Juggling talent_Crop

FEATURE28 December 2018

Preview 2019: skills and talent

Features Trends UK

So, 2019 is going to be a challenge for businesses in many – still unknown – ways. What skills and talents will be most vital to the industry in the coming months?

Technology, data, analytics...

Steve Phillips, chief executive, ZappiStore
Stop thinking questions, start thinking data. Uncover which role you can play in and around the emergence of artificial intelligence. Broaden your skill set, start attending conferences, and learn about the latest innovations.

Andrew O’Connell, managing director UK, Research Now SSI
Analytics. The slower than expected uptake of passively collected behavioural data highlights a skills gap to fully encompass all the available data sets.

Frédéric-Charles Petit, chief executive and founder, Toluna
While I am tempted to say tech skills and increased expertise in AI, that is only half of the story. Market research has become increasingly automated. Yet, as research becomes more automated, people in the industry, especially those providing insights to brands, will have a leg up if they are skilled in data interpretation. Market research solutions are most powerful when powered by the fusion of both tech and expertise.

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
Market researchers who are truly tech-savvy. This goes beyond the ability to use new technology and is all about researchers and consultants who understand the positive impact that new technology can have to deliver robust strategic direction to our clients. 

Ray Poynter, chief executive, The Future Place
The ability to deploy and add value to automation, AI, and Big Data.

A blend of multiple skills...

Will Galgey, chief executive UK & Ireland of insights, Kantar
Agility, synthesis and creativity – to get data at speed, integrate data sources and blend them to provide insight that helps businesses make better decisions, quickly.

Ben Hogg, managing director EMEA and APAC, Lucid
What would be interesting to see would be a growth in researchers that have both the analytical skills to make sense of big data sets, and qualitative experience in providing context to the data. That’s where I see the industry moving now, and having individuals that could do both would really set the industry apart.

Adele Gritten, managing director, Future Thinking
Those who can blend data artistry and data science. The Polymath, the commercial brain, those who can learn quickly and pick up new skills in line with how their role requirements are evolving.

Andy Brown, chief executive, Kantar Media
Last year, I talked about the need for more holistic thinkers, and really that remains the same. The industry needs professionals with a holistic skill set, able to bridge between large-scale behavioural data and the smaller, more traditional market research solutions, harnessing the benefit and balance across the two components. We need storytellers and we need data scientists, in particular.


Anna Cliffe, joint managing director and founder, Trinity McQueen
Creativity, flexibility, adaptability and empathy are all crucial skills/traits that cannot be automated and are needed to deliver true value from data.

Annie Pettit, research methodologist
Technology is becoming easy. Chatbots are sort of plug and play and, in a couple years, anyone will be able to create one just like we create questionnaires with SurveyMonkey. However, genuine, empathetic understanding and respect for human beings is a skill and talent not yet accessible to robots and AI. Those researchers who are able to imbue kindness and respect in their research will help marketers build better products and services. Kindness is the way to the heart of people who participate in research.


Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
Adaptability is something we are looking at. There are increasing demands for the best agencies to be flexible to gain and secure the best people. As a people business, we need to ensure we look after this valuable resource. We are training our staff in mental health awareness and are constantly looking at ways to maintain and reward a flexible working pattern. There’s some courage in telling clients we are not always available 24/7 but as our client base is also changing, it’s not as hard as you might think.

Sinead Jefferies, consultant, Watermelon Research
For me it’s about the industry’s ability to harness the talent it has available. Over the past year I’ve spoken to so many people about flexible working and think we have a huge amount of work to do to be an industry that is genuinely a great place to work and one that truly supports its people. 

And some others...

Tom Ewing, head of communications and market intelligence, System1 
Be adaptive, be cool-headed, and in a world of fake news be honest about the truths your data reveals – especially when they don’t match client perceptions.

Deborah Mattinson, founding partner, BritainThinks
Our industry continues to lack the client focus that many marcomms services have at the heart of their offer. The people that do well understand that their job is building client relationships, not just ‘doing research’.

Desirée Lopez, chief executive, Flamingo Group
I said it last year, and it is probably even more true for 2019: optimism. Plus a healthy dose of curiosity.

Jane Frost, chief executive, Market Research Society
We’d like to establish a professional approach to intelligence capital. How can businesses take insight and augment it with data from across the entire company? Integration will be the key that takes insight to the next level. 

Sabine Stork, founding partner, Thinktank
The ability to keep calm amidst Brexit uncertainty.

Peter Totman, head of qualitative, Jigsaw
The human ones, not the technological ones, and also intellectual agility. We need to stick to the bricoleur model of multiple lenses and not become the slave of any one discipline...not even behavioural economics, which seems to be taking over Impact magazine.