends and changes relevant to your sector by reading reports, news articles, attending networking functions and seminars, and participating in online discussions. Continually upskilling, whether by formal courses or on-the-job learning, helps ensure your talent remains relevant. Even those with formal qualifications should stay alert – the half-life of learned skills is estimated to be around five years – and some of the best leaders I know are role models for lifelong learning.

Adaptability in general will benefit candidates as the way we work continues to evolve. ’Portfolio careers’ will become more prevalent as employees move around organisations more, while businesses will need to rely more on contractors to fill skills gaps and achieve digital disruption within a business.
In a world where flexible and remote working is becoming more common place, employers will be looking for independently-minded candidates who can focus on the job at hand and have the ability to prioritise. Make sure you can demonstrate these traits when it comes to an interview, or can offer up this flexibility if you are looking to hire the best talent.

Disruption in the world of work is indiscriminate and everyone must take the time to stay relevant. This change shouldn’t be feared though. It comes with a host of new opportunities for both businesses and candidates, and I believe 2018’s jobs market will generate far more excitement than concern.

For more information or to discuss your recruitment needs, please contact your local consultant.

About this author

Alistair has been the CEO of Hays, plc since Sept. 2007. An aeronautical engineer by training (University of Salford, UK, 1982), Alistair commenced his career at British Aerospace in the military aircraft division. From 1983-1988, he worked Schlumberger filling a number of field and research roles in the Oil & Gas Industry in both Europe and North America.

In 2002, he returned to the UK as CEO of Xansa, a UK based IT services and back-office processing organisation. During his 5 year tenure at Xansa, he re-focused the organisation to create a UK leading provider of back-office services across both the Public and Private sector and built one of the strongest offshore operations in the sector ith over 6,000 people based in India.


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