Just under half of all businesses say they will feel the impact of workplace digital transformation this year. That is the finding of the Robert Half 2020 Salary Guide. During the study, 49 per cent of firms cited digitisation as being the biggest influencer over the year ahead.
Digital readiness: feeling the effects of automation
The widespread focus on digital skills is a symptom of what many commentators refer to as the ‘futureproofing’ of work.
On the one hand, digital automation will create exponential efficiencies in the way we work. On the other had, the rapid evolution of the technology has made the future an increasingly uncertain place. Even the best-placed experts find it hard to predict where we could be in ten, five, or even two years from now. This has created a hoarder mentality among larger employers. Firms are hiring anybody in possession of digital skills, for often unrelated roles. The aim is to retain those value skills until they are needed, further down the line.
In hiring terms, this is the wider narrative of how futureproofing is affecting the recruitment industry. And it has led to some interesting trends within the global jobs market.
How digitisation created some unexpected winners
The Robert Half study confirms this: some 71 per cent of businesses reported facing difficulties when making new hires. Few surprises there: specialist digital skills are in short supply. But what is perhaps more interesting is how the effects of digitisation are being felt in often unexpected and unrelated fields.
To illustrate the breadth of the impact of workplace digitisation, Robert Half compiled a list of key positions likely to benefit from futureproofing in the short-term.
1) Payments Manager
Payment habits and methods are changing, as online commerce dominates retail and financial sectors. It has led to a spike in demand for payments managers in all sectors. Robert Half draws particular attention to professionals who possess good soft skills within the discipline: “Payments managers who effectively oversee settlements, confirmation, reconciliations and investigations with strong commercial awareness and effective communications skills will be highly sought after in 2020.”
2) Compliance Analyst
If you thought that GDPR readiness was complicated, the future could be about to get even more difficult. As Britain exits the EU, businesses await potentially new legislation which could translate GDPR standards into UK laws.
3) Infrastructure Architect
It is almost impossible to conceive of a commercial web presence which doesn’t use cloud computing these days. Infrastructure architects develop cloud-based services and help businesses integrate them with their own operations. This highly specialised set of skills is therefore among the most sought-after in the IT sector.
4) Digital Marketing Manager
The internet has been a great democratising tool in the sense that it allows any business to sell to anyone, anywhere. The flipside to this is that now businesses are forced to compete against each other, regardless of their locations, too. Digital marketing skills are increasingly viewed as a significant element of futureproofing, as they provide a competitive edge in the largest free market of them all: cyberspace.
Demand for accountancy talent is fairly consistent. But Robert Half provides an insightful take on why the role may be increasingly required. “They perform the accounting tasks for their organisation and provide general financial advice to their managing director, shareholders and managers. As some business leaders consider the possibility of restructuring as a result of Brexit, the value of such accountants will only increase.” Accountants who are able to provide broad, costed financial advice will help relieve some of the stress of uncertainty.
6) IT Project Manager
Agile working is increasingly common in today’s decentralised environments. Individuals who possess the required technical and soft skills to deliver accurate results – on time and in budget – are a vital part of every agile team. Combining sound technical know-how with exemplary people skills, employers view good project managers as a sound and versatile investment in human capital.
7) Assistant Management Accountant
Assistant management account is the only junior position identified by Robert Half in their list of 2020’s most wanted. They offer a compelling reason why organisations are eager to train some skills in-house: “the offer of study packages is an enticement for junior talent and enables companies to coach and develop promising employees in order to nurture and secure later success for the business. Research shows firms who hire talent and provide on-the-job training are rewarded with increased business productivity and employee loyalty.” In short? It’s all about retention.
8) Application Support Engineer
The corny soundbite “There’s an app for that!” is already eleven years old. And what was true back in 2009 is double obvious now. Web and mobile applications are the cornerstone of many commercial operations. They are used to improve sales funnels, the user experience and, sometimes, the app is the product itself. Whatever the business model, there is already huge demand for developer skills in the field.
9) Procurement Manager
Managing company budgets can be the deciding factor in its fortunes. Ineffective outgoings are a drain on resources and – if we have learned anything – it is that the future is efficient. Smart procurement managers possess deep analytic skills. What is affordable? What is effective? Are we missing any golden opportunities, or accepting unnecessary exposure through a risky partnership? Just like the company account, a procurement manager reduces the pressure on decision-makers during periods of uncertainty.
10) HR Advisor
It is little surprise that an employment expert makes it into a list so obviously dominated by hiring concerns. A sound HR advisor creates a secure and welcoming environment. They develop policy and practices that ensure rights and responsibilities are adhered to. Most importantly of all, they improve talent acquisition and retention rates among the workforce.
How efficiencies became the bedrock of the future
One clear commonality emerges from our run-through of 2020’s most wanted list. Efficiency is the watchword of business in 2020.
It is not difficult to understand why. As I have alluded to several times in this article, the next twelve months are likely to be characterised by uncertainties. Uncertainties over Brexit, the single market, implementation of new employment laws like IR35; and technological uncertainties. It is difficult to predict where we will be twelve months from now. Businesses, therefore, are responding by becoming leaner, faster, and more efficient.
As Matt Weston, managing director of Robert Half UK, says:
“As the UK is propelled into the fourth industrial revolution, businesses are focused on attracting top professionals that can help drive technological advancement and maintain their competitive edge. With the rapid implementation of new technologies, such as automation, AI and machine learning, the skills needed to ensure a company’s digital evolution are in short supply – making the war for talent all the more competitive.”
“Companies must attract highly-skilled professionals to bolster existing teams, while simultaneously identifying opportunities to upskill existing employees. Evaluating current remuneration packages, as well as offering wider incentives such as training and flexible working practices, are core to attracting the right talent to help secure your business for the future of work.”
Each one of the ten most sought-after roles represents this in some way. Perhaps it is through adaptability and multitasking: enabling the same personnel to be re-deployed to troubleshoot or offer advice over myriad concerns. Maybe they act as a hedge: against unpredictable trends that emerge in technology or user behaviour. Some are simply an old-fashioned investment in the future itself: nurturing and developing the next generation of talent.