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What are the key drivers behind employment during COVID-19?

While COVID-19 has resulted in many companies reducing their overhead and/or streamlining headcount, it has also driven demand for specific technical and analytical skillsets as companies revise their strategic priorities to respond to and recover from the crisis.

While COVID-19 has resulted in many companies reducing their overhead and/or streamlining headcount, it has also driven demand for specific technical and analytical skillsets as companies revise their strategic priorities to respond to and recover from the crisis.

Technology has been instrumental to how businesses navigate the impact of COVID-19, with remote working software and infrastructure vital to maintaining business operations and digital transformation projects key to maintaining their level of competitiveness.

Concurrently, financial and strategic expertise has been called on to analyse the impact of disruption and develop nuanced business goals which respond to a suite of new and heightened risks, all while driving business-critical operations with an eye towards long-term profitability.

Some of the strategic priorities which have emerged during the current pandemic cycle and that are driving increased employment demand for specific roles include:

Data and business analytics
In a rapidly-changing marketplace, data provides one of the few concrete indications available to companies to understand how and where their business has been impacted – from supply chain disruptions to consumer behaviour and budgets.

This has created a sustained need for data management professionals who can quickly gather and process data across a range of sources, along with data analysts to interpret the data and communicate findings and strategic planning insights to key stakeholders.

Data analysts, in particular, who are able to provide an enhanced customer experience are in high demand at a time when end-consumer behaviour patterns are changing, and the disruption of services places added importance on building trust and client relationships.

Remote working implementation
Remote working arrangements have entailed companies of all sizes implementing or optimising their telecommuting and cloud services to allow for seamless connectivity between all staff.

Businesses are looking to system engineers who can set up and manage remote access to servers and systems that aide remote business operations, as well as technical support who can oversee collaborative software or telecommuting services such as Zoom.

These initiatives have also stimulated increased demand for helpdesk professionals who are equipped to assist staff and stakeholders in their transition to remote working systems whilst also troubleshooting broader infrastructure and software implementation challenges.  And finally, cyber-security professionals are also in demand to manage an organisation’s increased exposure to security risks at a time when phishing and cyberattacks have increased dramatically in many countries.

Business resilience and innovation
In the midst of the current pandemic and beyond, properly understanding how operations are disrupted and, how, in turn, to most effectively respond and resume regular business activities are key to creating business resilience.

Companies are seeking strong management and business consultants whose strength lies in identifying ways to adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace as well driving effective internal change management, all with an eye on budgets and the bottom line.

With change comes the opportunity for innovation, so businesses are looking to a partnership of management professionals and tech consultants to leverage the many changes remote working precipitated as a source of opportunity to digitise their business operations and drive efficiency and growth in a post-COVID market.

Digital transformation
Digital transformation was already at the core of many business agendas as we entered 2020, and COVID-19 has only served to amplify its importance. While some projects have arisen as a direct result of the current pandemic, others are a continuation of ongoing activities or the initiation of a new project intended to equip companies with a tech-first operating model that is agile and competitive in the post-COVID market.

In this climate, businesses are seeking developers and engineers to automate processes which are not cost-effective or feasible to conduct onsite, or to optimise workplace efficiencies as a cost-saving measure. They are also looking to those who can oversee specific software or infrastructure adjustments to aid remote operations, such as transitioning to cloud computing services or establishing telecommuting systems.

Alongside specific technical capabilities, project managers who can oversee the implementation of these projects with efficiency, speed, and minimal resource overheads are also highly sought-after.

Risk management
Many businesses are currently exposed to more risk than ever before. COVID-19 represents a confluence and scale of risk factors that very few businesses were prepared for – the health and wellbeing of employees, supply chain disruptions, contract breaches, cyber-security and data protection threats, or simply the implication of the daily, rapid decisions that are required to sustain business continuity at a time of such intense disruption, as examples.

Risk management professionals are integral to helping businesses effectively manage their response and recovery phases.They are equipped to objectively audit business risks, as well as provide an auditory perspective on the impact of the risks, and appropriate management and mitigation responses.

COVID-19 has sparked a tremendous influx of processing needs on individual businesses, with many accounts payable teams under immense pressure at present to manage finances, while some data entry and processing services that were traditionally off-shored have been disrupted due to widespread lockdowns, thus creating an urgent need for local data processors.

Accurate reporting is the backbone of business contingency planning and is used to inform many key decisions in a crisis – particularly as it relates to finances – hence making it a mission critical service in this uncertain climate.

Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK

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