Hybrid Roles - The Future of Jobs?

By Archana Jerath December 21, 2017

If you look in any dictionary, hybrid is defined as 'a thing made by combining two or more different elements'. We all have heard of hybrid plants, animals, vehicles, genes, molecules and apps. Now, jobs have become hybrid too.

Hybrid jobs are an amalgamation of technical and new-age skills such as computer science, data analytics and coding, as well as soft/traditional skills such as communication, problem-solving and collaboration. Employers are favoring candidates who possess two or more skills to perform their jobs optimally.

The buzz around hybrid jobs picked up momentum after the release of a report titled 'Future-Proof Your Career' commissioned by Bentley University and powered by the labor market analytics firm Burning Glass. Based on the analysis of key skills and jobs across nine categories representing different business, IT, and such analytics functions as marketing, HR, and data analysis, the report states that organizations want hybrid employees – those who can bring both hard and soft skills to workplaces.

Organizations are expanding job descriptions to include hybrid skills in job titles that earlier functioned in silos. The study explains the rise of hybrid jobs through an example:  postings for social media strategists have declined by 64 percent in the last five years, while HR jobs requiring social media skills have increased up to 376 percent. A similar trend is visible across sales, marketing and PR postings. The study also highlights the list of key hybrid skills for employees to future-proof their careers. These skills are Oracle, SQL, SAP, business development, process improvement, data analysis, decision making, collaboration, mentoring, sales and mathematics.

Organizations perceive a high value in hybrid skills and are seeking such roles for various reasons:

  • Today's workplace is complex, dynamic, leaner and agile. It calls for technological proficiency, collaborative environments and kaleidoscope thinking. No matter what role employees are engaged in, organizations expect them to be able to interpret data, leverage technical tools, apply their insights and work in partnership with other teams to present the big picture. Silo skills and mindsets are out; cross-over is in!
  • There is a generational shift in the workplace, making it a new HR challenge for organizations. A PwC report titled 'Indian Workplace of 2022: Are Organizations Ready For The Future' mentions that the future workforce of the country will be multi-generational and more diverse. It will pose unique challenges regarding skill-sets, attitudes, work ethics and conflict management. The baby boomers are retiring, taking along traditional skills and knowledge with them. At the same time, millennials and Gen Z are entering the workforce, bringing technological and innovation skills. Hybrid employees can manage this change and lead to counterproductive outcomes effectively.            
  • There is a need for people who can lead or execute projects from beginning to end. People with hybrid skills can come handier than those with specific skills. With hybrid employees on board, projects will utilize lesser manpower, and thereby reduce people cost significantly.

Technology such as big data, analytics and data science is the primary driver of hybrid jobs and has been predominantly responsible for increasing demand for such professionals. According to, -an Edvancer Eduventures report in Analytics India Magazine titled 'The Analytics & Data Science India Jobs Study 2017', the number of analytics jobs almost doubled from April 2016 to April 2017. Leading organizations such as KPMG, Amazon, HCL, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, E&Y, Citi, Capgemini, IBM and Accenture created the most number of analytics openings during this period. Undoubtedly, there will be a higher demand for HR Technologists, IT Communication Specialists, Creative Technologists, IoT Marketing Technology Strategists, User Experience Designers, Digital Storytellers, and the like in future.

While organizations certainly stand to benefit from hybrid skills, does the trend spell challenges for the workforce? Yes to some extent. As the demand for hybrid jobs rises, candidates will have to go beyond their comfort zone to acquire new skills. For instance, an employee experience officer would need to incorporate design thinking, smart technology and data analytics in crafting superior workplace experiences in the organization. However, the job would also require networking with different functions and communicating the experiences to employees. If a data scientist worked in a closed cabin, mining and manipulating data, he will now have to develop social skills and a friendly personality to position himself as a hybrid employee. A creative media technologist will have to offer both technical and creative inputs. An HR manager will have to integrate his people expertise and data science skill to make smarter, informed and strategic business decisions.

Hybrid roles are an emerging reality that employees need to accept because only those with both right and left brain skills will be prepared for tomorrow's jobs. It is about acquiring competencies that will make their role more valuable to the organization. It is about curating new experiences to make their roles more relevant to the times. Most importantly, it is about admitting that it is time to acknowledge the skill-gap and do something about it to make themselves more marketable. In order to rise above the pack, versatility is the key. They need to direct their focus on building hybrid skills, not filling job titles.

On the plus side, developing hybrid skills has its advantages for employees. It brings with it higher chances of employability and being considered for multiple positions. It enhances visibility and credibility in the organization. Of course, there is also the scope of negotiating for a competitive salary package. In a nutshell, employees laced with versatile skill-sets for a particular role are more likely to gain recognition and opportunities on the management ladder than the ones utilizing only particular skill.

Candidates and employees can become multi-skilled by signing up for different courses and certification programmes in big data, cloud computing, analytics, communication skills, leadership, etc. There are numerous resources available online (articles, video tutorials) and offline (colleges, seminars, mentors) which can help them achieve nano degrees. They can also take up company projects that expand their horizons and add to their existing portfolio of skills. Self-learning is one of the ways for employees to prepare for hybrid roles. However, the onus of developing cross-over skills in people also lies on the shoulders of organizations and educational institutions.

The colleges and universities should start designing courses that focus on imparting hybrid skills to students. They need to develop system thinkers who not only acquire the domain knowledge but also grasp the ability to take a creative and synergetic approach to problem-solving. They can tie-up with corporates for internships to give experiential learning opportunities and real-world insight to students. At the corporate level, employers will have to look at incorporating hybrid skill modules in learning and development programmes. This will pave the way for employees to build blended skills, upskill or reskill while on the job.

As technology and digital literacy permeate all walks of life, the lines between technical and soft skills are gradually blurring in the organizations. This is a trend that is expected to change the job market significantly in the next few years. Hybrid skills equal job security for employees and sustenance for organizations. Neither of them can ignore the rise of hybrid jobs. The only solution is to adopt the change. 



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