Employee Engagement

New research by Santander UK with small and medium sized business decision makers explores how the pandemic has shifted the shape of Britain’s workforce skills and needs of employers1. As the vaccine roll out continues and with the roadmap to reopen laid out by Government, nearly a quarter (23%) of small business decision-makers say that the pandemic has changed the skills and characteristics they will look for in future employees.


The ability to adapt and embrace change is the most sought after skill (51%), with adaptability complemented by the willingness to do more than one type of job (47%), and practical thinking the third most sought after skill (44%). For more than a third of businesses (34%) digital skills are now more important than pre-pandemic. Over a quarter (27%) say that experience matters, with decision makers focused on hiring the right skills to meet their business’s needs as they look to the future.


Susan Davies, Head of Business Banking at Santander UK said: “From our daily conversations with businesses, we know that the shape of their workforce needs and the skills they’re looking for in employees have been changed by Covid-19. That’s why we’ve hosted our first virtual Careers Fair – to connect job seekers who have a wide range of experience, with businesses who have changing skills needs and employment opportunities.


Over 2,600 people joined the Careers Fair and participated in sessions with a range of experts on topics ranging from interview skills to the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workforce. These sessions are available on the Santander UK YouTube channel and we hope they’ll support job hunters and employers who are considering the future needs of their business and workforce.” 


For many businesses, the most immediate impact of Covid-19 was the change to where they operated as lockdowns saw offices and trading premises close overnight for weeks or months at a time. One in five small businesses (20%) report that they are more likely to change their business premises because of the pandemic, with 34% of these planning to move their business to their home. Among those planning to move from premises to home, the change is most popular with businesses in Northern Ireland (67%), the South East (44%) and North West (44%).


The shift to longer term remote working means employers are less restricted by geography when looking for new talent. Of those surveyed, one in 11 (9%) are more likely to hire people from outside their local area or region. In London nearly one-in-five businesses (19%) say they are more likely now to hire people to work remotely.


For nearly a third (30%) of small business owners and decision-makers surveyed safeguarding the jobs and livelihood of their employees was the main driver for keeping their business operating during the pandemic. However, many still had to make difficult decisions with nearly a quarter (24%) reporting that they have made redundancies, with entry-level (55%) employees most likely to have been affected. As nearly one-in-five (17%) of those businesses who made redundancies say that their employee numbers will not return to pre-Covid-19 levels, the online Careers Fair sessions, can help support job hunters to understand what employers are looking for.

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