Research & Insight: Time to shine – skills outlook for 2030

Analytical and critical thinking skills, complex problem-solving skills, creativity, originality and initiative have always been the bedrock of a great researcher.  So, what’s new?

New advances in technology and data visualisation should unlock new capabilities like agile qualitative, powerful integrations, and true automation, and the new generation of skills must follow suit.

“A machine can tell us a pattern or identify a theme but cannot (yet!) make the connection between that fact and the business challenge / opportunity… Great insight is created when the two work in harmony.” (Amy Bradley, Senior Quantitative Researcher)

The researcher of today will continue in the role of a translator, but with more of an emphasis on interpreting data from innovative tools and services, as well as using machine learning technology for content.

Margie Villa-Abrille (Strategy, Insights & Analytics professional) made the transition from market research to working with big data six years ago. She noted “working with big data is no different to working in market research. The art is still in finding the key pieces of information, putting them together, then creating two or three actionable next steps. The main difference is the volume of information that I now work with.”

Being numerate and data confident, having a grounded business sense, with the ability to communicate a story and translate into a meaningful business outcome are the DNA that form the genes of any great researcher.

Having an appreciation for the sciences (marketing, behavioural), and being culturally in-tune; understanding cultural nuances, particularly recognising Aboriginals and ethnic minorities, are skills and traits we need to be demonstrating, and cultivating, to keep our industry sharp and relevant.

As technology evolves with the development and adoption of AI and the application of machine learning, research consultants will have more capacity to think, consult and focus on innovation.

Skills in data visualisation and interactive reporting will be in demand, with some research consultants needing to enhance their skills through technology understanding such as Power BI, Tableau and Google Data Studios.

Face-to-face research, and other traditional approaches will be done less and better, and rather than expending energy and focus on processing data, successful agencies will use their tools to tell the stories of the people in front of that data.  Technology will force researchers to think more in real-time, without forsaking the need to take a strategic view.

It will also be key for researchers to know when to be guided by technology, and not overwhelmed by it.  Skills in critical thinking and analysis will still be at the top of the list.

As a dynamic and virtual workforce is unfolding, where we’ll see new learning styles, working patterns and skills emerge, adaptability, tenaciousness and self-drive will be inherent to success.  Flexible working arrangements for employees, especially return to work parents, will bring new opportunities to ‘work from anywhere’.

We are at a turning point where data translation, technology enablement, a deepening respect for the role of culture and the execution of evidence-based insight has never been so important.

If we do it right, “our industry will become more machine, and more human, at the same time” (Caroline Fletcher, Head of Qualitative Practice), and will shine.


Article written by James Handley, 15 September 2020

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