A New World Of Talent And Change

A New World Of Talent And Change

A revolution in the world of work

An extraordinary transformation in the world of work is taking place. As the internet and digital automation eat away at many routine tasks, traditional blue-collar occupations, such as the bank clerk, customer service agent and salesperson, are disappearing. This is change on the same scale as the industrial revolution, only this time the pace is faster and quickening by the day.

As technological change accelerates – and other trends such as shifting patterns of consumer behaviour and new directions in government policy and regulation make themselves felt – more roles will disappear. We may soon be able to add accountant, lawyer and GP to the list.

As part of this transformation, entirely new roles will emerge, too. In the pharmaceutical sector, for example, highly qualified account managers will come to replace sales reps. Pushing pills will be out; working closely with healthcare commissioners to develop rounded solutions built around a combination of drugs, therapies and technologies will be in. In marketing, traditional marketers will start to make way for marketing technologists. These will be professionals skilled in exploiting data and analytics to develop sophisticated digital marketing strategies and platforms. Meanwhile, in engineering, a new breed of engineer, with multi-disciplinary expertise will squeeze out specialists with a narrow focus.

Where this revolution will take us is unclear, but we only need to look around to see it is having an impact now. The world of work is already becoming polarised. At one end of the scale, low-paid jobs, such as cleaning and catering, require minimal skills, are often temporary and may leave the people who do them under-employed. At the other end, highly paid jobs offer skilled people the opportunity to be part of exciting developments in science, technology and the creative industries.

Is your organisation ready?

As these changes unfold, the future for talent is likely to be one marked by continuous and disruptive change. There will be big shifts in how businesses do things and what people do at work. The roles that exist today will need to change and adapt. Predicting and planning for this change now is vital. Stand back to wait and see exactly how these trends play out and you risk getting left behind.

As you prepare of a new world of talent and change, there are some key questions your organisation can ask:

  • What capabilities will we need in future?
  • How much capacity will we require?
  • What’s the best way of developing, building and preserving this capability?
  • Where might change have a significant impact on the resources we need?
  • Where might talent, capability and the ability to manage change give us a competitive advantage?

Let’s talk about talent and change

PA’s Talent and Change hub provides a platform for exploring these questions. If you’re a professional involved in human resources, learning and development, or organisational development, we hope you’ll be part of the conversation. The hub is a place where we aim to encourage a passionate and informed debate around the big issues shaping the world of work. We’ll float new thinking, challenge each other’s ideas and stake out the best way forward for organisations facing massive challenges on talent and change.

The technological, social and political changes bringing about a revolution in the nature of work demand an urgent response from organisations in every sector. Are you ready to talk?


Three examples from the new frontier

With massive technological, social and political change driving a transformation in the world of work, new roles are emerging to take the place of jobs established for decades, if not centuries.

The pharmaceuticals account manager:  In the pharmaceutical industry, complex and integrated healthcare systems, more stringent regulation and advances in healthcare technology are redefining the role of the sales rep. The days of pushing pills are over. In future, sales representatives will need to become more like account managers. They’ll work with customers such as hospitals or commissioning bodies to understand their needs and will play a key role in developing the right solution, which is increasingly like to be a combination of drugs, technology and therapies.

The skills required to fulfil this role will be markedly different. It will demand better-qualified people, capable of understanding complex challenges and developing rounded solutions. It will also require a shift in ethos. Future pharmaceutical reps will need to put the patient rather than the product first in order to build profitable, consultative relationships with their customers.

The marketing technologist: Traditional marketing roles are undergoing extraordinary transformation. Data and analytics now shape the discipline, and digital and social media have replaced print, billboards and traditional advertising at the heart of the marketing function.

Today’s marketers need a brand-new skill set. They must be able to manage multichannel strategies, shape the business model, inform technology investments, drive operational performance, deploy sophisticated data and analytics, and immerse themselves in everything social and digital. The new role of ‘marketing technologist’ is emerging, but already there is a shortage of people with these hybrid and emergent skills

The multi-disciplinary engineer: Engineering was once characterised by a set of specialist disciplines, in areas such as mechanical or electrical engineering. But today’s engineers are increasingly working across these traditional disciplines to develop and implement solutions to new challenges. And, with advances in technology, new engineering specialisms are emerging too.

In the future, engineers will no longer have the option to work in traditional silos. They will need to be able to operate across a range of disciplines and have the soft skills required for effective collaboration.  This has ramifications not just for businesses that employ engineers but also for the universities that teach them and the professional bodies that represent engineering. The role of the future engineer will need to transcend traditional academic and professional boundaries.


Tara Jones is a director in PA Consulting’s London office, where Dennis Layton is a principal.

The authors would like to thank Andrea Alexander, Mauricio Arnau, Lori Dobeus, Kirill Dushkin, Lauren Miller, and Katie Smith for their contributions to this report.

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