New research uncovers the specific skills and traits that employers are looking for amongst their staff in 2021. It further analyses the differences between skills that employers need over this year and traits that employees desire for their own career progression.

New research by Hays, a company which provides recruitment and HR services, highlights the key skills that employers desire in their employees.

Overwhelmingly, over half (55 per cent) of employers cited that they wanted their staff to have good communication and interpersonal skills. Swiftly following this, the next most desired trait was the ability to adopt change (53 per cent).

Just under half of employers wanted their employees to display problem-solving skills (45 per cent) whilst a similar number desired their staff to be flexible and adaptable  – an unsurprising ask considering the amount of rapid change 2020 brought along with it. Furthermore, around two-fifths of employers (41 per cent) wanted their employees to have people-management skills.

However, interestingly, when employees were asked what skillsets they would like to adopt in order to progress their career, the most popular answer was people-management skills (37 per cent).

Under a third of respondents stated that they wanted to develop their communication and interpersonal skills (29 per cent) and critical thinking (29 per cent). Other skills, that did not appear on the employers’ list of desired traits, include negotiation skills (27 per cent) and judgement and decision-making skills (26 per cent). The research highlights that there is a significant gap between what employers want to see employees embody and what employees view as desirable in order for career progression.

Another key area of the research analyses the role that upskilling will have in various companies. Just under seven in 10 employers (69 per cent) stated that they plan to help employees upskill in their current profession. Another third (37 per cent) say that they plan to support employees to undertake academic qualifications. Only a small minority, 16 per cent, responded that they were not planning to help employees upskill in 2021.

Simon Winfield, Managing Director of Hays UK & Ireland, comments:

Professional development is a high priority for employees, particularly as we enter the New Year. No longer is it something that’s merely nice to have – employees want it to be a core part of their career and expect their employer to support this. We have observed an increase in candidates who enquire about this when exploring new job opportunities.

For employers, make sure you offer a wide range of training opportunities, which enable staff to develop different skillsets. Having diverse strengths among your workforce will ultimately benefit your organisation and aid employee attraction and retention.

*This research was taken from Hays’ research which surveyed 23,000 respondents. The survey was conducted between October 26th – 16th November 2020 and received 22,956 responses. It was completed by professionals from the UK working across a range of industry sectors.





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.