Spring 2020
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The Rise of Superjobs

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Technology and the changing work landscape are leading to highly skilled hybrid or specialist roles.

We hear a lot about how automation, artificial intelligence, robotics, and digital tools are changing the way we do business. While some early analysis predicted that these technological advances would eliminate jobs, results from Deloitte's most recent Human Capital Trends Report disagrees. For instance, only 13 percent of the study's respondents believe automation will eliminate a significant number of positions. Instead, mounting evidence suggests that the changing business landscape is creating what Deloitte calls "superjobs."


Superjobs, also referred to as hybrid jobs, are specialist roles such as data scientists or marketing managers that require a wide set of skills from different fields, including design, user experience, data analysis, and business acumen. We see this play out via modern executives holding traditional marketing and public relations roles.

While they once needed creative and social skills to succeed, they now require core capabilities in AI and data analytics. On the flip side, IT roles—which are typically considered highly technical jobs—today need people with advanced problem-solving, research, and collaboration skills.

Progression into these types of superjobs could mean that up to 30–40 percent of all workers in developed countries may need to move into new occupations or upgrade their skills by 2030, according to modeling from McKinsey.

Those estimates agree with data from Randstad's 2020 Talent Trends Report. Randstad's survey of more than 800 C-suite and HR leaders found that 38 percent of respondents view reskilling as an important measure for redeploying talent who are at risk of losing their jobs due to automation and digital advances.

"Digitalization has changed the way we work and has redefined the skills that are most important for employees to possess," Rebecca Henderson, CEO of Randstad global businesses and executive board member, said in a written statement.

Unfortunately, there are current gaps on both the technical and soft skills front. In fact, Bridging the Skills Gap: Workforce Development and the Future of Work, the sixth skills gap report that the Association for Talent Development has produced, reveals that 78 percent of talent development professionals expect their organizations to have a skills gap in the future.

Companies can future-proof their workforce in multiple ways. For starters, Randstad's research asserts that talent fluidity—workers' ability to mold their skills to adapt to changing automation and digitalization needs—will be critical to the future of work. Internal mobility programs will be an integral strategy for these efforts. Further, Randstad reports that 47 percent of companies will be increasing investments in their internal mobility programs in 2020, up from 39 percent in 2016.

McKinsey likewise reports that leading businesses are realizing they cannot always hire outside staff to meet emerging skill needs. The firm's analysis contends that the better solution is to "look internally and develop talent they already have, as this approach is often not only quicker and more financially prudent but also good for morale and the company's long-term attractiveness to potential recruits."

That means training internal staff. For example, last year Amazon pledged to invest $700 million over six years to upskill and reskill current employees, such as training warehouse employees to become basic data analysts. The hope is that by reskilling talent who are at risk of losing their jobs due to the rollout of automation and robotics, they can redeploy them elsewhere in the organization, creating a win-win for both employees and the company.


Amazon is not alone. Randstad's 2020 research shows that upskilling is central to many employers' talent strategies, with 48 percent saying they will upskill existing employees to help address talent issues. Nearly two-thirds of respondents expect to provide training and reskilling in AI (66 percent) and to develop soft skills (60 percent). Nearly as many plan to train existing employees in analytics skills (59 percent) and technical capabilities (57 percent).

Reskilling won't be enough, though, to meet changing work needs. While the rise of the superjob demands that employees develop new skills and capabilities, at the same time it requires managers to figure out how they will get people and automated support tools or bots to work in chorus.

For many organizations, that will mean rethinking work design altogether. Deloitte explains that when "jobs and the work are redesigned to combine the strengths of the human workforce with machines and platforms, the result can be significant improvements in customer service, output, and productivity."

No doubt, talent development professionals will need to play a key part in helping their organizations anticipate and plan for these emerging superjobs.

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently sources and authors content for TD Magazine and CTDO, as well as manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs. Contact her at [email protected]

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