Hays UK jobs and employment blog


Learning after lockdown: what areas do professionals most want to upskill in?

By Jane Donnelly, Managing Director East of England

During the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, it seemed that everybody wanted to take advantage of the extra time on their hands and learn a new skill.

But as the confusion and uncertainty of those early months gives way to an understanding that we are entering a new era of work, this eagerness to learn has not gone away. In fact, as professionals increasingly understand that to thrive in this new world, specific technical and soft skills need to be honed and emphasised, the desire to improve their existing skillsets and upskill in new areas has only grown.

In a recent survey, we asked over 2,100 professionals about upskilling. The overwhelming majority (98%) say they would use an online training platform to develop their technical or soft skills, and the skillsets they are most interested in developing cover a range of areas.  

What skills do professionals most want to develop today?

Professionals today want to develop a variety of technical skills via online training – the most commonly cited being:

However, our survey also revealed that professionals were even more interested in developing soft skills via online training.

This is perhaps unsurprising – recent months have proved to most of us that those professionals who are able to adapt to change, who have continued to communicate effectively even when using remote working tools and who have shown the ability to think critically and proactively solve new problems are those who are best placed to succeed in our rapidly-evolving new normal.  

Those soft skills professionals most want to develop via online learning include:

So – how should professionals and employers respond to this zeal for learning?

When it comes to where the responsibility lies for upskilling professionals, the onus falls to both employers and employees – employers stand to reap the rewards if they provide their staff with training and development opportunities, and employees will also benefit from maintaining a ‘continuous learning’ mindset. 

Advice for employees:

  1. Having a ‘continuous learning’ mindset is skill in itself, so keep practicing it by being committed to developing your professional skillsets regularly and methodically. A commitment to professional development will of course serve you well in your career by improving your performance. Should you be looking to move roles, be sure to highlight this commitment in your CV and in interviews, demonstrating how and in what areas you have shown dedication to upskilling.
  2. Be sure you know the right areas to upskill in. We have already looked at what skills most other professionals are looking to develop – however, you should also do your research, speak and listen to others in your industry and ensure you know where your role and profession is headed. Upskill in those areas that will help make you invaluable to an organisation as it grows and moves forward in this new era.
  3. Take advantage of all the learning, development and training opportunities currently on offer in your organisation. If there are none, suggest some potential courses to your manager, and highlight how and why taking part will allow you to bring new value to your role and help meet your organisation’s wider aims. If you are currently looking for a new role, look at whether a potential employer offers learning and development opportunities – and ensure that you recognise how valuable a benefit this is when considering whether to accept any offers.

Advice for employers:

  1. In order for your organisation to thrive in a new era of work, its vital that your employees’ skillsets are honed and developed. However, it’s important to remember that in this new world, in which many of us are working remotely, flexibly or in ‘hybrid’ teams, the lack of face-to-face interaction can make it harder for employees to upskill by learning from colleagues and seniors. Where possible, offer or support online learning methods in order to compensate for this. Hays Thrive is one example you could consider – our free online training platform gives professionals the tools they need to prepare for and thrive in the new world of work. 
  2. Bear in mind that, as proven by our recent survey, professionals today want to be able to develop their skills regularly. In order to attract the best talent – employees who are proactive and show commitment to regular professional improvement – offering training and development benefits is a great way to improve your employer value proposition.
  3. It’s not just about attracting the best talent – it’s about keeping your best. Without opportunities to learn or grow, it’s likely that some members of your staff may become bored, demotivated or uninterested. By showing your employees that you are willing to invest in their development by providing learning and development opportunities, you are likely to inspire loyalty amongst your top talent.

If you’re a professional looking for further advice and insights to help you navigate the evolving world of work, discover more here. If you’re an employer, access our collection of resources on how to manage your team, undertake interviews and successfully onboard candidates remotely as we move forward.

Alternatively, contact your Hays consultant now.

About this author

Jane joined Hays in 1994 as an Associate. Initially recruiting within the Accounting and Finance in Scotland she progressed to Regional Director in 1999 running all Hays Finance, Office Support and Customer Contact recruitment across the North East of England.

Moving to Hays Australia in 2001 as Regional Director for offices across the Sydney and Canberra specialisms included Finance, Procurement, IT, and Banking. Jane also launched Hays Life Sciences in Australia and was instrumental in the development of the national Healthcare and Education business. In 2006 Jane was appointed a Senior Regional Director.

Jane returned to the UK in July 2013 initially completing a number of operational project roles in Cambridge and Chelmsford before taking responsibility, in 2015, as Regional Director for 6 offices across Essex and Suffolk. In 2017 Jane was appointed as the Managing Director for the East of England region, covering 17 offices. She also currently sits on the council for the CBI in the East of England.


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