Tech jobs spring up as companies adapt to new world of work
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The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world of work as we know it. Reducing human contact has led to the mass adoption of working from home and accelerated companies’ reliance on digital technology and the telecoms networks that underpin it.
Meanwhile, thousands of workers have been forced to move to new industries as the pandemic threatens the future of their chosen sector, and the trauma of a global pandemic and recession has highlighted the need for mental health support at work.
So what jobs are likely to be in demand in the economy of the future? The FT asked experts and companies around the world for five real life examples:
Head of health and wellbeing
Rachel Warwick, global head of culture and engagement at Ocado, says the pandemic has shone an “additional spotlight” on employees’ health and wellbeing. The UK online grocer is creating a new role to unify the approach across the business.
“The pandemic has made people more aware of the human that is behind a role,” she says. “I do not think businesses didn’t think about this before, but they have just become more aware. Everybody is thinking about it now.”
In any company, data savvy individuals with expert communication skills will be needed to manage these concerns across the organisation. “Actually how we gather data to inform what this role will focus on is so important,” Ms Warwick says. “How do we proactively communicate — whether you are working remotely or you are on the front line — how do you proactively give information to people at the right time so you can support their health and wellbeing?”
Chief bias officer
As the pandemic pushes companies towards technology, artificial intelligence is likely to spread even faster — and it will need to be managed.
“Wherever you have a marketplace model that is powered by AI, you will always need to be proactively thinking about bias and where it can emerge,” says Brian Hershey, head of enterprise strategy at Gloat, an employee network for businesses.
Mr Hershey says this will lead to the emergence of “chief bias officer” roles, a job that will help mitigate against potential bias in AI but also be used to reach business objectives, such as diversity metrics.
“Bias in AI is really something we believe you can never fully eliminate. That is why there is this need for a role that is thinking: ‘What are the objectives for the organisation, and what are the barriers to achieving that objective?’,” he says. “This ‘chief bias officer’ is actually something that is tied directly to business value.”
Head of remote
The transition to flexible working is creating demand for roles that help manage the move, as well as the future hybrid workforce. In some companies, existing workers have picked up these responsibilities, while in others, such as Facebook, new positions have been created.
“The head of remote is probably an operational title, someone who oversees this organisational change to the remote world,” says Raj Choudhury, professor at Harvard Business School. For example, Mr Choudhury says the individual will have to set guidelines on what knowledge is “codified”, or written down. “You can no longer tap someone on the shoulder and ask ‘How do I file an expense report?’” he says. “It is this habit of writing down everything, the head of remote can convince people this is necessary and make sure everyone has the tools to do this.”
Other responsibilities, Mr Choudhury says, could include setting company-wide policies on communication and socialising in the virtual world.
In a tech-enabled economy, data scientists and analysts are king.
“Frontier work — new and emerging technology, artificial intelligence, SEO marketing — has been extremely resilient throughout the pandemic,” says Karen Fichuk, chief executive of global recruitment agency Randstad. “If anything, clients are accelerating their digital business throughout the pandemic.”
Mr Choudhury adds that the push to reduce human contact and social distance is likely to increase demand for tools that replace human interaction. “For example, a company that does IT operations: in the earlier world they would go to a client and they would spend a week at the clients’ site mapping out physical processes. Now there is software on the company’s side that goes and reads the software on the client’s side instead,” he says.
“The fact that the world is going remote just creates a huge opportunity for data scientists to create tools that would replicate or replace what human beings were doing in face-to-face interactions earlier on.”
Pre-pandemic, demand for roles on the frontier of modern technologies was not being met by supply. The sudden impact of the pandemic is likely to widen this gulf, while workers in other sectors are facing existential threats.
The combination, says Ms Fichuk, could lead to more positions that manage reskilling — not least to save cash-strapped businesses the cost of recruiting.
“You have talent acquisition, and then the term for that which companies are using right now is ‘internal mobility’. So instead of asking people to move on, there’s a lot of energy around how do we actually take the skills that we have in companies today and apply them to the jobs of the future that we need.”