Emerging and Evolving Job Roles: Tech-enabled offices are fueling demand for new roles & skills

As technology trends drive major changes in the way we work, a variety of new jobs have appeared or taken on new depth.

Image © PLASTARC

It’s no secret that trends in technology are driving major changes in the way we work. Often, this conversation focuses on the jobs and skills being supplanted by automation or innovation.

This evolution was well-encapsulated by Slack Founder Stewart Butterfield in his keynote address to the Wharton People Analytics Conference this March. “Computer and Calculator are both former job titles.” He sounded an optimistic note; “we’ll just do other things that we couldn’t do before.” Amidst this upheaval new opportunities are also emerging.

As every business continuously seeks new competitive advantages, new roles will tend to emerge that convey them. Here are some jobs that have appeared or taken on new depth in just the last few years.

Community Manager

Originally born in online communities like message boards and social media, community managers have made the leap to the physical world. These team members ensure that the people who show up in your office each day are engaged and satisfied. Duties might include coordinating events for professional development, actively seeking opportunities to connect colleagues around common objectives, and advocating for workplace changes that might benefit the community as a whole.

These efforts aren’t just window dressing. Business leaders have realized that the human need for community and belonging is a core component of workplace satisfaction, with a direct impact on performance, as this recent piece in Harvard Business Review highlights.

Image © PLASTARC

Co-working has led this trend; WeWork has over 200 community team members in the Tri-State area alone and is currently seeking over 150 more worldwide. As business leaders look to build communities that attract and retain talent, this role is popping up in all sorts of places beyond co-working. Back in 2014, CMX CEO David Spinks predicted that in just a few years, “Community will be its own department in companies instead of a part of another department like marketing or support.” CMX, which bills itself as “the hub for the community industry” boasts 20,000 members, hosts a yearly summit, and regularly provides news and insight into this growing field.

Building Technology Officer

This role sits at the crucial intersection of people, place, and technology. Its emergence reflects a growing understanding of the effects of environment on workplace success. Smart-office amenities can enable more comfort, productivity, and satisfaction, but only if they are well-planned, well-managed, and routinely upgraded.

Image © PLASTARC

New smart buildings are already using machine learning and Internet-of-Things technology to enhance the user experience. They can automatically adjust lighting and temperature, manage energy usage, allocate desk space and parking as needed, or otherwise optimize the interaction between people and facilities. Business Technology Officers spend their time supporting these tools and using the data they generate to make a case for change in the workplace. They may also have expertise in design or social science, and know how to combine these disciplines with the technology at their disposal to enable the entire community to thrive.

This job fits into the development of a “service layer” in the workplace. Employees now expect to be treated more like customers, and businesses that succeed in doing this will naturally attract the best employees.

People Analytics

Just a few years ago, HBR labeled Data Scientist “ the sexiest job of the 21st century”. Originally, these jobs seemed more focused on big data in social media, marketing research, supply chains, and other outward-facing problems. In recent years, people analytics has emerged as a people-centric version of data science.

The tools of the data science trade have continued to evolve, and are reaching into other parts of business. Analyses are increasingly being used to optimize employee behavior and improve the function of organizations themselves. In one dramatic example, Mozilla studied usage of of desk space in a building, using what they learned to implement a voluntary hot-desking system that cut their space needs in half.

Image © PLASTARC

As building technology and amenities enable customization at the individual level, opportunities to leverage those amenities and the data they generate increase. This can enable evidence-based decision-making in human resources, office amenities, and other aspects of business that may have previously been considered “soft”.

Change management

Given all of the new tools and transformation in today’s businesses, everyone could use a little more support to make the most of new initiatives at work. Change management, which has traditionally focused on the administration of business and resources, has grown to include aspects of workplace as well. This role will continue to grow and evolve as business leaders work to adapt to the pace of change.

What’s on the horizon

In the old model we gave employees coffee. Now there’s coffee with a barista to make it great and an app to tell you how many cappuccinos you serve to your engineers or lattes to your marketing team. That data may also tell you that a certain time of day is naturally a good or bad time for a meeting, or that one group or the other might be experiencing workplace stress, or simply that you might want to provide other beverages and consider ways to keep your team hydrated (it’s more important than you think).

Every point of contact from booking a conference room to adjusting the temperature produces data that could be used to improve the user experience – if, that is, looking for those opportunities is someone’s job.

Automation and technology may yield vast new stores of data and new capabilities, but it still takes people to navigate and interpret that data. The greatest potential lies in letting machines focus on what they do best in a way that complements what people do.

When PLASTARC accepted their award for best use of data at WPAC’s 2018 startup competition, they did so following a talk by leaders from WeWork. Dave Fano and Rachel Montana, Ph.D., presented evidence that we’re on the precipice not just of new job roles, but fully new business models at the intersection of people, place, and technology.

The best time to start is right now

These days, if you’re not ahead of the curve, you’re standing still. While it can be difficult to know which approaches to data collection and analysis will best support your businesses, the best thing to do is try something and see if it works. Even if an effort fails, that in itself is a useful data point. The sooner you start to you implement some of these practices, the sooner you start to build the data reservoir that’ll enable you to make better decisions.

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