Post-Covid Employment: The 5 Key Skills Areas

by Mark Ellwood

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As of 2nd June 2020, Singapore officially exited the Circuit Breaker and entered ‘Phase 1’, while in Malaysia the government moved from the CMCO to the ‘Recovery MCO’. Clearly, the region is now in the recovery phase of the Covid19 pandemic and this heralds a return to a greater degree of normality for most people, especially in terms of going back into workplaces.


Except there is a difference. With every great challenge comes great change and the post-Covid19 jobs landscape has shifted.  So, in today’s blog we look at the 5 key skills areas for the post-coronavirus job market for you to consider if you are looking to upskill.


  1. Data & Digital


While the need to upskill in the data and digital area won’t be news to anyone, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown has massively accelerated this change. For example, businesses who still had not adopted remote working practices were forced into using virtual team tools simply to survive. These businesses are likely to retain these adaptations as they move forwards (after all, it often requires some investment to get these up and running). Subsequently, businesses will expect new employees to have good experience in these areas already.


But it is not just collaborative working. Areas such as Online Marketing, Virtual Customer Services and Data Driven Analytics have all received a massive boost by the lockdown situation. In fact, with everyone working from home, there has been a huge spike in data usage across the globe (with Telekom Malaysia reporting a 30% increase in Malaysia alone).  Already, job opportunities focused on this area (data engineers, data scientists, data analysts, ML/AI engineers) were in high demand. But post-Covid19, employers will expect many more people to have a good understanding of data and data-driven decision making (data literacy), as well as data focused project management experience. This becomes even more important as automation really starts to take effect in industries – see our point 3 below.


  1. Cloud Platforms


As with data and digital, most businesses already understood the need to move to cloud platforms before the pandemic hit.  But with people physically separated from the office, and with (in some cases) hastily arranged virtual working protocols put in place, the pressing need to move business resources and operations to the cloud has been written large across the global commercial skyline – even for industries not inherently suited to this platform model.


Subsequently, there will be an even greater demand for employees with experience in business platform migration and project leadership in this area. Firms will also be looking for employees used to working in an cloud-based environments and experience in the data security protocols (cybersecurity) that this environment requires, as well as experience of business continuity planning that heavily revolves around a cloud platform.


  1. General Soft Skills


The move to ever greater digitization and automation, and the inability to meet people face to face over the last three months or so, has really highlighted the need for sharpened soft skills. In fact, according to a recent report by Deloitte Access Economics, soft-skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030. Among these soft skills are customer service, adaption, leadership and communication. Companies want staff who can make their clients feel valued by effective communication and attentive customer service, who can adapt to changing circumstances and make the best of them, and who can lead and motivate teams virtually.


But equally important is problem solving and critical thinking. Even before the pandemic, the sheer speed of change and volumes of information employees had to work with each day made these particular soft skills highly valued – and it has been people with these skills who have been leading the business adaptations to the new normal.


  1. Emotional Intelligence


On top of soft skills, with the whole corporate world work working from home and the increased likelihood of flexible working being a defining hallmark of the post-Covid world, the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, strengths and weaknesses while effectively understanding the same about colleagues and clients  (emotional intelligence) has become even more important.


A McKinsey study from 2018 predicted a 26% growth in demand for emotional intelligence skills across all industries in the United States between 2016 and 2030 as a response to automation. Indeed, many employers had already started to look for ways to measure candidate emotional intelligence through psychometric assessments and this is likely to progress with renewed vigour.


  1. Crisis Response & Business Continuity


The Covid19 pandemic, despite many warnings from several scientists over the last 2 decades, still caught many people by surprise. However, we know this this is unlikely to be the last pandemic the world faces and so this type of crisis response will now feature as an important element of any forward business continuity planning. That’s not to mention the on-going work still needed to adopt and comply with various governmental SOPS across the world – a challenge for the large multi-national corporations. And prominent in this plan will be an understanding of the company’s liquidity position and action plans for retaining staff on furlough. Senior professionals with combined crisis planning, financial, human resources and change experience will be of high value in this new world.