A new study investigates how remote working and COVID-19 has altered the skillsets employees need for their work and what the most in-demand skills will be as we move into 2021. 

According to new research conducted by Michael Page, a global recruitment company, almost three-quarters of employers (71 per cent) believe that the skillsets needed have been changed as a result of COVID-19.

This figure rises to over eight in 10 employers (82 per cent) when considering business leaders who have between 500-1000 employees, showing how COVID-19 has dramatically altered the course of learning and development for most employees.

In addition, over half of the UK employers surveyed (56 per cent) believe that the pandemic has revealed a significant skills gap within their workforce. This further highlights the need for HR teams to adapt accordingly and aim to close this skills gap within their organisations.

During the pandemic, almost three-quarters of businesses (73 per cent) offered training to staff in order to develop new skills. When taking into account employers who are in charge of 500-999 employees, this number rose to almost nine in 10 (89 per cent).

The research shows that business leaders who are in charge of hiring decisions want staff who can show flexibility – both whilst working in a team and whilst they work alone.

Specifically, almost nine in 10 leaders (89 per cent) stated that they would require employees to have good communication skills, including remote communication, as remote working continues into 2021.

Furthermore, over four in five desire their employees to showcase adaptability (85 per cent). The same amount believe that managing or motivating staff remotely (85 per cent) will also be an important skill for their staff, again a testament to the impact of remote working in employees’ lives.

Over eight in 10 (82 per cent) believe resilience will be an important skill whilst over three-quarters of leaders want their employees to have skills of collaboration (77 per cent).

Hiring with a renewed focus on different skillsets will be a priority for almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of employers in 2021. Interestingly, the research shows a larger shift towards soft skills as over half of business leaders (58 per cent) said that would place more importance of this whilst over a third of employers (39 per cent) believed that hard skills will be more important.

Doug Rode, Senior Managing Director of Michael Page Technology, said: 

2020 has been a tough year for business leaders and candidates alike, given both have adapted to respond to the significant economic shock caused by the pandemic. We are expecting to see the effects of this pandemic into the coming years as businesses place more emphasis on new skills in demand.

Successful candidates will be those who can quickly respond to this change in the hiring market, and demonstrate renewed skills that businesses need, such as video interviewing and remote motivation of staff members, which in previous years might not have been as necessary.

*This research was undertaken by Opinium, on behalf of Michael Page. The total sample size was 500 UK business leaders who employ over 10 staff members. Fieldwork was undertaken in December 2020. The survey was carried out online.