‘Anywhere workforces’ and the increased demand for ‘hybrid’ skills here in the UK

By Robert Half on 18th March 2021

Our recent Demand for Skilled Talent report (produced in association with Burning Glass Technologies) evidences a definite shift in skills demand amongst employers in response to the adoption of new technologies and economic shifts experienced during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With hybrid workforces (where some employees work remotely and others at the office) now seen as a permanent part of the employment landscape by 89% of UK employers recently surveyed by Robert Half1, job advertisements are requesting more people-focused skills for technical roles and, conversely, more technical, and data-handling proficiencies for administrative and marketing job functions.

Based on analysis of job descriptions in online postings2, examples of new hybrid skillsets across sectors and for specific, in-demand roles were compiled. These include:

Technology Sector

Research reveals technical skills need to be accompanied by evidence of customer- and team-focused skills including “establish customer rapport”, “provide customer follow-up”, “lead a team” and “human resource management”.

Examples of hybrid tech roles showing strong demand growth:

  • System Administrators required to satisfy customers (+52%)
  • Software developers able to establish customer rapport (+51%)
  • Web and multimedia developers required to provide customer follow-up (+42%)

Finance & Accounting

The ability to “adapt to change”, “work in teams” and “assist customers” and “think creatively” are in high demand amongst employers.

Examples of hybrid F&A roles showing strong demand growth:

  • Finance and insurance clerks with CRM abilities (+100%)
  • Securities and finance dealers required to establish customer rapport (+46%)
  • Management and organisational analysts to apply conceptual thinking (+25%)

Office, HR and Secretarial

There is a greater emphasis on technical skills such as “computer programming”, “perform business analysis” and “business ICT systems” evident.

Hybrid roles showing strong demand growth:

  • General Office Clerks with business process skills (+82%)
  • Administrative and executive secretaries with business intelligence skills (+50%)
  • Enquiry Clerks with database management skills (23%)


“Communication skills ”, “planning abilities”, “reporting/analysis expertise”, and “provide leadership” evidence a shift towards the more data- and customer-centric focused skills during the pandemic.

Hybrid legal roles showing strong demand growth:

  • Lawyers with client communication skills (+52%)
  • Legal professionals with planning abilities (+27%)
  • Legal associates with reporting/analysis expertise (+10%)

Marketing, Advertising and Communications

Technical skills such as “process data”, “statistics”, “business ICT systems” and “computer programming” are in demand.

Hybrid roles showing strong demand growth :

  • Advertising and public relations managers with software configuration skills (+208%)
  • Advertising and public relations managers with CSS skills (+90%)
  • Sales and marketing managers who can apply information security policies (+71%)

Whilst always sought-after, many of the above-referenced skills have definitely seen an uptick in demand over recent months because of COVID-19. Three of the top business priorities for the first half of 2021 amongst General Managers Robert Half recently surveyed3 include talent management (44%), identifying new opportunities for business growth (42%) and investing in new technologies (41%). This combination of talent, business growth, and new technologies is not only informing recovery strategies for many companies at this stage of the pandemic but is also directly translating into new-look job descriptions and evolving skill sets. As much as the ‘anywhere workforce’ is likely to be a permanent part of the employment landscape moving forward, so too is demand for these new hybrid skills.

For employers wanting to develop a hybrid skills-focused team culture, Robert Half suggests the following five-step plan:

  1. Evaluate your business goals and priority projects. Assess your current strategic initiatives for the skills, roles, technology, infrastructure, and budget you’ll need – particularly when it comes to digital transformation projects.
  2. Conduct a skills and job function audit. Based on your business goals, conduct a skills and job function audit to locate any skills gaps. Use hypothetical scenarios to evaluate key skills such as flexibility and agility, creative thinking, and emotional intelligence amongst employees. Plus, look for roles where there are overlapping skill characteristics – to achieve both greater role clarity/efficiencies but also to inform career development and future recruitment strategies.
  3. Create a staffing plan. Based on your skills audit, determine which roles and skills are essential to both your current and future business needs.
  4. Look at contract worker or managed business solutions. Consider using temporary and contract personnel to cover any priority skill gaps. This approach allows you to staff up and down quickly and cost-effectively. Entire projects can be outsourced and managed using external consultants if needed.
  5.  Embrace the concept of ‘lifelong learning’. We all need to reskill and upskill throughout our working lives. View hybrid skills development as an ongoing dynamic and help foster a forward-looking, innovative team culture that can assist with staff retention and talent acquisition as well as help future-proof your business.

From a skills demand and evolution perspective, COVID-19 can be seen as the ultimate disruptor and accelerator. With one recent report estimating that 21 million UK workers will need basic digital skills and 14 million enhanced interpersonal and advanced communications skills by 20304, the time to take constructive steps in developing hybrid skills is now – particularly for those companies eager to the more resilient, adaptable, and agile workforces needed for their pandemic recovery efforts.

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, contact us.

1Source: Robert Half commissioned research from 1,500 executives using an online data collection methodology conducted during November 2020. This was comprised of 300 interviews each in 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 five markets.
2Skills requested in all online job postings across the UK, Germany, Belgium, and France were analysed by Burning Glass Technologies for the periods July 2018 – June 2019 and December 2019 through to November 2020 in order to identify sectoral skill demand shifts. Demand growth percentages for specific UK skill sets during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic were then calculated.
3Source: Robert Half November 2020 survey. Multiple responses regarding 2021 business priorities were permitted.
4Learning for life: funding world class adult education report, Page 11 (CBI, October 2020. Quoting McKinsey UK Skills Mismatch research data).

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