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Covid Will Change Future of Work and Skills Say Business Leaders

By The Careers and Enterprise Company

#FutureofWork Survey – Working from home is here to stay: Skills such as communication, self-motivation and reliability will now be essential.

Britain’s business leaders believe the workplace transformations brought on by Covid-19 will now become a permanent feature of the way we work and change demand for skills, according to new research released today.

The research indicates that business leaders believe the profound impact the pandemic has had on work-life will have lasting effects. Moves towards fewer people in offices, more home and virtual working are set to stay.

More than three-quarters of business leaders (77%) agree that fewer people in the workplace and office and more working from home will now become a permanent feature of working life.

More than four in five (83%) agree that on-line and virtual working will now remain a significant feature of the way we work.

The poll of 250 medium & large business leaders by Savanta ComRes for the Careers & Enterprise Company comes as NatWest boss Alison Rose recently predicted a hybrid flexible future combining home and office working as the new normal, with many businesses announcing they will continue to maintain a mix of home and office working.

The latest Office for National Statistics retail numbers show online now accounting for a record £3 out of every £10 spent, with a 47 per cent surge in online and mail-order sales since February.

Such underlying forces, accelerated by the pandemic lockdown, are shifting thinking in Britain’s boardrooms about what the future of work looks like and shaping views on the skills needed to succeed.

The vast majority of business leaders agree that skills such as communication, self-motivation and the reliability to work remotely are now essential (83%) and that demand for digital and IT skills will increase due to the rise in online and virtual working (85%).

In what is a challenging and changing jobs market, business leaders recognise the need to support young people looking for jobs. Over three quarters say they have a responsibility to ensure those leaving school in the current environment do not become a lost generation (77%), and that there is now an increased need for employers to support young people entering the world of work (76%).

Business leaders believe certain key skills and qualities will be vital in improving young people’s job prospects.

They highlight skills needs driven by a changing workplace shaped by lockdown. More than three in five (63%) say self-motivation, preparedness and the skills to work remotely will be very important and nearly three in five (59%) say digital and IT skills will be very important.

Three in five (60%) say essential employability skills such as presenting, problem solving, creativity and teamwork are very important – 58 per cent say literacy and numeracy are very important.

New ways of working create new challenges, with nearly three in ten (29%) believing the new remote working environment creates barriers to induction, training and learning the business culture and values, which could constrain the recruitment of school leavers.

John Yarham, Interim CEO of The Careers & Enterprise Company said:

The impact of the pandemic has forced business to adapt and adjust at pace. It has also accelerated many underlying changes in the economy and the way we work.

These changes in the nature and culture of the workplace are in turn shaping the skills and qualities employers look for in young people.

In such a landscape, careers education is critical in helping young people respond to change and matching their aspirations and ambitions with the opportunities in the jobs market.

The relationships and connections we create between schools, colleges and employers build a bridge between the worlds of education and employment and support young people in making informed choices about the next steps on their career journey.

The survey in numbers:

What impact do business leaders think the Covid-19 crisis will have on business?

  • 85% agree that online and virtual working will increase demand for digital and IT skills.
  • 83% agree that communication, self-motivation and reliability to work remotely will now be essential.
  • 83% agree that online and virtual working will remain a significant feature of the way they work.
  • 77% agree that fewer people in the workplace or office and more working from home will now become a permanent feature of working life.

How important do business leaders think the following qualities and skills are in improving young people’s employment prospects in the post-Covid jobs market?

  • 93% say essential employability skills such as listening, presenting, problem solving, creativity, leadership and teamwork are important – 60% say very important
  • 93% say literacy and numeracy are important – 58% say very important
  • 92% say self-motivation, preparedness and skills to work remotely are important – 63% say very important
  • 92% say digital and IT skills are important – 59% say very important
  • 89% say strong academic results and qualifications are important – 55% say very important
  • 89% say wider character behaviours like resilience and adaptability are important – 46% say very important
  • 86% say technical and vocational education qualifications are important – 41% say very important
  • 84% say relevant work experience is important – 46% very important 

Methodology: The Savanta ComRes poll for the Careers & Enterprise Company interviewed 251 business leaders from medium & large companies (i.e. with 250 employees or more) in the UK online between 26 June and 1 July 2020. 28% of business leaders interviewed were c-suite (MD, CEO, CFO), 23% director, 49% senior management. 25% of organisations employed 250-499 employees, 31% employed 500-1000 employees and 44% more than 1,000 employees. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables are available on the Savanta ComRes website.


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