Firms hunt tech, digital and data skills for bounce-back

business2The June 21 free-for-all might have been shelved but the gradual opening of key sectors has seen nearly nine in ten (86%) UK firms feeling confident about H2 growth prospects with digital, data and communications skills among the most in demand.

According to the latest quarterly Demand for Skilled Talent report by recruitment specialist Robert Half, overall business confidence levels have increased by 10% compared to January 2021.

The biggest factor standing in the way of growth is the struggle to find employees with the right mix of skills, with the majority focused on reskilling and upskilling employees to meet evolving business needs and opportunities brought on by the pandemic.

The most in demand employee skills for H2 2021 are hybrid skills (a combination of soft and technical), digital and data capabilities, change management and communication.

Additionally, almost half (47%) of workers feel more optimistic about career prospects now than they did 12 months ago, with research into the candidate market mirroring the confidence seen in employers.

Robert Half’s Special UK Report: Demand for Skilled Talent, in association with Burning Glass, has been compiled using interview data sourced from 300 UK senior executives of various sized private and public organisations in April 2021. Worker data has been taken from online surveys conducted by Robert Half between April and May 2021.

Business admit they are not out of the woods yet but the majority of managers indicated the pandemic has created opportunities for expansion and growth, with new hiring demand being driven predominantly by manufacturing, retail, logistics, financial services and consultancy as these industries open up again.

Robert Half’s research shows a shift in the sectors driving hiring demand for the UK; pharmaceuticals and IT services sectors have dropped out of the top five in H2 compared to the first half of the year.

Within these industries, the top priority hires for tech and digital chiefs are cloud engineers, front-end developers, business transformation specialists, database administrators and business intelligence specialists.

Hybrid workforces (where some employees work remotely, and others in the office) are now seen as a permanent way of working by many employers and workers alike.

In the UK, the top five cities demonstrating the most hybrid work availability spanning marketing and tech roles are London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Bristol.

Over two-thirds (67%) of workers recently surveyed by Robert Half self-identify as a “homesteader” (working mainly from home); 23% as an “office dweller”; and 8% as a “coffee shop traveller” (preferring other locations to work). Earlier this year, Robert Half found that hybrid working is now viewed as a permanent part of the employment landscape by 89% of managers.

Robert Half managing director Matt Weston said: “Our employment market data shows a shift as we move into what we hope will be the latter stage of the pandemic cycle, and a return to a more confident and secure labour market for employees and employers alike. Businesses have been forced to expedite digitisation initiatives and have found a wealth of new growth opportunities through that evolution.

“As businesses continue towards growth and recovery, we have seen staffing concerns centre on reskilling and upskilling, which has driven demand for candidates with hybrid and digital skills.

“That’s not to say the current climate hasn’t taken its toll on the UK’s workforce. Over a third (37%) of workers are suffering from burnout and low morale. To maximise future expansion opportunities, employers will need to support teams by continuing to offer remote and flexible working to bring work-life balance back into equilibrium.”

Burning Glass Technologies CEO Matt Sigelman added: “The pace of skill change globally continues to accelerate. Tech, digital and data handling skills continue to be in ever-increasing demand across all sectors.

“The development and use of hardware, software, ecommerce apps and cloud-based collaboration platforms, as examples, are no longer solely the preserve of dedicated IT departments, as virtually all areas of business are becoming highly dependent on the use of technology in their day-to-day operations.

“From a business perspective, all managers need to foster a culture of constant learning for workers to remain agile, adaptable and sufficiently skilled in order to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation.”

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