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FEATURE28 December 2021

Preview 2022: Skills and talents

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Technical, analytical, marketing and management skills will all be key for the market research industry during the year ahead, as will the traits of adaptability, self-awareness and compassion, according to our overview of industry opinion.  

James Endersby, chief executive, Opinium
It is vital that the insight agency world remembers that emotional intelligence is, and will continue to be, just as important as having strong analytical skills. It’s all about people – agency colleagues embedded in our client teams. The machines are here, for sure, we use the best out there, but while our passion certainly revolves around the discovery of game-changing insight, we also need people who are able to interpret, empathise and communicate with clients as if they were colleagues in their team.

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
The ability to think and act for the longer term rather than react to short-term thinking and findings from clients and management will be essential.

Nick Baker, global chief research officer, Savanta
People, development and getting the best talent into the industry is vital. Ensuring we embrace the fresh, new views from those entering the MR sector for the first time. Fostering and empowering talent through development programmes, training and development is key.

Caroline Frankum, global chief executive, profiles division, Kantar
While hard 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 being equipped for a rapidly changing world and workforce.

Courageous leadership, emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication, cognitive flexibility and futuristic thinking are all key skills that will help us continue to push past our comfort zones to learn and experience new things, as well as how to bring out the best in others. 

Andrew O'Connell, managing director UK, Dynata
With younger talent coming into the industry, and solutions becoming more automated, we’re definitely going to need more developers.

Shazia Ginai, chief executive, Neuro-insight
I would say adaptability, self-awareness and compassion. I’m not sure we will ever go back to 100% office-based work and this means employees and employers need to understand themselves much better to get the best out of work and life. We worked in an office and knew no different, then we worked at home because we had no choice, now people are discovering that one size does not fit all and I’m watching businesses put mandates on teams that are causing issues.

Employers and employees need to embed a culture of mutual trust and strong work ethics to allow the flexibility and choice around the working environment.

Anna Cliffe, joint managing director, Trinity McQueen
I want to see more opinions, more leadership, more consultancy. Data skills – yes – but only where they lead to genuine advice for our clients.

Bob Qureshi, chief executive and managing partner, I-View
An understanding of Restech will be valuable, together with the ability to be flexible in where and how you work and to encompass a broader skillset that might sit outside the traditional market research disciplines. This includes knowledge and understanding of social media; establish how you will build your network if you move to more home working or choose to limit your attendance at industry events.

Rebecca Cole, managing director, Cobalt Sky
It’s looking likely that we’ll need to continue using and upgrading the skills developed over the last two years of operating in a pandemic. Namely, being flexible, agile, innovative, compassionate and trustworthy. All of the above are going to be important within each of our individual organisations and across the industry as a whole.

Peter Totman, head of qualitative, Jigsaw
An open mind and empathy (but as a personal trait, not a political movement).

Sinead Jefferies, consultant, Vela
At the moment we are struggling from a shortage of talent, so just getting enough of it is going to be crucial. A big part of that has to be making this sector more appealing, not just for apprentices, graduates and similar entry-level roles, but for people working in other industries who can see that this is an important, interesting and fulfilling place to work.

Not only will that help us to reach the resource we need, but bringing in new points of view and people with different experiences can only help diversity of thinking and challenge us to approach our work from a different perspective.

Annie Pettit, chief research officer North America, E2E Research
I’m always a huge proponent of learning technical skills like programming with SQL, Python, SAS, and R. This year I’m adding artificial intelligence and machine learning to the list. Our industry is finally taking real steps, not wishful ones, into those fields with components of AI in sampling, dashboards, transcriptions and translations. Anyone who doesn’t truly understand how AI is impacting the research industry and plan for how it will change every aspect of our work is going to be left behind.