Neo-generalists: the dawn of hybrid profiles
You may think greater specialization is needed to keep up with new business technologies. Surprisingly, however, they actually seem to go hand-in-hand with a cross-functional skills profile that co-authors Kenneth Mikkelsen and Richard Martin call “neo-generalist.”
If you’ve looked at the want ads lately, you’ve probably noticed that it’s not enough to be good at just one thing anymore. In fact, research at Bentley University analyzing 24.5 million job postings nds that “71 percent of in-demand skills are required across two or more job categories.”1 Candidates that have cross-category skills are today’s most valuable talent.
Gary Pinkus, McKinsey & Company’s managing partner for North America, tells The New York Times: “Work used to be much more hierarchical, and in many instances rote.2 In the past, burrowing deeply into a specialty could create a long-lasting career: “But if you look at most companies now, work has become incredibly cross-functional.”
Digital skills go mainstream and continue to evolve
There are myriad reasons for today’s increasing demand for cross-functional skills. As de- mand for previously popular jobs declines, the skills involved become mainstream as well as integrated into other positions. And the speed at which digital technologies evolve have accelerated this process. For example, according to the Bentley study, postings for social media strategists have fallen 64 percent in recent years, while demand for social media skills has risen by 376 percent for human resources jobs, by 150 percent for sales jobs and by 117 percent for marketing/ PR job listings. Meanwhile, social media is a rapidly evolving field, which means to stay current, you have to continually update those skills. To take another current demand, many industries now need talents who are able to compile, analyze and implement big data. Along with data analysis, however, they need you at the same time to be able to communicate what the data means and apply it to long-term strategic objectives. Across the board, digital skills, which require constant updating to stay current, are becoming increasingly integrated into traditional functions.
Merging specialist and generalist skills to keep up
To keep up with the rate at which demand for new skills rises and falls in the digital age, many companies increasingly require employ- ees who can operate on a continuum, from specialization — for example, data collection and analysis — to generalization, for example, communicating that analysis and using it to inform range of decisions. This is exactly the definition of what co-authors Kenneth Mikkelsen and Richard Martin call “neo-generalist,” or the bringing together of both specialist and generalist tendencies.
1. “The Time for the Hybrid Job is Now” (Bentley University, February 2016).
2. “How to Become a C.E.O.? The Quickest Path Is a Winding One,” by Neil Irwin (The New York Times, 9 September, 2016).
Excerpt from Business Digest N°284, March 2018