For all those employed within business support roles, 2020 became a tumultuous year. Previously, so much of business support revolved around the physical office; coordinating people's schedules, managing team events, liaising with customers or key business stakeholders etc. When covid hit and so many organisations were forced to work from home, many had to re-evaluate how the role of business support would shift and how workers could continue to provide these central services from remote locations. In today’s bog, Public Sector People explore the emergence of the ‘hybrid role’ since COVID-19, the implication hybridisation has for the business support and operations sector, and how professionals within the sector should take advantage of this trend to further diversify and develop their career.
The Introduction Of Hybrid Roles
A significant impact of covid-19 on the workforce was the blurring and reimagining of office roles. Suddenly, HR executives were delving into cybersecurity training and database management to ensure their greater team were able to safely transition to working remotely. Small business owners had to embrace front-end development and coding as they transitioned their offering online during social distancing. Those in business support roles were no different. With many of the traditional duties and functions performed becoming less pressing during lockdown - booking travel, event coordination, and builder and visitor management for example – many administrators, coordinators and office managers found themselves delving into areas of work they never had before.
Welcome to the era of the Hybrid Job – a combination of skillsets both hard and soft, that previously wouldn’t have existed together within the one role (RMIT Online). While the concept of ‘Hybrid Jobs’ wasn’t born out of the pandemic, covid has certainly been a catalyst, requiring such a wide-ranging overhaul in such a short space of time. In 2017, McKinsey estimated that 375 million workers (roughly 14% of the global workforce) would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills to remain competitive by 2030. Meanwhile, 87% of business executives acknowledged severe skill gaps in their organisation, and less than half had a clear idea of how to address these gaps (Batra et, al. 2017). Paired with the growing trend of AI and automation which has re-shaped many roles and required many to embrace more technology into their day-to-day functions, the hybrid job market has been looming. However, COVID and the growing dependence on technology to connect a remote office together has meant that traditional jobs have been mutated into unexpected hybrid roles at a faster rate. In fact, Burning Glass believe hybrid roles to be the fastest-growing and highest-paying jobs within the current labour market- and most importantly- the most resistant to automation (Bittle, S., Francis, B., Markow, W., Sigelman, M. (2019).
Considering so many tasks within business support and operations are dependent on the physical office setting, professionals need to embrace hybridisation as the future of both the office and their responsibilities are reshaped.
What’s Changed For Business Support
While the pandemic and working remotely has changed the ways many organisations conduct their business, it hasn’t entirely removed the need for key business support functions. Events, meetings and communication management are still required for organisation’s to operate, they are just now being managed differently. For example, previously scheduling-in meetings or organising someone’s timetable would require booking a meeting room, whereas now the majority of meetings are conducted online via a teleconferencing platform like Zoom or Microsoft teams. Similarly, any office events that someone in administration or business support would have to organise would involve planning something in person- either in the office or at a venue. Planning days, workshops/seminars and even team building for office morale, are still needed to help a team connect and effectively communicate with each other, despite not all being in the same physical space at the same time. Consequently, business support professionals have had to get creative when designing virtual events. For many organisations online trivia, interactive training tutorials and webinars became a staple during lockdown and ensured people could still effectively collaborate and continue with key projects. The HR and Business Support team within Public Sector People got quite creative with coordinating and managing our team activities during lockdown– they even organised an online cocktail making class complete with supplies delivered to each team member’s house for a Friday social event!
Another significant task that has changed is overseeing an organisation’s communication systems. When organisations had to transition their business activities to an online or cloud-based medium, support and administration staff were often tasked with making this happen. Things like ensuring that the organisation had enough data storage for all of their documentation and making sure all team members could confidently use and access whatever platform the organisation had nominated to connect team members (Slack, Zoom etc.) As businesses continue to utilise workplace flexibility and working from home becomes commonplace, the need for data management skills are only expected to grow.
Finally, another fallout from the pandemic is the emphasis on workplace health and safety. For business support staff especially, their roles now involve tracing and monitoring the health of visitors and staff and rolling out social distancing measures - especially as more and more employees return to the physical office regularly. The added difficulty of these tasks is that these measures are prone to change, as the spread of covid fluctuates, which requires high-level organisational and project management skills from business support and operations professionals.
Looking to The Future
Considering both the changing nature of the labour market and the responsibilities required for those within business support and administration, Public Sector People recommend professionals focus on upskilling in the following key, to ensure they can effectively adapt to these new responsibilities and enhance their overall employability:
Develop Your Transferrable Skills
Transferrable skills are considered the core competencies essential to perform all jobs today and tomorrow, as opposed to ‘hard’ skills like coding or data modelling which relate to a specific job or industry. Possessing and being able to effectively demonstrate transferrable skills like communication or leadership skills or emotional intelligence, has now become an incredible advantage for business support professionals, as the more transferable skills a professional has, the more opportunities they have to diversify into different areas of the business. Or in the specific case of those within business support and administration, the easier it will be to adapt to new responsibilities and duties. Career expert and psychologist Suzie Plush argues, “As much as it’s great to be on top of technology, no matter what you do, you’ll always be dealing with people. Consequently, you will always require those human-based skills; emotional intelligence, adaptability, creativity - to have more opportunities in the future.”
Health & Safety Management
As discussed above, an organisation’s operation and administrative team will play a bigger role in ensuring workplaces remain COVID-safe, especially as professionals have started returning to the office.
Workers within this space should focus on how they can promote and communicate physical distancing to the team, the most effective way to track employee’s health and monitor outside visitors to the office, as well as determining the best action to take when an employee becomes unwell or has to get covid-tested.
Thankfully, there is a range of educational information and free courses available on both government and training websites to help those looking to upskill in this area.
Get Tech Savvy
While technology has become increasingly important across all professional roles, our dependence on technology was significantly intensified during the pandemic. As previously mentioned, organisations had to suddenly rely on teleconferencing platforms, cloud-based software, and cybersecurity to continue functioning as a business. Consequently, tech-savvy professionals within business support and administration have a significant advantage in developing their careers or standing out against other candidates when considering new opportunities. For those wanting to brush up on their tech skills, there are numerous online course offerings at both universities and training organisations. You can also see if your work offers any training and development courses, especially within the specific programs or systems that the company uses, to ensure you stay on top of the programs you’ll be helping to roll out to the greater team. Professionals should also sign up for newsletters for the systems you’re using (Slack or Zoom for example) or follow them on Linkedin, to help keep up to date with any emerging trends and ensure you stand out from other ‘late adopters’.
Social Media Management
Many organisations – especially local councils will utilise their social media accounts (Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram) to communicate directly with their local community. Things like creating and promoting community events, initiatives and any important information residents need to be aware of can all be found on an organisation’s social pages. Consequently, having an understanding of how different social media channels work – especially in regards to interpreting social reports and analytics- is a huge advantage for someone within business support and administration. Especially as more and more coordination and administration job advertisements start to include company social media pages within the listed responsibilities.
For those in business support and administration roles within the public sector who are looking for new opportunities or ways to further develop their career, our Public Sector People consultants are always happy to help. Our consultants specialise in recruiting business support and professional roles for a number of clients and consequently know the desirable skills, knowledge and experience required of candidates within the industry. Click the link below to speak to our team today about your career goals, the valuable skills organisations are after and where to start if you’re looking to develop your own.
 RMIT Online. (2020). Why We Need Hybrid Skills For Hybrid Jobs. RMIT. Retrieved from: https://online.rmit.edu.au/blog/why-we-need-hybrid-skills-hybrid-jobs
 Batra, P., Bughin, J., Chui, M., Lund, S., Manyika, J. Ko,R., Sanghvi, S., Woetzel, J. (2017) Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: What The Future Of Work Will Mean For Jobs, Skills, And Wages. McKinsey Global Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/jobs-lost-jobs-gained-what-the-future-of-work-will-mean-for-jobs-skills-and-wages
 Bittle, S., Francis, B., Markow, W., Sigelman, M. (2019). The Hybrid Job Economy. Burning Glass Technologies. Retrieved from: https://www.burning-glass.com/wp-content/uploads/hybrid_jobs_2019_final.pdf
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