New Report Measures Blazing Pace of Skill Change

May 23, 2022 by Scott Bittle

The job you have (or are hiring for today) probably demands much different skills than it did just five years ago, according to new research from Lightcast, The Burning Glass Institute, and BCG.

The analysis of 15 million job postings found the skills requested in the average US job have changed 37% since 2016. Some skills became more in demand, some less. But one in five of these skills were entirely new to the occupation–in other words, a skill a person in that career wouldn’t have been expected to have just a few years ago.

The report, Shifting Skills, Moving Targets, and Remaking the Workforce, found the pace of change is speeding up, not slowing down. Nearly three-quarters of jobs changed more from 2019 through 2021 than in the previous three-year period.

The research launches the new Skill Disruption Index, measuring the rate of change for 680 occupations and enabling comparisons across different jobs and different skills. And while it’s clear that demands are changing dramatically across the job market, some occupations are seeing greater disruption than others.

For example, the jobs that are changing fastest include accounting supervisor, advertising/promotions manager, marketing assistant/associate, software developer/engineer, and solar engineer. Almost 80% of the top 20 skills in these roles have increased or decreased in importance, or they are entirely new. 

By contrast, physical occupations have generally changed the least. Examples of those jobs include laborer/warehouse worker, packager, janitor/cleaner, tractor/trailer truck driver, and shipping/receiving clerk. 

Four Key Trends Driving Skill Change

Lightcast research has found that jobs are increasingly mixing and matching skills from different fields. Technology and digital skills drive a lot of this change–but it plays out in surprising ways:

  • Digital Skills in Non-digital Occupations. The growth of digital skills isn’t limited to jobs in IT. Roles across industries increasingly demand technical fluency and abilities, including data analysis, digital marketing, and networking.

  • Soft Skills in Digital Occupations. Digital jobs don’t demand programming skills alone; they require a balance of soft skills as well. These include skills involving verbal communication, listening, and relationship building.

  • Visual Communication. The use of data visualization has grown across companies, becoming increasingly important even outside of traditional data occupations. Experience with tools such as Tableau, MS Power BI, and Adobe Analytics is in high demand.

  • Social Media Skills. Careers are evolving to the current media climate. Many jobs now demand social media knowledge to keep pace, such as experience with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Adobe Photoshop.

Adapting for those changes will require a clear sense of strategic direction—but also a keen understanding of the modern job market. Here’s that what means for specific groups:

  • Organization leaders need to clarify how their core business functions–and how that function will change in the coming years. Incremental change may be too slow for the pace at which skills change, and it will take dynamic leadership to keep from falling behind.

  • HR teams have a vital role to play in sourcing talent with the right skills, but also in  enabling their current workforce to adapt as the demands of their individual roles change.

  • Educators, training providers, and governments are important and necessary resources for workers to understand what their local and occupational job markets require. That means the support these organizations offer needs to be accurate, specific, and future-oriented. Giving useful guidance about which skills are needed in the current market starts with knowing what those skills are.

  • Workers are increasingly doing a job different from the one they signed up for. That creates the opportunity and the necessity to continue learning and developing new skills—even if that means putting those skills to work in a new position. Having the right data can show you where to find it. 

For everyone involved with the modern job market, the speed at which skills shift and jobs change presents a constant challenge. Staying informed will be key to stay ahead of the curve without falling behind in an increasingly dynamic talent landscape.

For more about how fast jobs are changing, download a free copy of the Shifting Skills, Moving Targets, and Remaking the Workforce report, and learn more about the Lightcast skills taxonomy and occupation data here.