by Karen Armon, January 2014
This is the third year in which I’ve been invited to share with Profit Online readers the employment trends that I see emerging in the next year, what these trends mean relative to your career, and what you can do to prepare for these trends. This year I’d like to focus on three “micro-trends.” The term, first coined by Mark Penn and his co-author E. Kinney Zalesne in their book Microtrends, are those trends that are disruptive, at the margins, and are moving towards a tipping point in becoming a “new normal.” With the headwinds in our global economy slowly dying down, I believe that the following micro-trends are essential to setting yourself up for success in the next several years.
As we head into 2014, the growth of the economy will cause employers to increase their use of flexible workforce solutions for high-tech and special skills needed to accomplish the strategic goals of the company. Companies, in an effort to control costs and keep balance sheets healthy, have found that the cost of employment today is too expensive—particularly in higher-paid roles. Organizations continue to flatten, but need to tap into skills that are necessary for strategic growth. The solution will be turn to resources outside of the company in a project-based manner to accomplish these tasks. This is confirmed by a white paper published in November 2013 by Ardent Partners, a contingent workforce supplier in the high-tech industry. According to the report, The State of Contingent Workforce Management: A Framework for Success, there will be a 30 percent increase in the use of complex contingent labor in the next three years.
This trend of utilizing flexible, fluid, and highly-skilled individuals as contracted resource, however, requires that top talent learn how to become more flexible and fluid as well. Many are not prepared to be entrepreneurs after decades of being an employee. Yet for these individuals to have rewarding work with the commensurate high-income careers, learning how to be independent is a must.
The need for businesses to have well-rounded professionals who can “be in the room” when they talk about new products and services that customers want and desire is paramount.
Big data is nothing new. We’ve been collecting data for years. But the difference is that technology has allowed us to sort, compartmentalize, and organize data into context. In one of Linked-In’s Big Ideas articles, “Context is the New Content,” this context must be related to consumer trends that give businesses a heads-up on what customers want and will purchase. Context means that technology choices will compete for scarce dollars, and differentiation will be based not on the newest gadget, but on the most popular desire. Context also means that data about behaviors, however irrational, will need to be captured to meet consumers where they will be next.
That means that companies will need a chief data officer and team to understand the data and what it means relative to helping marketing and IT functions provide guidance. These data scientists will need to have know-how in business, marketing, and data analytics to turn these facts into strategic opportunities that businesses can exploit. These skills are unique, hard-to-find, and require higher-level thinking than currently employed in most companies. People who can analyze big data for sources of new revenue will be in high demand.
Last year, I wrote about this convergence at length: “Convergence in technology has been happening for some time now. Platforms, data, and applications continue to converge into one based upon new capabilities, sometimes driven by consumers and sometimes by breakthrough technologies…. Examples of this convergence can particularly be found in the technology-marketing mix. Marketing now is dependent upon technologies, particularly social, to communicate to customers, develop integrated strategies and utilize data to determine consumer trends. However, fewer functions are as far apart as information technology and marketing.”
This is going to be particularly true in 2014 with respect to strategy and business growth. According to TechRepublic, the lack of cross-over skill sets in most technology and marketing professionals means that there is a significant gap that must be filled.
Today, the need for businesses to have well-rounded professionals who can “be in the room” when they talk about new products and services that customers want and desire is paramount. No longer can technology professionals rely on their ability to be the smartest engineer in the room. Marketing professionals seem to have embraced the fact that technology is part and parcel of products and services today, but I find that many technology professionals still lack the essential business skills to help organizations significantly.