Adapting skills for the future workplace

By Robert Half on 15 August 2020

Are you equipped to face the future workplace? Employers have adapted hiring strategies and role requirements to meet today’s challenges. Employees with the foresight to market themselves in a new way could find a wealth of new opportunities waiting for them.

Victoria Sprott (Talent Acquisition Director for Robert Half) explored the future workplace with a panel of five experts as part of our Your Future webinar series . In this session, she was joined by Sam Elly (Managing Director of Spark People Development Ltd), Emma Howard (HR Professional specialising in recruiting, retaining and optimising talent), Sheryl Miller (Transformation Director & Career Coach, author), Katy Tanner (Leadership Development Director of Robert Half) and Matt Weston (UK Managing Director of Robert Half).

They shared their predictions and discussed how you can identify and maximise your opportunities.

Webinar: YOUR SKILLS – Future of work

Predictions for the future of the office


Remote jobs have become the new normal and, although a slow return to the office is underway, the virtual office setting has changed attitudes to location-based hiring. Professionals now have access to a wider pool of opportunities on a national level, with clients who have shifted their focus to skillsets as well as cultural fit.

Flexible working is expected

When thinking of adapting skills, employers now understand that flexibility is crucial, which is extremely positive from an employee perspective — particularly as very few workers want to return to the office full-time.

Sheryl advises going into proceedings with clarity. She says, “be really clear in terms of what your non negotiables are but remember that it's flexibility on both sides. It's not just a case of the employer having to be completely flexible and meet all of our demands.”

Changes in leadership

Leadership has undergone more change in the last 12 weeks than it has in the last 50 years. Jobseekers should assess potential employers for signs of evolution in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Evolved empathy

The best leaders should be able to manage remote teams with the same level of empathy they had when working in a physical office environment.

“In terms of supporting remotely, you have to be even more in tune to what's going on. You're not going to have those informal conversations around the coffee machine,” Sam says.

Focus on outcomes

Leaders who truly lean into remote working practices should, by now, understand that ‘input’ is not a viable method of employee evaluation.

“If you're moving towards remote, the focus for leaders is going to be outcomes not input. So, presenteeism is hopefully moving away in a remote world,” says Sam.

“The conversations with people should be about setting objectives. You’ve got to link objectives to your own goals as a leader and to organisational goals to make it really crystal-clear. Create accountability and then just let [employees] get on with it in a way that works for them.”


If the pandemic has shown workers anything, it’s that agility is an attractive leadership quality. The ability to support the team and guide them when things are uncertain is key.

“Agility is the number one skill,” says Katy. “Having that ability to know what to do, even when you don't know what to do. That ability to look forward, behind, to the left, to the right, and have that anticipation of future problems and ready the team.”

Hiring strategies

As companies start to review their infrastructures, they’ll inevitably uncover critical skills gaps which need filling quickly. It’s highly likely that employers will lean on flexible hiring strategies which utilise temporary and contract roles which allow them to fill those gaps quickly.

“I think we will start to see a rise with contingent workers,” Katy says, “a silver lining of that would be that it will help everyone diversify their own skills, make them more attractive in the future of work in terms of skillsets. I would anticipate that it will happen over the next month, three months, six months.”

Jobseekers should look at these contingent roles as an opportunity to gain fast employment while expanding and adapting their skills in a way which will ultimately be beneficial in the future.

In-demand soft skills


Now that remote work is commonplace, a new set of soft skills have become more attractive to potential employers. Discipline is important, as is communication and the ability to collaborate with a remote team.

“No employer wants someone who's going to burn themselves out,” says Sam. “So, having the discipline, not just working effectively but getting the balance right, to make sure they're not putting themselves under stress.”


Employers will also be looking for candidates who can show that they have the resilience and initiative to quickly adapt to change when it occurs. If the past few months have proven anything, it’s that change management is essential for professional success.

Value-add skills

Emma says, “in a world where there are more applicants than jobs, the skills that are really coming into play are the value-added ones.” She cites flexibility, empathy and insight as the three key skills which play a recurring role in her own network.

Irrespective of what lay ahead in the future workplace, by reskilling and adapting skills professionals can widen their pool of opportunity and continue to grow their skillsets to fit new challenges.

Whether you’re actively employed, recently furloughed, facing redundancy or dealing with unemployment, Robert Half is here to help you take the next step in discovering new career opportunities and finding a fulfilling job. Check out our webinar series as we offer advice on securing your next role with an expert panel focused on you, your skills and your next role.

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