A growing number of UK employers believe focusing on building a multi-skilled workforce will help address ongoing labour market challenges. 

A survey by global advisory, broking and solutions company, WTW, found there are a number of ‘rising priorities’ that will become increasingly important over the next three years.

These include:

  • Multi-skilling to enable employees to do tasks from different jobs (up 85% compared to the past three years)
  • Finding new sources of talent (up 36%)
  • Changing skills required to get work done (up 27%)
  • Changing employee preferences (up 26%)

“Companies in virtually every industry are now under significant pressure to adapt to a new business environment and sweeping workforce changes,” said Hazel Rees, Work and Rewards Leader for Europe, WTW. “And there’s no greater challenge right now than hiring and retaining workers. Unfortunately, organisations do not expect the situation to improve this year, especially for critical-skill roles.”


Employers expect to have problems attracting workers

According to the survey, over half of UK respondents (58%) expect to have problems attracting employees this year. That compares with 39 percent that had difficulty in the first half of last year and is more than double the 17 percent in 2020. 

Similarly, three out of five respondents (60%) anticipate having difficulty keeping workers this year, up from 21 percent in the first half of last year and just 11 percent in 2020. 

Employers reported difficulties attracting and retaining employees across the workforce, but digital talent (69%), salaried employees (47%) and sales force positions (36%) are proving the most challenging in the UK.


Growing pressure to offer flexibility and improve diversity 

The survey also identified growing pressure in five key areas driving workplace changes over the past three years. These include how employees work including flexibility (88%), heightened emphasis on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (74%), technology strategy (68%), data strategy (54%), and enhancing employee experience (54%).

According to the survey, more employers expect to make extensive changes in two strategic areas: optimizing work and job design (e.g., multi-skilling, remote work, technology, sourcing talent) and rethinking Total Rewards.

Work and Rewards Leader for Europe, WTW, Hazel Rees said, “For organisations this is not simply asking “how much should we pay?” but “how should we be rewarding our employees?”

This, she says, includes an increased focus on non-financial rewards such as benefits, wellbeing, learning and development and career progression; as well as considering how pay programmes need to adapt to support the changes in the way work is done.

 “Whether you view it as the Great Resignation, Reshuffle or Reprioritisation, organisations can take tangible actions to win the talent race. These include identifying new sources of talent, reskilling/upskilling, optimising job design, resetting their Total Rewards strategy and delivering a more robust career experience for employees,” said Rees






Feyaza Khan has been a journalist for more than 20 years in print and broadcast. Her special interests include neurodiversity in the workplace, tech, diversity, trauma and wellbeing.