As we enter the third – and hopefully final – year of the Covid-19 pandemic, it's worth pausing to reflect on the world prior to the virus. In 2019, while many businesses may have been exploring digital transformation or rethinking their office work arrangements, it was the pandemic, however, that undoubtedly accelerated their preparations.
Consumer behaviour has changed, and in a pandemic marked by a succession of lockdowns, convenience and customer experience became critical to win customers. Brand loyalty began to shift, and companies that failed to adapt risked losing revenue to competitors.
To succeed, businesses had to be agile and rethink their strategies, departments, and role duties. Because if Covid-19 taught CEOs anything, it was that the future is uncertain and that flexibility is a necessary component of success.
According to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs report by 2025, 44% of the skills required for individuals to do their jobs effectively would have changed. Redundant positions will fall from 15.4 percent to 9 percent of the workforce by 2025, while emerging professions will increase from 7.8 percent to 13.5 percent. Based on these figures, the report estimates that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift of the division of labour between humans and machines, while 97 million more jobs will emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms.
A Chief Hybrid Officer was probably unheard of two years ago, and while the function of a Customer Experience Director may have been on the HR radar, it wasn't critical to the bottom line - until now.
We speak with industry experts in this article about the new professional roles that will emerge in business in 2022 and beyond.
CX space is a small oasis for job seekers
The subject of job creation in South Africa has never been more critical or relevant, says Brent Haumann, Managing Director at Striata Africa.
“From my perspective there seems to be two major contributing factors. The first is obviously the lack of growth (and partial contraction) in the economy, with an expanding working class population entering the market. The second is the brain-drain of skills pouring out of the country to regions that seemingly promise a brighter future for education, pension funds and security. In the case of the latter, you'd expect this to open up positions, but without qualified people to fill these roles, it ultimately exacerbates our economic issues looping back to point one,” says Haumann.
Though there is no silver bullet approach to solving these problems, there are some pockets of sunshine that we can focus on for hope. One of those comes from the hyper-growth we have seen in the Digital Customer Experience space, and the world's insatiable need for Customer Experience professionals.
“I recently commented on social media that ‘Customer Experience' is no longer an after-thought... It now drives and shapes almost every single technology, operations, servicing and innovation decision.’ This opens up a wealth of opportunities for South Africans to find local and international jobs in this space, aided by a post-Covid world where location has become less of a recruitment hurdle. And given the global lack of resources, companies are looking for talent directly out of University.”
Haumann believes that Customer Experience requires a wide range of skills from user-experience, creative, and service design to user-research, journey mapping and various technical skills.
Haumann says, “As a result, there are a number of entry points into the industry which offer opportunities across a multitude of backgrounds and skills. I believe that with the right targeting of CV's and a good understanding of what job-seekers should be looking for, the CX space can create a small oasis for good people that are struggling find their next role.”
Introducing the Chief Hybrid Officer
The adoption of hybrid work models is well underway across industries as more companies seek to offer employees the best of both - the flexibility of working from home and the creative, collaborative environment the office provides.
“This new way of working necessitates the development of a new role, that of chief hybrid officer, to manage the relationship between the workforce and the workspace. The name of the position is irrelevant - it could be head of hybrid or even people officer - but its function is crucial,” says David Seinker, Founder & CEO, The Business Exchange.
The hybrid officer’s role is one that requires an open mind first and foremost, an understanding that the ways of the traditional office can’t simply be replicated for the hybrid environment. Seinker believes that it’s a role that requires an empathetic approach, because hybrid work is the manifestation of a model that acknowledges that productivity and performance has little to do with place.
“The hybrid officer is a great communicator, a natural facilitator and an excellent host. The role is one that combines the skills of people management with the expertise typically found in hospitality professionals, as the workplace continues to evolve into a space for networking, brainstorming and connecting - thus creating a very pleasant place to be - rather than the mere location where work is done,” explains Seinker.
Data experts come into play
The value of data is increasingly well documented and understood. It’s an important business resource and critical factor of production. Reagen Kok, CEO, Hoorah Digital argues that in order for organisations to effectively leverage and apply data to drive business objectives, that data still needs to be ordered, understood and managed.
“This is where the role of data experts comes into play. Positions that involve data management, in its various forms, are not new per se but they are becoming ever more pervasive as we rely on data to help drive progress, development and innovation,” says Kok.
Different industries require different data skills subsets but central to all these roles is an understanding of the value of data in addressing business challenges… and opportunities. Kok says, “Data experts are critical thinkers, adept at problem solving and obsessed with detail. The consummate data expert of the future is part analyst, part statistician and wholly human.”
New job roles, new skills
Workplaces are changing. New job functions are emerging, and organisations must accept them. However, new job roles involve the creation of new skills, and businesses must take the lead in assisting their employees in developing these new skills.
At the end of the day, employee training will assist businesses in meeting shifting consumer demands.