The Future is Hybrid

Most of us are familiar with hybrid cars, animals – my family has a labradoodle! - plants, molecules, investments….the list goes on. When something is a hybrid version of itself, we associate it with being something new, unique perhaps, even something exciting. The same can be said for hybrid jobs and hybrid professionals.

What are hybrid jobs?

Hybrid jobs are taking the workforce by storm - mixing equal parts traditional business knowledge, like management or relationship building, with equal parts in-demand and in-the-moment new age skills, like data analytics or coding.

Something new? Hybrid jobs certainly fits the bill. But, what about exciting? According to Burning Glass, a company that delivers job market analytics, 'hybrid' jobs pay well above the national average salary. Exciting? I think so!

As the hybridization of jobs permeates through all industries, it’s important that both employers and employees think about how this new wave of roles will impact how they are hiring (or hired) and how they are training (or trained).

Embracing hybrid skills and knowledge

In my role as an educator and CEO of an edtech nonprofit, I see learners from around the world and from different industries coming to edX.org to take courses that expand their professional skill set, learn something new and stretch them outside their comfort zone or role. Online courses in cloud computing, big data, app development, marketing, writing, UX, AI, robotics and more more provide learners flexible, accessible and up to the moment knowledge in these rapidly emerging fields. These courses, when combined with existing skill sets, are helping learners to curate a blend of both business and technology expertise or a blend of hard and soft skills.

And, it’s not just about hard skills

This type of blended background is precisely what employers, who are looking to fill positions that require a mix, or hybrid, background - like a mobile marketer or digital product manager - are looking for. How badly are they looking for these roles? The Burning Glass report I referenced above, also found that in 2015, a quarter million advertised job postings sought hybrid talent.

It is not just the in-demand ‘hard’ skills that employees are seeking. Hybrid jobs are truly that - a mix. ‘Soft’ skills, like communications, leadership and critical thinking, are an area of focus for employers and employees alike. And, let’s update our language as we update our mindset about career roles and responsibilities. I no longer call these skills ‘soft’ skills. Today, I refer to them as ‘power’ skills, as Philip J. Hanlon, President of Dartmouth College, suggested.  A recent report backs up this belief, as it found that most standard job postings, even in fields like IT and Engineering, look for candidates that can write well. Not surprising, skills like writing, communication and organization are required across nearly every industry. However, in a sharp disconnect to this, the report also found these very skills are growing more difficult to find in candidates.

Are we in crisis?

So, hybrid jobs are in-demand and they are high paying. The workplace of today is in clear need of candidates that possess hybrid skillsets to fill these numerous roles, but employers face a lack of candidates who demonstrate this necessary blend of skill, expertise and knowledge.

Just as today’s digital learner is not the same as yesterday’s traditional, classroom-based learner, today’s professional is not the same as yesterday’s. For both learners and professionals, we have to change the way we approach education, not just higher-education, but also corporate education.

The solution is digital

The digital approach has already created offerings that meet the needs of today’s consumers across many industries. For example, with Uber and Lyft, transportation is now digital, on-demand and accessible. With entertainment, we’ve gone from limited choices to streaming hundreds of thousands of TV and movies from the comfort of our homes home. The list of examples goes on and on, but the point is the same - today’s consumers demand a digital offering and consumers of education (i.e. learners) are no different.

The digital approach of online learning is a convenient way to develop hybrid skills. Traditional education and traditional corporate training is incredibly siloed. You are commonly asked to declare a department, be it mechanical engineering, philosophy, or business. Learning is focused on gaining specific knowledge and teaching specific skill sets, all of which remain neatly divided. This approach leads to students and employees who may have an extremely in-depth understanding of one specific field, but will not be equipped to succeed in the hybrid jobs that today’s workplace is embracing and tomorrow’s workplace will be composed of.

Here is where taking a digital approach is the game changer. The digital approach allows the learner to transcend time and space and reach outside their current silo to flexibly learn new things at their own pace. Specifically, you can learn new things digitally while continuing in your current major or chugging away on your current job as and when you can make the time.

What this means for learners and professionals

If you’re a student of the liberal arts looking to supplement your background with technical skills like data analytics, then digital resources like online courses and programs, allow you to learn these technical skills at the same time as you complete your studies. If you’re an app developer, looking to learn how to effectively write product documentation or snappy ad copy, you can take an online writing course, without having to leave your job and go back to school. With online offerings, like the MicroMasters initiative, digital pathways to gaining new knowledge are available for both learners and professionals.

What this means for employers

As we see more and more hybrid jobs emerge, online learning is also instrumental in a corporate setting. Employers can use online learning to help employees gain the blended skillsets they need for hybrid roles. Whether it is empowering a member of the marketing department to learn about data analytics or providing a member of the business intelligence team with a course in communications. With online learning, there is an ability to quickly upskill and reskill employees to meet the demands of hybrid roles.

The future is now

I am confident that the hybridization of jobs across all industries is a powerful and meaningful movement, and is here to stay. As hybrid jobs grow, we can all take a hybrid approach to learning as educators, as learners and as employers. We will see the way we do business and the way we learn become more and more efficient, streamlined and effective.

Imagine - an advertising professional who can not only write compelling copy, but who can also write a program that pulls the data they need to see how the ads with that copy performed in comparison to another. Or, a product manager, who can not only develop and launch a product that customers need, but who can also develop a presentation that effectively communicates the success of their product. 

As hybrid jobs and skillsets become more commonplace, I anticipate that we will see more collaborative, communicative and cross-functional offices and companies and I believe that this will lead to a more efficient, productive and imaginative economy. As an educator, this prospect excites me, as I see online education moving toward meeting the demands of this emerging hybrid economy of jobs. I am encouraged by the fact that digital learning will be incredibly important when it comes to developing the skill sets needed for success and I feel confident that both professionals and employers will benefit from this new approach. In short, hybrid jobs are here to stay and I, for one, am extremely happy about it.

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