Special UK Report:

Demand For Skilled Talent in the Evolving COVID-19 Landscape

2021: A Year of Recovery & Rebuilding

  • UK businesses are more confident of their growth prospects in 2021 compared to last year
  • Reduced and expanding business opportunities are cited as key drivers, suggesting a mixed commercial picture in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Hybrid workforces are now seen as a permanent way of working
  • Many businesses have allowed employees to relocate during the period of remote working, facilitated by adjustments to working hours and remote working policies

National Hiring Trends and In-Demand Positions

Top 5 industries currently hiring

1. Manufacturing

2. Logistics

3. Financial Services

4. IT Services

5. Pharmaceuticals

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


1. Network/Systems Managers

2. Cloud Engineers

3. Systems Analytics & Security

4. Business Transformation Specialists

5. Help Desk Managers

For CFOs

1. Financial Planners

2. Finance Analysts

3. Accounts Manager

4. Audit/Reporting Personnel

5. Tax Managers

For General Hiring Managers

1. Customer Service Personnel

2. Sales Personnel

3. Logistics & Programme Managers

4. E-Commerce/Digital Marketers

5. Communications (internal & external)

Top 5 departments hiring temporary or seasonal professionals during the first half of 2021 




Customer Service


Accounting and Finance


Administrative Support


Creative, Marketing and Communications


Very confident


Somewhat confident


Not at all confident

1. Current economic climate

2. Reduced business opportunities due to pandemic

3. Expanding business opportunities due to pandemic


Expanding (adding new positions)


Maintaining (only filling vacated roles)


Maintaining (bringing back furloughed employees)


Maintaining (but significantly restructuring)


Freezing (not filling vacated roles or creating new ones)


Reducing (eliminating positions)










Expecting an increase


Stay the same


Likely to decrease


4-day (compressed) work week


Flexible/windowed work


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RH Hidden Fields

The Rise of the 'Anywhere Workforce'

  • 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 number of remote work job postings increased by 190% during the first months of the pandemic (March – November ’20), compared with the pre-COVID period (June ’19 – February ’20)
  • Around 40% of these remote work job opportunities are in the Marketing and IT sectors (over 38,000 ads)
  • The key benefits of hybrid teams include increased agility in changeable times and creating an opportunity for better work-life balance for employees
  • Challenges for employers, though, include keeping on top of workloads, maintaining company culture, and assessing employee well-being


  • 1. Cloud Engineering

  • 2. Helpdesk Support

  • 3. Database Administration

  • 4. Applications Support

  • 5. Business Intelligence

For CFOs

  • 1. Account Management

  • 2. Fund Management

  • 3. Financial Planning

  • 4. Finance Analytics

  • 5. Risk/Compliance

For General Hiring Managers

  • 1. E-Commerce/Digital Marketing

  • 2. Office Management/Administration

  • 3. Customer Service

  • 4. Sales

  • 5. HR and Talent Acquisition

1. Enables business to remain agile

2. Offers employees more flexibility/better work-life balance

3. Reduces office/real estate costs

4. Provides opportunities to redesign job roles

5. Helps retain key personnel

1. Monitoring workloads

2. Complicates hiring/onboarding new staff

3. Maintaining culture

4. Assessing employee wellbeing and mental health

5. Hard to optimise engagement/collaboration

1. Adjusted working hours

2. Adjusted processes to manage remote workers

3. Implemented remote work policy

4. Redesigned job roles

5. Provided additional work-at-home benefits/allowances


Yes I plan to relocate


Yes (but COVID-19 is stopping me)


Yes (but company won’t approve)


No, I’m not moving


Stay working from home


Returning to the office


Having a choice of both

New ‘Hybrid’ Skills for 2021

  • Employers are increasingly requiring applicants to demonstrate expanded and more diverse skill sets in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic

  • ‘Hard’, technical/specialist proficiencies must be accompanied by evidence of ‘soft’, more people-focused expertise, to form new ‘hybrid’ skill blends

Examples include:

For Technology Specialists:

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'

For Office Administrators and Executive Secretaries:

There is greater emphasis on technical skills such as 'computer programming', 'perform business analysis' and 'business ICT systems' in job advertisements

For Finance & Accounting Roles:

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

For Marketing, Advertising and Communications roles:

Demand growth for technical skills such as 'process data', 'statistics', 'business ICT systems' and 'computer programming' is evident

  • The ability to use specific devices and software, the capacity to process and analyse data as well as collaboration and communication tool competencies are also increasing in response to evolving remote/hybrid work practices


The employer data referenced throughout this report is sourced from Robert Half commissioned research from 1,500 executives using an online data collection methodology conducted in November 2020. This was comprised of 300 interviews each in Germany, 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, France, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom during the November 2020 – January 2021 period .

Job postings data and analysis is provided by Burning Glass Technologies. Burning Glass tracks demand by collecting job postings from more than 40,000 online job sites worldwide to develop a comprehensive, real-time portrait of labour market demand. Shifts in remote work availability here in th UK were aggregated and analysed for the periods June ’19 – February ’20 and March ’20 – November ’20 based on available online job advertisements.

Baseline- and technology/software-specific skills requested in all online job postings were calculated by Burning Glass for the period of December 2019 through to November 2020.

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 hiring — From early-career professionals to CFOs and senior executives

  • Flexible staffing — 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 staffing – 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 analyzes hundreds of millions of job postings and real-life career transitions to provide insight into labor 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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