Pandemic has changed the skills employers desire


There will be a shift in the skills and behaviours employers will be looking for in job candidates as organisations emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

Rather than looking for the traditional skills or experience needed for specific roles, employers will increasingly need staff who behave like entrepreneurs and can adapt when organisations need to change their focus, a group of HR leaders said during a webinar hosted by HR recruitment consultancy Frazer Jones.

Charlotte Forsyth, chief people officer at money transfer service World Remit, said she believed the pandemic had narrowed the skillset the company was looking for in job candidates, despite success of remote working during the lockdown potentially widening the pool of talent it can draw from.

She said firms that had a customer-first or digital-first mindset would likely emerge the strongest, and that these traits would be sought in future recruitment activity.

“I think we will start to be more selective in terms of the mindset of people. I think we need to really focus on what’s important [for recovery]. So I think the skillsets and behaviours of people will change in accordance with what we need to do as an organisation,” she said.

Annette Bergknut, chief HR officer at cleaning and hygiene technology firm Diversey, said employees with entrepreneurial skills will become vital as businesses emerge from the crisis and refocus their activity to maximise success.

“Over the last couple of months we’ve let go of our traditional roles, capabilities and responsibilities – it all became much more entrepreneurial and people put task forces together to grab opportunities in their markets,” she said.

“At the moment we have somebody in IT leading a massive global demand programme and somebody in HR looking at demand and supply and manufacturing capabilities… so [HR should look at] at where you have the right skills, rather than which capabilities you have in functions like HR or in finance.

“Talent needs to fit into a flexible organisation and have flexible skills to fit in where needed.”

However, although the crisis had given many HR teams an opportunity to think about future capabilities and ways of working, Forsyth warned against becoming too complacent about the present – particularly as the time away from the office had prompted many employees to think about whether their job was right for them.

“There are fewer jobs for people to move to… but as soon as there is an uptick in the jobs market, people will want to leave depending on how we’ve treated them now,” she warned.

“It’s how we respond, it’s how we understand what’s needed, it’s how we put our arms around our critical talent and try to really understand what is important to them.

“One thing that’s worth remembering is that after the last financial crisis more start-ups were set up than ever before, so I think people will start to look at ‘how do I make work work for me?’. It might be changing careers; it might be changing working hours or practices; it might be stepping off the corporate ladder altogether.”

Talent needs to fit into a flexible organisation and have flexible skills to fit in where needed,” – Annette Bergknut, Diversey

Location will no longer be an issue when recruiting talent, said Serena Truong, a senior HR director at a technology firm, and organisations should look at the skills they have across locations, rather than ensuring they have the right skill mix in a single location or business area.

The shift towards skill-based hiring will also likely require HR to think about remuneration, said Truong “There will be a change in the way we pay people – do we pay people for the role they do, or is it market driven compensation we’re looking at?”

Truong said employers and HR teams needed to “start thinking about things very differently, in terms of how we are structuring roles, what we are expecting each role, how we are helping individuals and the organisation move forward and how we’re recruiting”.

“I think this is a fantastic opportunity for HR – you’ve wanted a seat at the table, well here’s your seat at the table. This is an opportunity to really partner with the business,” she said.

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