The number of data-scientist roles around the world has rocketed by a whopping 57% in the past year, according to Politecnico di Milano’s School of Management, with the drive to make sense of Big Data stimulating that dramatic surge.

In reaction to the School’s findings, Erica Titchener – head of technology and operations consulting at talent specialists Alexander Mann Solutions – noted: “At a time when speculation about the number of jobs that will be replaced by robots and automation is rife, [this] research demonstrates how the technological revolution is creating fresh demand for highly skilled professionals.

“For medium and large businesses in particular, investing in data analysis is no longer novel or luxurious – it’s a business imperative.”

The startling figure, and Titchener’s remarks, show how vital it has become for companies to scan the horizon and ensure that their staff bases are in the correct shape to anticipate technological shifts, rather than be overwhelmed or left behind. Which key approaches, then, will enable them to get ‘future proof’?

The Institute of Leadership & Management's head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “There are many characteristic attributes, traits and capabilities associated with leadership, but vision – an idea of where we’re going and where the future lies – is probably cited more often than any of the others. Crucially, any leader who is concerned about how to make their staff or workplace future proof actually has to make time for it. This isn’t something that you do whenever you’re not wrapped up in day-to-day duties. All too often, you hear leaders say, ‘Sorry, I’m too busy to plan’, because their minds are preoccupied with firefighting.”

Cooper notes: “The only way you will get a sense of what the future holds is if you talk to other people – particularly those in the corporate and commercial world. In any sector, there will usually be someone out there who will be thinking about, or doing, whatever it is you’re going to be doing next. And you’ll only know about that by getting outside your workplace and having conversations. This is why any form of inter-organisational collaboration – whether it’s about shared networking events, research partnerships or swapping internal coaches – enables leaders to have an eye on the future.”

She adds: “You’re not going to pick up trends, or see where your organisation is going, from behind a desk. And it’s so easy to make those discoveries, because hundreds of webinar offers are landing in executives’ inboxes day after day; market-intelligence reports – and articles based on them – are emerging constantly. The onus is on leaders to make time in their schedules specifically to keep an eye on what’s ahead, and then make their own vision of that happen, because then it will be durable, sustaining – and truly future proof.”

To find out more about how to create a vision, check out this learning item from the Institute