Jobs and occupations emerge and develop over time. We can see a mix of this reflected in both the updating systems of the O*NET taxonomy1 and in the studies of on-line job postings which capture new and additional skills being appended to current jobs and occupations2. In both cases we are witnessing a dynamic situation where work is changing – sometimes radically so. It is been stated by some there is a near natural polarisation occurring in the labour market with a hollowing out of the middle skill range of jobs3. It is also likely that these changes are a subset of the wider changes in the economy being driven by major waves of technological change, made up of specific technologies and wholly new technological systems4. These wider changes operate over lengthy periods of time i.e. 200+ years5. But what are we potentially witnessing here as regards the changing nature of work? Are hybrid jobs a natural part of the labour market? Do the long waves of technological change suggest any patterns of skills formation?

For the US economy, O*NET identifies 153 (14%) new and emerging occupations out of a total of 1102. Six major occupational groupings account for 86% of these6. So even at the level of a national occupation information system, occupational change can be detected during the usual annual update process and the specific efforts to identify groupings of changing occupations – for example, those in the green economy. Analysis of online job postings identifies 250 occupations (23% of the total) as being hybrid (and changing)7.

So, taken together, there are potentially over 400 occupations which are either hybrid or new and emerging – i.e. 40% of all occupations (but there will be some double counting here).  This level of change shows the dynamic nature of work and the difficulty of being over-specific about a large amount of the content of an occupation at any moment in time. This is further compounded among low skill occupations, where the incumbents undertake the bulk of their work only using two prime skills8. What is not clear is the relationship between hybrid and new and emerging occupations, and when one becomes the other i.e. hybrid creating new core activities enough to define new occupations. Some aspects of hybridisation will not lead to new occupations but will rather be a new set of skills, knowledge and abilities relevant to multiple occupations. An example of this is the use of many software packages.

Here are some other trends that may be relevant in explaining the hybridisation of roles:

  • Growth of self-employment and micro-businesses9: Self-employment and micro-businesses can supply many specific and new skill sets. Self-employed people are often forced to acquire a wide range of skills and to naturally hybridise themselves to meet customer requirements.
  • Whole task/process-focused organisation philosophy10: Over time, there has been a shift towards designing and organising de-fragmented work – and in the process de-skilling and routinising it – and moving towards a process-focused, whole task capability. This trend also could mean that those medium and low skilled occupations threatened by artificial intelligence and automation could be reconfigured to provide transition paths away from job degradation and elimination.
  • Mass customisation11: Initially a concept pursued by manufacturing seeking to reach the optimum batch size of one, we have seen this concept enter education, retail, clothing and textiles, health and medicine, construction and transport. The trend is towards maximising choice and seeking to meet specific customer, consumer, client and patient needs. This trend increasingly pulls work content towards being packaged around whole solutions which requires multi-tasking and multi-skilling.
  • Regulation and risk management12: In order to protect people at work, the consumer from sub-standard products and services, etc. regulation is a major driver for change, and it revolves around the level of risk we are willing to take as a society, as an organisation, etc. and which calls for greater discretion and capability in the roles of the people who have to manage the risk on a day-to-day basis. Again, this drives hybridisation of roles.

It is reasonable to conclude that hybrid roles are part and parcel of the labour market and occupations are constantly picking up and dropping tasks and skills as technology and customer requirements change. The emergence of online education and training systems and qualifications support the hybridisation of occupations by allowing incumbents to acquire, develop and master the required new skill sets13.

Notes:

  1. O*NET (2009) New and Emerging Occupations. Data downloaded from the O*NET website. For the methodology see: National Centre for O*NET Development (2009) New and Emerging Occupations of the 21st Century: Updating the O*NET SOC Taxonomy. Summary and Implementation. Prepared for the US Department of Labor, Washington DC. 19 pages. It is worth noting that an occupations is added to the O*NET taxonomy if it meets the following two criteria: (i) the occupations involves significantly different work than that performed by job incumbents of other occupations; (ii) the occupation is not adequately reflected by the existing O*NET SOC structure (p10). In 2006 only 6 occupations were added to the O*NET new and emerging occupation list, and by 2009 this had risen greatly to 153. The O*NET is also linked to the emerging demand for new skills through its tracking system across what are termed “in-demand industry clusters” (see: www.careervoyages.gov ) od which there are seventeen in all of which are multi-sectoral and could economy wide in their impact. O*NET take this one stage further for some changing parts of the economy i.e. green/sustainable parts and produce a task level green database. Also see: CEDEFOP (2019) Skills for Green Jobs. 2018 Update. European Synthesis Report. Reference Series No 109. Luxembourg, Publication of the EU. 104 pages.
  2. Burning Glass Technologies (2019) The Hybrid Job Economy. How new skills are rewriting the DNA of the job market. 21 pages; CEDEFOP (2018) Mapping the landscape of online job vacancies. Background country report: UK. 40 pages
  3. McIntosh, S. (2013) Hollowing out and the future of the labour market. BIS Research Paper No 134. 49 pages
  4. Freeman, C.; Clark, J. and Soete, L. (1982) Unemployment and Technical Innovation: A study of long waves and economic development. Francis Pinter. 214 pages; Magnani, E. (2006) “Technological diffusion, the diffusion of skills and the growth of outsourcing in US manufacturing”. University of New South Wales, Sydney. 27 pages (published in: Journal of Economics of Innovation and Technological Change, 15 (7) 617-647;
  5. Comin, D.A. and Hobijn, B. (2009) The CHAT Dataset. Working Paper, No. 15319. National Bureau of Economic Research. 20 pages; Townsend, J et al (1981) Science and Technology Indicators for the UK – Innovations in Britain since 1945. SPRU Occasional Paper No 16, University of Sussex. 129 pages
  6. Listed below are the Occupation Classification Number: Number of new and emerging occupations in each of the occupational classifications. See Note [1] above for the source of this listing of occupations.
    • 11: 23 Management occupations
    • 13: 12 Business and financial occupations
    • 15: 16 Computer and mathematical occupations
    • 17: 32 Architecture and engineering occupations
    • 19: 13 Life, physical and social science occupations
    • 25: 3 Educational, instruction and library occupations
    • 29: 35 Healthcare practitioners and technical occupations
    • 31: 2 Healthcare support occupations
    • 33: 2 Protective service occupations
    • 35: 1 Food preparation and serving related occupations
    • 39: 1 Personal care and service occupations
    • 41: 3 Sales and related occupations
    • 43: 3 Office and administrative support occupations
    • 47: 3 Construction and extraction occupations
    • 49: 1 Installation, maintenance and repair occupations
    • 51: 5 Production occupations
    • 53: 1 Transportation and materials moving occupations

    There are five occupation groups had no new or emerging occupations (community and service; legal; arts, design, entertainment, sports and media; building and ground cleaning and maintenance; and, farming, fishing and forestry).

  7. Burning Glass (2019) op. cit.
  8. McKinsey Global Institute (2018) Skill Shift. Automation and the Future of the Workforce. 84 pages
  9. ONS (2018) Trends in Self Employment in the UK. Analysing the characteristics, income and wealth of the self-employed. ONS. 26 pages. On the Gig Economy which is a particular new phenomenon see: Huws, U.; Spencer, N.H.; Syrdal, D.S. and Holts, K. (2017) Working in the European Gig Economy. Research results from the UK, Sweden, Austria, Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy.  Foundation for European Progressive Studies, Uni Europa and University of Hertfordshire. 60 pages. University of Hertfordshire (2019) Platform Work in the UK 2016-2019. TUC, Foundation for Progressive Studies, Uni Europa and University of Hertfordshire. 24 pages
  10. Just look at the conference on socio-technical analysis this year in Sweden (ECIS Contemporary Socio Technical Perspectives) and Toronto (ICSS)
  11. Pine, B. J. (1993) Mass customisation: The new frontier in Business Competition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. 333 pages
  12. Power, M. (2004) “The risk management of everything”, Journal of Risk Finance, 5 (3), 58-65; Open University (2016) Understanding and Managing Risk Module BB841_1. 87 pages
  13. e.g. Future Learn www.futurelearn.com