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FEATURE5 January 2018

Preview 2018: skills and talents

Big Data Features Innovations Technology Trends

From intuition and empathy to advanced analytics, our panellists highlight the key skills and talents that will be most vital to the industry in the coming 12 months. 

Annie Pettit, research methodologist
Our industry needs a new kind of unicorn, one that understands technology and one that is ethical and human. Technology is going to affect all of us and whether you’re an engineer, designer, or questionnaire writer, we all need to speak the language of technology to ensure the work we do is done properly and efficiently. At the same time, our human qualities are becoming more important than ever. We’ve seen numerous cases were AI and automation vastly improved technical efficiencies. But, we discovered that those same systems also perpetuated racism and sexism. Humanism is essential to identify and prevent this from happening. We desperately need employees who are genuinely kind, caring, understanding, and flexible.

Desirée Lopez, chief executive, Flamingo Group
– a real belief in the value of our work and the future of our industry; integration of methods, tech and disciplines; integrity in how we work, who we work with and how we communicate, and exploration – looking for answers in new places and being curious about the world.

Leah Kennedy, head of global insight, BT
I’m looking for someone who can think commercially and strategically, has an inquisitive and analytical mindset, is fearless when it comes to challenging and provoking stakeholders (in the right way of course!), is a brilliant and inspiring communicator, and has a relentless drive to change things for the better.

Dave Bostock, head of digital, Simpson Carpenter
An understanding of the use and application of market research techniques, methodologies and outcomes. The more that is automated due to price and time pressures, the more there will become a skills gap with the retirement of people who actually understand, for example, what a TURF analysis is. Of course, there is a need to be technically skilled and innovative, but it needs to be paired with an understanding of why we do things.

Joe Staton, strategic innovation director, GfK
Digital adaptability. The quality of being able to adjust to new conditions is a distinct advantage in the harshly competitive global economy.

Caroline Frankum, global chief executive, Lightspeed
Individuals with diverse backgrounds, who see change and uncertainty as exciting opportunities for driving change for the better around being more inclusive, more client-centric and more solution-orientated. This means having role models who have empathy to see other people’s perspectives and are not afraid to take bold, creative and fast approaches to inspiring, empowering and retaining great talent and great clients. 

Susan Vidler, head of research, Harris Interactive
The research industry needs an ever-increasing mix of strong technical, creative, communication and analysis skills.  It is the combination of these and new skill sets that will determine success.  Bringing the right skills, people and technology together to solve business issues is, and will continue to be, critical in 2018.

Andy Brown, chief executive, Kantar Media
There are two vital roles we need to fill, as an industry, in 2018: Holistic thinkers, who can work across both ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’, and those who are holistic in a sense that they understand the roles and limitations of different methodologies. And data scientists – people who can manage and organise big data, and make it talk to small data.

Ben Page, chief executive, Ipsos Mori
Curation of too much information to prevent infobesity, storytelling to help busy decision makers, and just understanding how client businesses actually work to improve relevance.

Peter Totman, head of qualitative, Jigsaw
The human skills that will ensure the industry survives and thrives as the bots take over – intuition, imagination, empathy, originality.

Steve Phillips, chief executive, Zappistore
For researchers it is most important now to focus on consulting and working out how their long-term skills work with technology, not instead of it. Work out what you think the research industry will look like in three to five years and then determine what role you will play in that world.

Will Ullstein, commercial director, YouGov
Skills in great demand in 2018 will continue to be those that underpin our industry: first class researchers and storytellers and excellent account management and sales. Those particularly worth singling out in the talent race however are: data scientists, engineers and architects – those able to do very clever things with data: drawing out insight, creating new models, training AI bots and managing and designing systems to store and organise data.

But the businesses that will win in 2018 will no doubt be those that have the right culture and leadership – businesses that are able to effectively listen to and understand the market, learn from their own data and adapt in line with their corporate strategy.

Will Galgey, UK chief executive, Kantar TNS
The skills of analytics and synthesis. Integrating data and insights from multiple strands into a simple, coherent story.

Crispin Beale, chief executive, Chime Insight & Engagement Group
Technology and the ability to use it to its full potential will be key, meaning the addition of expert developers and programmers to research teams will be paramount. In addition, being able to tune into the mood of consumers, looking at behavioural economics and social media listening skills, will be vital. Another very important skill will be the ability to articulate the story analytics unveils in a way that is accessible to stakeholders. It is only by ensuring clients understand the real value of your research and making insights actionable, that research agencies will be able to prove their worth in 2018, and remain successful.

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
Advanced analytics. It is vital we make the best use of the wide array of data at our disposal.

Tom Ewing, head of communications, System1
These never change! Curiosity, integrity, good communication skills.