Adapting your skills for the future workplace

By Robert Half on 15th July 2020

Are you equipped to face the future workplace? Employers have adapted hiring strategies and role requirements to meet the challenges — employees with the foresight to market themselves in a new way could find a wealth of new opportunities waiting for them.

Victoria Sprott (Talent Acquisition Director for Robert Half) explored the future workplace with a panel of five experts as part of our Your Future webinar series. In this fifth instalment, hosted on 15th July, she was joined by Sam Elly (Managing Director of Spark People Development Ltd), Emma Howard (HR Professional specialising in recruiting, retaining and optimising talent), Sheryl Miller (Transformation Director & Career Coach, author), Katy Tanner (Leadership Development Director at Robert Half) and Matt Weston (UK Managing Director of Robert Half).

They shared their predictions for the future of work and how you can identify and maximise your opportunities. 

Webinar: YOUR SKILLS – Future of work

Predictions for the future of the office

Remote jobs have become the new normal and, although a slow return to the office is underway, the virtual office setting has changed attitudes to location-based hiring.

Matt says: “we recently filled a couple of roles in Truro with candidates that are working out of Edinburgh. We have a very big presence in London, we have a number of people that are working in Bristol and facilitating those roles.”

Professionals now have access to a wider pool of opportunities on a national level, with clients who have shifted their focus to skillsets as well as cultural fit.

Flexible working is expected
Employers now understand that flexibility is crucial, which is extremely positive from an employee perspective — particularly as very few workers want to return to the office full-time.

Sheryl advises going into proceedings with clarity. She says, “be really clear in terms of what your non negotiables are but remember that it's flexibility on both sides. It's not just a case of the employer having to be completely flexible and meet all of our demands.”

Changes in leadership

Leadership has undergone more change in the last 12 weeks than it has in the last 50 years. Jobseekers should assess potential employers for signs of evolution in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Evolved empathy
The best leaders should be able to manage remote teams with the same level of empathy they had when working in a physical office environment.

“In terms of supporting remotely, you have to be even more in tune to what's going on. You're not going to have those informal conversations around the coffee machine,” Sam says.  

Focus on outcomes
Leaders who truly lean into remote working practices should, by now, understand that ‘input’ is not a viable method of employee evaluation.

“If you're moving towards remote, the focus for leaders is going to be outcomes not input. So, presenteeism is hopefully moving away in a remote world,” says Sam.

“The conversations with people should be about setting objectives. You’ve got to link objectives to your own goals as a leader and to organisational goals to make it really crystal-clear. Create accountability and then just let [employees] get on with it in a way that works for them.”

If the pandemic has shown workers anything, it’s that agility is an attractive leadership quality. The ability to support the team and guide them when things are uncertain is key.

“Agility is the number one skill,” says Katy. “Having that ability to know what to do, even when you don't know what to do. That ability to look forward behind, to the left, to the right, and have that anticipation of future problems and ready the team.”

Emerging industries

The pandemic has caused the hiring market to enter a state of flux. To find career success within a post-pandemic workplace, you’ll need to identify which industries are trending upward.

Matt says: “We do a lot of work with software companies; we’re starting to see that rise. Facilities management, and financial services are doing really well. We're also starting to see some of the industries that dipped at the start of [the pandemic] coming back — events and entertainment, and even the catering industry.” 

You can also judge a potential employer by how their business adapted to the crisis. This will give you an indication of how successfully they’ll recover and how adept they are at futureproofing themselves.

Katy says: “the companies, irrelevant of industry, that are doing well are definitely those that are open to re-imagining their processes; their technology; their people; their structures.”

Job functions and in-demand skills

As businesses turn their attention to recovery initiatives, the skill sets they’re looking for in potential employees have changed.

IT, tech, and data analysis
IT and technology hiring is picking back up, while data and analytics have become a huge focus for businesses looking to make smart business decisions in an unstable market. Data scientists and process experts with a finance background are also highly sought after in the current hiring market.

Accounting and finance
Hiring for finance and accounting roles is more robust, with a particular focus on cashflow management and analytical skills.

Matt says: “We're running huge projects where everyone's just worried about cash flow, so there's a big opportunity there. And we're still continuing to see increased numbers coming back in financial management and management accounting.” 

“The three top things at the moment are cash management, working capital FP&A and ERP,” says Matt.

SMEs and local businesses
Government incentives which encourage consumers to spend with local businesses may help boost hiring in those smaller organisations.

“I think there's going to be a boom for local niche industries as people come into city centres and business parks less,” says Sheryl, “I've seen it with my own eyes — market towns like Bridgenorth are bustling and actually busier than Birmingham City Centre.”

Hiring strategies

As companies start to review their infrastructures, they’ll inevitably uncover critical skills gaps which need filling quickly. It’s highly likely that employers will lean on flexible hiring strategies which utilise temporary and contract roles which allow them to fill those gaps quickly.

“I think we will start to see a rise with contingent workers,” Katy says, “a silver lining of that would be that it will help everyone diversify their own skill set, make them more attractive in the future of work in terms of skill sets. I would anticipate that it will happen over the next month, three months, six months.”

Jobseekers should look at these contingent roles as an opportunity to gain fast employment while expanding their skillsets in a way which will ultimately be beneficial in the future.

In-demand soft skills

Now that remote work is commonplace, a new set of soft skills have become more attractive to potential employers. Discipline is important, as is communication and the ability to collaborate with a remote team.   

“No employer wants someone who's going to burn themselves out,” says Sam. “So, having the discipline, not just working effectively but getting the balance right, to make sure they're not putting themselves under stress.”

Employers will also be looking for candidates who can show that they have the resilience and initiate to quickly adapt to change when it occurs. If the past few months have proven anything, it’s that change-management is essential for professional success. 

Value-add skills
Emma says, “in a world where there are more applicants than jobs, the skills that are really coming into play are the value-added ones.” She cites flexibility, empathy and insight as the three key skills which play a recurring role in her own network. 


Irrespective of what lay ahead in the future workplace, professionals can widen their pool of opportunity and continue to grow their skill sets by observing the market movement and adapting their skills to fit new challenges.


For more information on finding a job, adapting your CV or navigating the remote hiring process, you can visit our career advice blog. Alternatively, start your job search now by uploading your CV or searching the latest vacancies.

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