FEATURE4 January 2021

Preview 2021: Skills and talents

Covid-19 Data analytics Features UK

What skills and talents are most vital to the market research industry in 2021? Resilience, emotional intelligence, communication skills and business acumen will be key, according to our industry contributors. 

ball of coloured elastic bands

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
The ability to think and act for the long-term rather than react and retract in face of short-term thinking from both clients and management alike.

Ben Hogg, managing director Emea and Apac, Lucid
The ability to work unsupervised. Superlative communication skills. Offices won’t be opening for a while yet and even when they do, in many cases, they will be used more as a hub for collaboration and team meetings rather than where we go to work every day. 

Caroline Frankum, chief executive, Kantar Profiles
While technical, analytical, marketing and management skills will remain important, this past year of pivotal, purposeful, human inflection has reinforced just how crucial often ignored soft skills are for staying relevant and equipped for a rapidly changing world and workforce.

So, for me courageous leadership, emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication, cognitive flexibility, and futuristic thinking are all key skills that will help us continue to think outside the box, push past our comfort zones to learn and experience new things, and recognise how to bring the best out of others to ensure we stay energised by change and can adapt readily to the unknown with bold, decisive, inclusive action.

Shazia Ginai, chief executive, Neuro Insight
I would focus on two things: listening and adapting. Whether it’s understanding consumers or understanding your team members, it has never been more important for us to listen. And the ability to adapt has never felt more of an essential life skill given the past year.

Annie Pettit, research methodologist
Technological intelligence will continue to be extremely important. We don’t all need to know the intricate details of programming with R and Python, but we do need to understand how programming works and how it uses the data we give it. This is one of the key ways we can dismantle the racism and sexism we’ve built into algorithms and create real equity within the myriad consumer and customer applications our research is used to build.

Frederic Charles Petit, chief executive, Toluna
Ideally, a combination between a data scientist, researcher and engineer. And of course, the access and ability to demonstrate research return-on-investment to the c-suite will be crucial.

Sinead Jefferies, founder, Vela
Firstly, there needs to be a focus on skills that help people excel when working from home – whether that is changing how we collaborate and work collectively, how you can rely on your own self-motivation or how to make an impact in a virtual world. This is important for both businesses and individuals to focus on.

Secondly, everything to do with delivering research and insight online, being able to have the vision to see new ways of engaging with participants, having the technical and design skills to come up with more tools for us to use in connecting with people and giving them a voice. There is more appetite than ever for new ways of engaging, so those who have the ability to do this will undoubtedly thrive.

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
We are looking for a range of multidisciplinary approaches: semiotics, psychologists, behavioural scientists, cultural anthropologists, sociologists, storytellers, etc. Diversity and agility are key moving forward.

Peter Totman, head of qualitative, Jigsaw
We need to reassert the traditional qual skills. We need people who are intuitive and empathetic, but they also need to be sound strategic thinkers, able to advise clients what their insights mean to the brand. Those people are few and far between.

Ryan Howard, freelance data science consultant
Data’s growing importance in our industry has expanded the scope of related roles, cementing in a whole raft of demands including data governance, development, systems, and strategy – even at entry level, advanced data munging skills alone don’t cut it. While cold maths still doesn’t care one way or another, teams who seek candidates with both ‘the why’ and ‘the how’ are making strident inroads, because they can relate the technical stuff to commercial end goals. Teams unwittingly focussing on one or the other, continue to tread water. Though insultingly obvious, from one hiring decision to the next, it’s easier said than done.

Anna Cliffe, joint managing director, Trinity McQueen
Confidence, credibility, command. We’ve got to step up to the plate now.

Lizzie Gilthorpe, managing director, Differentology
In the past we’ve supplemented our project managers, researchers and analysts, with people from the tech industry, and those with creative minds. I’m excited to see what skillsets we can bring from other industries into ours, to help make us all better.

Jane Bloomfield, chief growth officer UK, Kantar
Curiosity, flexibility and a healthy dose of resilience. It is going to be another tough year.

Ryan Barry, chief revenue officer, Zappi
Curiosity. Emotional intelligence. Business acumen. Storytelling.

Ben Page, chief executive, Ipsos Mori
We still need more people with advisory skills and more data analytics.