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30th Jan, 2024

Victoria Sartain
Victoria Sartain
Job Title
Senior Content Writer

With ongoing candidate shortages making it difficult for employers to find people with the typical pre-requisite experience, findings from this month’s Bloomberg UK and Reed Jobs Report have shown many firms are changing their usual skill requirements on job listings.  

In the banking, professional and financial services sectors, job listings referencing ‘excellent communication’ were up 18%, while knowledge of Microsoft Excel – usually a must-have skill – fell by 40%. Analysis also showed reduced mentions of the phrase ‘previous experience’ in listings – a 22% fall from December 2023 to early January 2024. So just why are communication skills taking precedence? 

Employers are demonstrating more flexibility in upskilling strong candidates who possess enhanced soft skills, including communication, problem solving, adaptability, and ability to learn – all key to the success of a business. This willingness to invest more in learning and development may even have long-term benefits in terms of creating a more inclusive workplace culture and improving staff loyalty.  

James Reed, Chairman and CEO of Reed, said: “Employers have had to widen their criteria, making communication and other soft skills more important. 

“Covid-19 acted as a huge barrier to soft skills development, and now there is a fresh push from employers to re-nurture these skills,” Reed said. “The increased emphasis on soft skills suggests employers are looking for candidates showing potential to grow within their business and adapt, bolstering their technical ability along the way.” 

It’s an interesting narrative when considering the current agendas of the two main political parties – with Labour set on improving pupils’ communication skills in state schools, and the Conservatives working towards improving STEM skills to meet the needs of jobs of the future.    

With more than half a million people having left the UK workforce since the pandemic, the government is also keen to get people to return to boost the economy. The DWP’s Midlife MOT website, launched last year, is their primary tool to support older people back into the workforce, and Reed is also encouraging over 50s back into work through a host of employer-led resources.  

Data from last autumn shows there were more than 100,000 vacant roles compared with before the pandemic, as well as a slowdown of pay growth. This may be why benefits are becoming more prominent on job adverts, with listings on including more mentions of holiday allowance, pension schemes and mental health support than in recent years.  

It’s worth noting how quickly technology is changing work, and its impact on those entering the workforce for the first time and those rejoining it. Increasing use of AI tools across multiple industries means many technical or convoluted roles are being simplified, freeing up workers for more creative, collaborative tasks. This is where communication and interpersonal skills will really come into their own, opening doors for those willing to learn.  

Read the full report here.