Hays UK jobs and employment blog


Two-thirds say skills training is crucial to post-COVID business recovery


With industries at a standstill, many on furlough and reduced hours across several sectors, the total number of hours worked in the UK in June dipped by 8.9% compared to the year before.

This freed around 94.2 million potential training hours across the UK workforce, and businesses who leveraged this training time have revealed they expect to recover more quickly from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Link between business recovery and skills training

The pandemic has severely impacted 71% of organisations in the UK, but there is a strong link between businesses bounce back and training. According to The Open University, 68% of companies confident in their post-COVID recovery have invested in training during lockdown, while 53% of those who are not confident did not.

Two-thirds of organisations have revealed that learning opportunities were crucial to keeping their workforce agile throughout the pandemic. While many companies relied on the digital skills of their staff during lockdown, many say continued training is vital for business growth strategies as we head into the last half of 2020.

Potential training hours across UK sectors

Comparing April to June 2019 and April to June 2020, average actual weekly hours fell by 6.3 hours. With a few exceptions, industries across the board experienced a decrease in actual weekly hours during this time.

  • The accommodation and food service sector saw the largest decrease in actual weekly hours worked year-on-year – a drop from 28.3 hours to 13.0 hours per week, leaving around 15 hours available for skills training a week.
  • Those in education also felt the impact, falling from 28.0 to 21.6 hours per week, resulting in 6.4 potential training hours available every week.
  • Information and communication gained 3.6 possible weekly skills training hours, as actual weekly hours dropped from 35.5 to 31.9.

Leadership, tech & marketing skills in high demand

When asked which technical or specialist skills their organisation needs most, Hays research reveals that 35% of UK employers put managerial and leadership skills at the top of the list. The sectors with the highest demand for these skills currently are:

  • Finance (41%)
  • Human Resources (40%)
  • Healthcare (39%)
  • Office Support (39%)
  • Supply Chain & Logistics (39%)

IT infrastructure skills are also in demand, with 20% of UK employers overall naming this as the skill their organisation needs most. This skill is mostly in demand by large or very large organisations (24%), compared to SMEs at just 15%.

Meanwhile, 15% of UK employers say they need data and analytics skills, 12% are on the hunt for software development skills, and 11% require marketing know-how.

When it comes to soft skills training, the most needed across the UK workforce right now include ‘problem-solving’ at 33% and ‘critical thinking’ at 30%.

Businesses investing in training are more confident of recovery

Companies that have spent time focusing on upskilling their teams are seeing their investments start to pay off, as teams adapt to the changing workplace and the skills gap becomes smaller.

Developing talent from within is often more beneficial and cost-effective than replacing existing employees with new talent. At the same time, re-training those whose roles have become redundant helps to close and prevent other critical skills gaps from arising.

A few tips for kickstarting skills training:

  • First, assess where the most significant skills gaps in your business lie, and identify which skills are most needed.
  • Make sure your hiring process is aligned with these needs from now on.
  • Start by helping your team to develop soft skills, like communication, people management and problem-solving.

Keep your business agile as you prepare your team for the new world of work. A reputable online training resource will allow them to learn at their own pace, growing skillsets while becoming more adaptable.


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