Special UK Report:

Demand For Skilled Talent

2021: Mid-Year Employer and Worker Sentiment Snapshot

  • UK business confidence going into the second half of 2021 is higher than in January
  • The business climate remains mixed, but more managers are now indicating expanding business opportunities than at the start of the year
  • Reskilling/upskilling employees to meet evolving business needs is UK employers' biggest staffing concern for the rest of 2021
  • Remote/hybrid work availability remains strong, with London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Bristol offering the most roles
  • Hybrid skills, digital and data capabilities, change management and communication top the list of in-demand UK worker skills for the second half of 2021

National Hiring Trends and In-Demand Positions

Top 5 industries currently hiring

1. Manufacturing

2. Retail

3. Logistics

4. Financial Services

5. Consultancy

Top 5 priority full-time hires for the second half of 2021


1. Cloud Engineers

2. Front-End Developers

3. Business Transformation Specialists

4. Database Administrators

5. Business Intelligence Specialists

For CFOs

1. Finance Analysts

2. Fund Managers

3. FP&A Analysts

4. Risk/Compliance Specialists

5. Credit Managers

For General Hiring Managers

1. Business Managers

2. Office/Administration Managers

3. Sales Personnel

4. Project Managers

5. Customer Service Personnel

Top 5 interim professional hires during the second half of 2021


1. Front-End Developers

2. Cloud Engineers

3. System Security Specialists

4. Business Intelligence Specialists

5. Network/Systems Managers

For CFOs

1. Credit Managers

2. Fund Managers

3. FP&A Analysts

4. Tax Managers

5. Payroll Personnel

For General Hiring Managers

1. Sales Personnel

2. Project Managers

3. Customer Service Personnel

4. Office/Administration Managers

5. Logistics Managers


Very confident


Somewhat confident


Not at all confident

National trend: Business confidence going into the second half of the year is higher than in January.

1. Expanding business opportunities due to pandemic

2. Current economic climate

3. Reduced business opportunities due to pandemic

National trend: Business climate remains mixed, but more managers are now indicating expanding business opportunities than in January.


Reskilling/upskilling employees to meet evolving business needs


Continuing to interview and onboard workers remotely


Too many skilled candidates available


Meeting candidates' salary expectations


Not enough skilled candidates available


Retaining top performers


More Positive


Unchanged (same as last year)


More Negative




Engaged and productive


Positive attitude to work


Negative attitude to work


Burn out/low morale


Positive: Looking forward to it


Neutral: Not fussed


Negative feeling apprehensive

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RH Hidden Fields

The 'Anywhere Workforce': Latest Remote/Hybrid Work Trends

  • As we've reported previously, hybrid workforces (where some employees will work remotely, and others will work in the office) are now seen as a permanent way of working by many employers and workers alike
  • Here in the UK, the Top 5 cities demonstrating the most remote/hybrid work availability spanning finance, accounting, legal, office admin functions, marketing and technology roles (as a proportion of total job ads over the past twelve months) are: (1) London; (2) Manchester; (3) Birmingham; (4) Leeds; and (5) Bristol
  • Of these, Bristol currently offers the most remote/hybrid work opportunities for both finance and accounting roles and marketing, advertising and communication roles; London has the highest concentration for technology specialists; Leeds for office administrative positions; and Manchester for legal positions.
  • Based on our recent C-suite poll, priority focus areas for employers to further support successful remote/hybrid work practices during the second half of 2021 include: (1) Developing a more outcomes and impact-based team culture; (2) Helping their employees improve their home working environment; (3) Employee integration; and (4) Updating return-to-office guidance
  • 67% of workers recently surveyed self-identify as a 'homesteader' (working mainly from home); 23% as an 'office dweller'; and 8% as a 'coffee shop traveller' (preferring other locales)

In-Demand Skills - Technology Snapshot

  • Employers are increasingly requiring applicants to demonstrate expanded and more diverse skill sets

  • The quickening rate of digital transformation across many departments combined with the expansion of remote and hybrid work practices means that the development, use and maintenance of hardware, software and cloud-based platforms (as examples) is increasingly no longer solely the preserve of dedicated IT departments

Examples of demand increases for specialist tech and digital skills across specific sectors over the past twelve months (compared with five years ago) include:

For Technology Specialists:

DevOps (+319.4%), Software as a Service (SaaS) skills (+143.1%) and Python (+136.5%) have all seen a substantial uptick in demand

For Finance & Accounting Roles:

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation and upgrade skills (+59.8%) are top-of-mind for many employers

For Office Administrators and Executive Secretaries:

Data analysis (+100.4%), CRM (+56%) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) skills (+27.8%) lead the list of in-demand digital skills

For Marketing, Advertising and Communications roles:

Social media management (+142%), Content marketing (+60%) and Digital marketing (+46%) have all experienced significant demand growth over the past 5 years

Specialist tech and digital skills are also translating into higher salaries. Over the past three years, when compared with national salary averages for these specific role:

  • Information Security Engineers with threat modelling skills are commanding up to 59% more in base salary
  • Finance Managers/Controllers with ERP skills (+6%) Financial Analysts with VBA skills
  • Administration Managers with ERP skills (+75%)
  • HR Managers with Prince project management skills (+37%)
  • Executive Assistants with Microsoft Project skills (+34%)
  • Marketing Managers with Software as a Service (SaaS) expertise (+38%)


Hybrid skills (new combinations of technical and 'soft' skills)


Digital/data management


Change management




Ability to work more flexibly/remotely


Increased personal productivity


Enabled faster, more data-driven decision making


Better communication and collaboration


Regularly inviting their feedback and ideas


Clearly articulating the benefits of new technologies


Offering apprenticeship or training programmes


Conducting skills audits


Planning and organising


Digital/technology/data skills


Communication skills


Provide more hands-on training


Offer mentor schemes


Bring in expert consultants


The employer data referenced throughout this report is sourced from Robert Half commissioned research from 1,200 executives using an online data collection methodology conducted in April 2021. This was comprised of 300 interviews each in Belgium, Brazil, France, 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 these markets.

Worker data cited in this report is an aggregate of results from online surveys conducted by Robert Half in Australia, Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, France, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom during the period April - May 2021.

Shifts in remote work availability here in the United Kingdom were aggregated and analyzed over the last 12 months – spanning April 2020 to March 2021 - based on available online job advertisements. This analysis was undertaken by Burning Glass in May 2021.

Burning Glass undertook an analysis of the technology/software-specific skills included in all national online job descriptions across the UK during the last 12 months – spanning the period from April 2020 to March 2021 - looking at the change in demand for skills compared to the same period 5 years earlier (April '15 to March '16). Salary premiums associated with technology/software-specific skills were analyzed from last 36 months, spanning the period from March 2018 to March 2021.

About Robert Half

Hiring top talent isn’t easy, and the global pandemic and economic uncertainty have only added to that challenge. Let Robert Half help you find the skilled accounting and finance, financial services, technology, marketing, business support and legal professionals you need to thrive in a challenging economy.

Our wide range of solutions means you no longer need multiple agencies for multiple needs. Robert Half offers the following staffing services:

  • Permanent placements — From early-career professionals to CFOs and senior executives

  • Interim talent — Hire for one day, one week, months or as long as you need, as well as for recurring or long-term projects when continuity is key

  • Remote hiring – Hire remote workers with confidence, with Robert Half. We also offer the solution that enable them to access the necessary data and applications regardless of your setup

  • Executive search – Our retained search expertise for building executive-level and departmental leadership teams

  • Project consultancy — For your complex business challenges, benefit from the consulting solutions from Protiviti and staffing services of Robert Half

Contact us online at roberthalf.co.uk or call 020 7389 6900 to learn how we can help you find skilled professionals for your organisation.

This report is presented in association with Burning Glass

About Burning Glass

Burning Glass Technologies delivers job market analytics that empower employers, workers, and educators to make data-driven decisions. The company’s artificial intelligence technology analyses hundreds of millions of job postings and real-life career transitions to provide insight into labour market patterns. This real-time strategic intelligence offers crucial insights, such as which jobs are most in demand, the specific skills employers need, and the career directions that offer the highest potential for workers. For more information, visit burning-glass.com.

This report © 2021 Robert Half

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