FEATURE3 January 2023

2023 preview: Skills and talents

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Our industry contributors consider what skills and talents will be in most demand during 2023.

Ben Shimshon, co-founder and managing partner, BritainThinks
Calm, wise heads.

Ryan Howard, marketing science consultant
We continue to fail at attracting and retaining technical talent – digital mavens, data scientists and developers. As automation becomes par, attention now turns to those who can best leverage and contribute to ‘restech’.

Turning these minds to everyday research challenges is where the commercial imperative has resided, and where it will remain for the foreseeable. Into the fold we now include the ill-fitting blend of qualitative interpretation, methodology and artificial intelligence that is ‘Big Qual’.

Annie Pettit, chief research officer, E2E Research
Hands down, empathy. Over the last few years, the news has been full of people managers calling their employees lazy and incompetent, rather than empathising with the struggles of managing illnesses, not getting raises and feeling ignored.

We’ve seen an abundance of webinars telling us that survey participants are fraudsters, rather than recognising that most people are good and kind and are just trying pay their bills. If we want to grow our businesses, retain amazing employees and rescue response rates, we desperately need to focus on empathy.

Peter Totman, head of qualitative, Jigsaw
Empathy (real empathy for our participants not the politicised kind), critical thinking, self-awareness and management of our own subjectivity.

Shazia Ginai, chief growth officer, Catalyx
Our greatest strength is in gathering data and synthesising insights, our greatest weakness is often our attachment to the safety of staying within the limits of the data. Market research is more of a reactive than proactive industry. The world is moving fast and in directions that leave us feeling surprised a lot of the time.

The industry needs forward thinking people who aren’t afraid of being provocative. People who think strategically and are proactive, not just reactive. The world is unpredictable, but we can’t sit frozen or we won’t be able to move through the turbulence and come out the other side.

Stephan Shakespeare, CEO and co-founder, YouGov
The research and analytics industry is increasingly defined by technology. Whether it is giving instant access to data, analysing specific audiences, doing self-serve research among niche samples or bringing zero-party data to life, it is only possible if you have the tools to do it.

Jane Frost, chief executive, MRS
The skills our sector needs really haven’t changed that much. A good researcher will still be professionally excellent, data proficient, business aware and, above all, a good storyteller. However, we do need to continue to adapt our methods to avoid monoculturalism.

We can be a very internal industry sometimes – with our own practices and terminology – and ensuring we’re not limited by this by adapting our storytelling is really important.

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
Now more than ever, the courage to think and act for the long term rather than react to short-term thinking and findings from both clients and management alike.

Ray Poynter, chief research officer, Potentiate
The ability for define the underlying question and methods for finding the story in the masses of data that are available to us.

Ryan Barry, president, Zappi
To succeed in 2023, insights professionals have to be comfortable with ambiguity, lead with empathy – for stakeholders and consumers – and tell stories. Consumer behaviours are changing faster than ever, and it’s the role of insights professionals to understand what they value and direct teams accordingly. 

We’re seeing the role of insights professionals shift from interpreters of numbers to true consultants. To make the greatest impact during periods of great change, it requires an ability to influence opinion, and the people that balance analysis with delivery will be well-positioned to bring tons of value to their organisation.

Frederic Charles-Petit, chief executive, Toluna
Agility and flexibility in the delivery of research will be paramount.

Nick Baker, chief research officer, Savanta
The ability to provide the perfect combination of commercial nous and advisory capabilities with data science and research expertise. The ‘what’ and the ‘why’, but empowered by tech solutions that liberalise the access to data to empower decision-making and activation that makes a real impact.