Business and administration professionals – also called ‘office professionals’ – are skilled office workers who carry out a broad range of tasks that involve dealing with business, administration, sales and marketing issues.
- Around 8.5 million people were employed as office professionals in 2018. Employment in the occupation grew by 24 per cent between 2006 and 2018.
- Employment is projected to grow by a further 16 per cent over the period 2018 to 2030. In other words, around 1.4 million new jobs will be created.
- This underestimates the true level of employment demand. In order to replace those workers who will leave the occupation for one reason or another – an estimated 4 million between 2018 and 2030 – and meet the projected growth in demand over the same period, around 5.4 million job openings will need to be filled.
- The key 3 tasks and skills of office professionals are autonomy, gather and evaluate information, use of ICT.
- Almost 60% of office professionals are employed in just four sectors: Professional services, Public sector & defence, Finance & insurance and Wholesale & retail trade.
- The expansion of social networks and new types of media will also affect a variety of tasks that professionals within this occupational group carry out.
- As office professionals are employed in a wide range of sectors and industries, performing different roles, there can be no one skill profile that fits all.
Who are they?
Office professionals – also called ‘business professionals’ – are skilled office workers who carry out a broad range of tasks that involve dealing with business, administration, sales and marketing issues 1. Three broad sub-occupations can be identified within this occupational group:
- finance professionals, e.g. accountants, financial analysts, etc.;
- administration professionals, such as management and organisational analysts; and
- sales, marketing and public relations professionals, e.g. advertising and marketing professionals, public relations professionals, etc.
According to Eurofound's Job Monitor, the key 3 workplace tasks and skills of office professionals are autonomy, gather and evaluate information and use of ICT.
Figure 1: Importance of tasks and skills of office professionals
Note: The importance of tasks and skills is measured on 0-1 scale, where 0 means least important and 1 means most important.
What are the trends for the future? 2
Employment in the occupation grew by 24 per cent between 2006 and 2018. Employment growth is projected to continue in the period to 2030 but at a slower rare. Between 2018 and 2030 employment in the occupation is expected to grow by 16 per cent resulting in the creation of 1.4 million new jobs. 26 of analysed European countries are expected to create new jobs for researchers and engineers, while only in 2 countries their employment levels should decline.
Figure 2: Future employment growth of office professionals in European countries (2018-2030, in %)
As well there being a need to fill 1.4 million new jobs, there is a need to replace those who are expected to leave the occupation. Over the period 2018-2030 an estimated 4 million people are projected to leave the occupation for one reason or another such as retirement3). The total demand for office professionals will reach 5.4 million.
Figure 3: Future job openings of office professionals (2018-2030)
Almost 60% of office professionals are employed in four sectors – Professional services, Public sector & defence, Finance & insurance and Wholesale & retail trade.
The qualification mix is projected to remain fairly stable between 2018 and 2030. In 2018, 74 per cent of those working in the occupation had a high level of qualification and this will remain more or less unchanged to stand at 76 per cent in 2030. In 2018, 26 per cent had a medium level qualification and, again, this will not change much in the period to 2030 when it will stand at 23 per cent. In 2018, 3 per cent of the workforce had low level qualifications.
More information on employment trends and characteristics of office professionals can be found here.
Which drivers of change will affect their skills?
Skills required within this occupation are expected to be mainly affected by a set of drivers of change:
- The transformation of organisational structures in response to various dynamic circumstances, such as privatisation of public organisations, changes in national regulatory frameworks and creation of supra-national bodies/frameworks (e.g. the European Central Bank single supervisory mechanism 4) will prove to be an important driver of change. Office professionals, such as investment advisers, marketing and public relations professionals, will need strong ‘hard skills’, such as regulatory knowledge.
- Globalisation and the expansion of e-commerce pave the way to new markets. To take advantage of the increased opportunities professionals, particularly in sales and marketing, will need to become familiar with new regulatory frameworks in this area and strengthen their language and intercultural skills. These factors will also affect the way in which organisations operate and business processes take place, e.g. development of new tools to monitor customers. Supply chain management skills will be also important to engage with local and regional suppliers. Management skills, such as coaching and team building, will be critical for some administration professionals, including personnel/human resources professionals, as well as language and intercultural skills to operate in cross-border/global markets.
- Technological advancements will significantly reshape the skills required from these professionals in a range of sectors:
- The reorganisation of the financial sector through a wave of mergers and acquisitions, and the expansion of ‘fintech’ 5 among financial systems and consumers 6 are expected to shrink the employment opportunities for financial professionals within commercial banking. In this context, only those with sufficient ICT skills will have strong employment potential. Analytical skills, as well as time management skills will be paramount for those professionals who want to develop a career in banking. Similar types of skills will be necessary for accountants, who will also need to compete for fewer job openings related to the computerisation of accounting and book keeping 7.
- Automation and computerisation will not only affect ‘day-to-day’ processes. Office automation will also affect the workplace for administration professionals who will need to become advanced users of various packages for word processing, maintenance of databases, etc. ICT skills will be required as well in a context of expansion of on-line banking and on-line government services. Marketing automation platforms such as Mautic will also help to target customers, build a relationship with clients and monitor market penetration. Once again the importance of ICT skills is emphasised. In investment banking, the process of strengthening organisations’ ICT architecture will also boost demand for ICT skills.
Financial analysts and business analysts who understand statistics and command a firm grasp of database analytics can tap into the ever-growing big data flow to make valuable enterprise-wide contributions. A talented analyst could easily focus his efforts on strategic process improvements in areas such as human resources or operations. IT skills, such as systems analysis and proficiency with large enterprise resource planning systems, are also in great demand.”
Source: “How to Sharpen Your Strategy as a Financial Analyst”. Available at: https://www.roberthalf.com/finance/blog/in-demand-skills-for-a-financial-analyst
- New trends in marketing such as virtual reality or location-based marketing growth – which rely on technologies such a Bluetooth Smart Beacons 9 – will create new opportunities for advertising products and the promotion of engagement with their brand. Subsequently, sales and marketing professionals should be familiar with these technologies and be alert of their potential.
- The expansion of social networks and new types of media will also affect a variety of tasks that professionals within this occupational group carry out. For example, tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter will continue helping professionals to build their profile and establish their networks; at the same time they facilitate the recruitment of new staff with very specific skills. The so-called cyberculture (blogs, lifestyle websites, etc.) will increase their share of influence in marketing and public relations, i.e. creating new opportunities for reaching consumers. A deep knowledge of these platforms and the possibilities they offer would be a desirable skill for those aiming at succeeding in the field of marketing and public relations.
- As a part of its Ditigitalization and future of work project, Cedefop estimates the risks of automation for occupations. The most exposed occupations are those with significant share of tasks that can be automated – operation of specialised technical equipment, routine or non-autonomous tasks – and those with a small reliance on communication, collaboration, critical thinking and customer-serving skills. The risk of automation is further accentuated in those (occupations) in which people report they have little access to professional training that could help them to cope with labour market changes. Office professionals belong to occupations where the automation risk is low.
How can these skill needs be met?
As office professionals are employed in a wide range of sectors and industries, performing different roles, there can be no one skill profile that fits all. Nonetheless, common core skills such as strong analytical and ICT skills can be identified based on the drivers above.
Industry-standard certifications have an important role to play in skills development, as for example for accountants: specialist programmes offered by private providers; the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) program from ISACA; the CIW Internet Business Associate Certification; and the Chartered IT Professional Certification; or for human resources professionals, such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) certification.
Beyond certifications, business administration professionals should continuously upgrade and expand their skills (technical, soft; sector-specific or not) to cope with the changes anticipated in the majority of sectors they work. In particular, jobs in the financial & insurance services and professional services (such as legal, accounting and consulting), which are key employers of this occupational group, are expected to have significant rise in the need to learn new things 10; while it is rather likely that current skills in these industries will become outdated in five years, probably due to some of the driving changes analysed above. The role of employers (private or public entities) in sharpening and broadening their employees’ skills is of high importance for these professionals as they hold key positions and can directly impact on productivity and sustainability of organisations. Upskilling can take place in traditional forms (e.g. in classrooms), but also in the workplace, through positive learning culture and work structures (such as complex work, work autonomy etc.) 11.
All web-links were last accessed December 2nd, 2019.
 Defined as ILO ISCO 08 group 24 Business and administration professionals. ILO (2012) International Standard Classification of Occupations ISCO-08. Available here. More information on the occupation can be found here.
 2016 Cedefop forecast
 The need to replace workers leaving a profession for various reasons, such as retirement, is referred to as replacement demand. For more information on replacement demand and how it drives employment across sectors, can be found here, accessed 16 June 2016
 European Central Bank, Single Supervisory Mechanism, accessed 10 June 2016.
 “Fintech” is an umbrella term used to describe technological innovations that significantly change the financial processes.
 “Who will disrupt the disruptors?”, The Journal of Financial Perspectives Issue, Winter 2015, accessed 10 June 2016
 European Commission 2009, Investing in the Future of Jobs and Skills. Sector Report Distribution and Trade
 Clarke, P 2015, “Investment banking in 2016: a bank-by-bank survival guide”, efinancialcareers , accessed 16 June 2016
Gruman, G 2014, “What you need to know about using Bluetooth beacons”, InfoWorld, accessed 16 June 2016 l
 Cedefop 2015, Skills, qualifications and jobs in the EU: the making of a perfect match? Evidence from Cedefop’s European skills and jobs survey. Luxembourg: Publications Office. http://dx.doi.org/10.2801/606129
 Cedefop 2015, Skill shortages and gaps in European enterprises: striking a balance between vocational education and training and the labour market. Luxembourg: Publications Office. http://dx.doi.org/10.2801/042499