2021 business growth prospects & demand for talent

By Robert Half on 18th January 2021

2021 business growth prospects & demand for talent

  • 78% of UK business leaders surveyed are somewhat-to-very confident about their growth prospects going into the first half of 2021
  • Almost a quarter of companies surveyed (23%) are expanding their workforces and actively adding new positions
  • Manufacturing leads the Top 5 sectors currently driving demand for new hires here in the UK

The latest c-suite research from Robert Half across six major international markets indicates that 78% of UK business leaders surveyed are somewhat-to-very confident about their growth prospects going into the first half of 2021. Growth sentiment is highest in Brazil (88%), followed by France and the UK (78%), Australia (77%), Germany (72%), and Belgium (69%).

Reasons influencing growth sentiment for 2021

Top reasons influencing growth prospects

Tellingly, the general economic climate (36%), as well as both expanding business opportunities (34%) and reduced business opportunities (27%), were cited by survey respondents amongst the top influences on 2021 growth prospects, alongside the pace of digitisation/adoption of new technologies (30%).

This latest employment market data suggests a mixed commercial picture at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic cycle. Across Continental Europe and the UK, multiple markets have recently found themselves back in lockdown as COVID-19 infection rates hit new mid-winter highs, whilst summer in the Southern Hemisphere has helped mitigate the effects of the pandemic across much of the Asia Pacific region and South America. Hence there is no single, over-arching business trend evident because COVID-19’s impact has been far from uniform across various industries and countries. That said, the global shift to remote- and hybrid working and the pivot as well towards online and e-commerce revenue generation internationally are all influencing the hiring intentions and priorities Robert Half is seeing going into the New Year. Early indications are that 2021 is going to be a year of recovery and rebuilding for both companies and individual workers alike.

Demand for talent in 2021

Whilst continued pandemic-induced market turbulence sees 76% of employers surveyed here in the UK planning to maintain headcounts (against a six-market average of 66%), almost a quarter of those companies surveyed (23%) are expanding their workforces and actively adding new positions – levels which trend higher in Brazil (33%) and Australia (32%) and lower across Continental Europe and the UK (17%). Conversely, only 8 % of companies surveyed by Robert Half intend freezing headcounts entirely and an even smaller number (3%) plan to reduce workforce numbers during the first months of 2021.

This data supports workforce re-sizing and hiring shifts which Robert Half has observed since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, whereby companies have refocused their business priorities in response to shifting market/consumer demands, embraced more data-driven operational and planning processes alongside fast-tracking talent transformation strategies designed to build more resilient, adaptable, and agile workforces.

With this in mind, the Top 5 sectors currently driving demand for talent which Robert Half is seeing here in the UK include:

Top 5 sectors currently driving demand for talent

And the Top 5 priority hires for the first half of 2021 spanning key technology, finance & accounting and general office roles across these sectors are:

The top priority hires for the first half of 2021, across the technology sector, finance & accounting and general office roles, are:

Top 5 priority hires for the half-half of 2021


Pandemic-related business recovery priorities for 2021

Business agility, adaptability, and increasing both risk management and forward planning propensities continue to be top priorities for many companies as they implement their COVID-19 recovery and rebuilding strategies going into the New Year. These same attributes are also likely to be hallmarks of the evolving future of work in the longer term.

During what remains a volatile business environment in which change remains the only constant, many companies are struggling to find the talent they need to support new business priorities sparked by the pandemic. Professionals with in-demand skills know they still have options, and employers should realise they need to offer competitive salaries and benefits to retain key personnel as well as attract and secure top candidates during this calendar year – and beyond.

Additional information & resources

Robert Half understands that it takes time and effort to evaluate the best talent strategy for different businesses. For further independent advice to assist with your recruitment and workforce planning efforts, visit roberthalf.co.uk/advice.

For the latest salary and benefits information here in the UK, download our Salary Guide, containing information for more than 250 positions spanning Accounting, Finance, Technology, Admin & HR, and Marketing fields.

About Robert Half

Founded in 1948, Robert Half is the world's first and largest specialised staffing firm. The company has more than 300 staffing locations worldwide and offers hiring and job search services at roberthalf.co.uk

1Robert Half commissioned research from 1,800 executives using an online data collection methodology during November 2020. This was comprised of 300 interviews each in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Respondents included General Managers, Chief Financial Officers and Chief Information Officers with hiring responsibilities across small (50-249 employees), medium (250-499) and large (500+ employees) from private, publicly listed, and public sector businesses across the six markets.
2Only filling vacated positions over coming months due to voluntary quits or involuntary terminations.

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