New research shows hesitance from employers to make new hires during this unpredictable time. Instead, more leaders are likely to choose upskilling and retraining employees that currently work at their company. 

SD Worx, a HR and payroll services provider, shows the effect of the pandemic on the priorities of businesses over the last year and what they expect to see moving forward.

Just under two-fifths of UK leaders (39 per cent) responded that they would prefer to upskill and train current employees in comparison to a third of leaders (33 per cent) who wished to hire new personnel instead.

This wide-spread problem of the skills gap amongst employees was highlighted by Microsoft in a recent study. It outlined the severe lack of development for current learning programs for employees in the UK, with almost two-thirds of workers feeling that they did not have the appropriate skills to fulfil new and emerging roles within their industry.

Whilst upskilling is viewed as the go-to way to help employees improve their learning and skills, many leaders in the UK are noting that this may not always be a sufficient way of dealing with the skills gap.

Instead, there has been a shift in the number of workers – not including permanent workers – being employed by companies. Specifically, almost a third of companies (31 per cent) have chosen to hire flexible workers.

In addition, a similar number of UK leaders (30.8 per cent) are considering utilising temporary staff to support the business, including freelancers, on-call workers and seconded staff.

When these leaders were asked about why they chose to hire flexible staff over permanent employees, over two-fifths (42 per cent) stated that finding an employee to fulfil a specific skills gap was difficult and a third (33 per cent) cited better availability with flexible employees. Predictably, a similar number of leaders, 32.5 per cent, stated that costs would prevent them from hiring a permanent employee.

Cathy Geerts, Chief Human Resources Officer at SD Worx, said:

The current business climate forces companies to rethink their workforce management strategies.

In short, organisations need to strike a balance between having a solid permanent workforce to cope with constant skill needs and, at the same, having a more flexible workforce available to quickly respond to changing staffing requirements.

It is an encouraging trend when organisations enable life-long learning and upskilling within the business, enabling talent to fulfil its full potential and enabling career progress despite the prevailing uncertainly.

The increasing number of digital HR tools and solutions available to businesses today enablea variety of internal and external mobility strategies, enabling business resilience, staff satisfaction and business continuity in the most challenging of times.

*This research was obtained from SD Worx’s online survey ‘The Future of Work and People in Europe – Fluid as Hula Hoop Shaking 2020’ which was conducted in June 2020. Over the course of several weeks, SD Worx managed to reach a total of 3,000 companies in 11 European countries.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.