Building in-demand employability skills is a potential solution for women made redundant or at risk of redundancy due to the Coronavirus. Read on to find out how you can learn more about these in-demand areas for free, including free spaces on our online Future Skills Bootcamps.
New data released this week shows that employment in the UK fell by the largest amount in over a decade between April and June. This is no surprise given the coronavirus pandemic has been battering the UK economy for months. Some sectors have been the most obviously affected - retail, hospitality and travel being the most publicised. Almost 10,000 jobs have already been lost in retail including across Monsoon, Clarks, Debenhams and Boots. Similar amounts have been lost across major food chains and over 28,000 jobs have been lost in aviation from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic to EasyJet and RyanAir. But no sector has remained unscathed. Research shows the energy sector has lost almost 20,000 jobs including 10,000 from BP and over 10,000 jobs have been lost in the automotive industry. 140,000 redundancies were announced in June alone.
And this is with companies across the country relying on the Government furlough scheme to keep their staff employed. Almost 10 million workers are currently accessing this scheme which comes to an end in October. Then companies will be forced to make difficult decisions that will likely see millions more unemployed.
At Digital Mums we are particularly concerned about the impact this will have on mothers, particularly mothers in low-skilled and low-paid roles and even more so young mothers who are the hardest hit. Research shows we are right to be concerned. Redundancies are hitting these demographics the hardest.
We feel passionately that for these women, investing time in making themselves more employable could either reduce the risk of redundancy or for those that have sadly already been made redundant could help them get a new job. By investing in building the skills and mindsets in demand from employers they can help mitigate the risks.
If you currently live in England and DO NOT have a University Degree then we have hundreds of free spaces on our Future Skills Bootcamp which is 100% focused on making you more employable by building workplace skills and confidence in the right skills areas. Click here to register your interest and learn more.
If you don’t fit this criteria then read on for some advice on how you can build the right skills.
Firstly, what are these skills? Our Locked out of Learning research shows that over 20% of mothers are put off learning because they don’t know what skills they should be learning - they know they need to learn and update their skills but they just aren’t sure which ones. There are so many skills to learn out there it’s not surprising women feel lost as to which to choose.
Is it all about hard skills?
Often people focus most on hard skills. What are hard skills? Hard skills are specialised abilities or knowledge that generally help you get a job in a very specific role. Hard skills include things like bookkeeping or social media marketing. It’s a minefield to know which of these to invest in and the skills aren’t usually transferable so if you make the wrong decision it can be frustrating. But we discovered that while people seem to obsess about hard skills there is a much bigger demand for some soft skills. 56% of leaders claim they would hire someone with the right soft skills, even if they didn’t have the right hard skills.
What are the most in-demand soft skills?
Well firstly, what are soft skills? Soft skills are harder to define and measure and are more about how you think and behave. Leadership is a great example of a soft skill. The great thing about investing in your soft skills is that they are completely transferable. They will support you to succeed in the modern workplace, no matter what role or industry you move into.
So what are the most in-demand soft skills in today’s job market and what does that mean for you? Read on to find out. But before you do we’d just like to add that, in today’s digital age, the in-demand soft skills all have crucial digital components, so we’ve included information on how each of the most in-demand soft skills also work from a digital perspective.
A key skill needed in the workplace is the ability to communicate effectively and to know how to build strong relationships with team members. This isn’t new and you might have nailed this for in-person communication and, by now, email so you’re probably feeling pretty good about this one. But there is a growing need for employees that can do this in more agile ways, through channel-based chat tools like Slack or MS Teams which feel much more like chatting in a sophisticated Whatsapp group, and through virtual meeting/conference software.
Half a million organisations use MS Teams, with 19m weekly active users. Slack, a similar tool, is also hugely popular and is replacing email in modern companies. In today’s collaborative world, people have on average almost 10 meetings per week and one study showed that almost half of these are video meetings. And this was before the pandemic hit this has now skyrocketed.
We love Slack so much at Digital Mums that we cosied up to the Head of Slack UK Stuart Templeton to get some inside intel. He told us that all types of staff and businesses are using Slack to communicate, from baristas to banks. “By 2025 the primary mode of communication in organisations will be channel-based in Slack or something like it.” Stu predicts. Watch the full interview with Stuart here.
Why is this? Even before Covid hit, increasingly teams were hot-desking and working from home so you often don’t have ‘colleague communication’ happening in the same way. Of course, this has catapulted forward during the pandemic with the majority of companies still choosing not to force their employees back into the office.
This makes workplace communication more challenging and impacts the culture of a company. Conversations that flow at your desk, or in the kitchen, suddenly need to happen in different ways. You may need to meet with teams that aren’t in the office, or even where team members are living on a different continent. The rise in businesses using freelancers makes things even more challenging.
Modern workplaces are using new tools and need employees that have adapted and can facilitate effective communication, build great team dynamics and support a good culture through these new digital tools. So the soft skill of communication now has a clear digital component.
But what if you’ve never used these tools before?
How can you build these skills?
We use Slack as the student community for all our courses but if you aren’t learning with us you could find a free community that uses Slack to get some practical experience of the software. You may find one that works for you here. Learn more about the difference in communicating through Slack versus email and how Slack can be used to better support a great company culture via our podcast episode “Is email dead”. And find out more about how companies can make the switch to Slack here.
Modern workplaces operate in a globalised, highly competitive world. Their projects have become increasingly complex, requiring highly specialised skills from multiple team members. In modern companies collaborative work accounts for around 80% of all work. And, as discussed, these teams are an increasingly remote and flexible workforce. This makes effective collaboration skills a non-negotiable for most employees.
To effectively manage this type of collaborative work, organisations are shifting away from using spreadsheets for project management. Most of us will have some experience of using an Excel spreadsheet to try and manage a project with other team members where annoyingly there’d be loads of different versions floating around and then you’d find in a meeting that you’d been working on the wrong version for ages! Thankfully, this doesn’t happen anymore as companies are turning to using cloud-based collaborative software tools like Trello, Monday, Asana or Basecamp. These tools have one single version that is saved automatically so everyone knows where they are. They are also great because unlike spreadsheets they enable communication with teams. They can also be integrated with Slack and MS Teams to create a seamless collaborative experience. So much time is saved and tasks are easily assigned, questions asked, and plans made.
Companies using these tools report increased productivity and efficiency and 73% of businesses expect to spend more on these tools in 2020.
Most people would say they are an effective collaborator. Our education systems don’t do a great job of building these collaborative skills, but the workplace does and it’s likely that throughout your career you’ve developed some of the core competencies required. But the way that modern workplaces are collaborating has changed, and once again digital skills are needed to keep up.
How can you build these skills?
Why not sign up for our free How Modern Workplaces Work course here where you can also access a pre-created Trello Board to get you started.
3. Visual communication
Visuals are central to the human experience. As long as we have existed we have communicated through visuals. We have also used visual methods to illustrate and capture stories to pass on - from burnt ashes in caveman times, right the way through to sophisticated software today. Because of this, despite living in an increasingly data-driven world, we are still more motivated by compelling stories told in a visual way. Visual communication skills are a great area to invest in.
They can be a useful tool for any business area. Strong visual communication skills can help with:
- Persuasive presentations. Compelling visuals can encourage your target audience to complete a desired action. Let’s say you work as an administrator in a large team and have noticed that things aren’t working very efficiently. Let’s say you want to convince your line manager to invest some time fixing this. It would be useful to put together a compelling presentation to convince him, including some simple data charts.
- Creating simple videos. Videos are the best way to tell stories and stories are one of the most useful formats in today’s world. Emotive stories can give people purpose. It’s common for marketing teams to tell positive stories about customers to other potential customers. But it’s more rare for companies to share success stories with everyone. This can give employees more purpose in their roles.
- Great looking graphics. Graphics can be so useful in so many ways, from creating a compelling CV, to flyers, social media posts and more.
How to build these skills
We have a free short course to help your photography skills. You can enrol on this here.
Canva is a great tool for building your basic graphic design skills. Check out the Canva website to learn more about creating great visual outputs. You can also create a free account and try it out for yourself.
We also have a paid course on this “Creating Visual Content” if you want to take your skills to a higher level find out more about this here.
50 years ago companies competed on the basis of their products and services. Customers made a decision on the basis of the fact that there would be a product that was different from the others. Then someone might bring out a similar product but there was still a handful to choose from. In an increasingly globalised world, with competitive markets from any country, there aren’t as many discernible differences between products. There are usually loads of products offering pretty much the same thing, at similar price points. What this means is that today’s companies are competing less on the product itself and more on how satisfied they make their customers.
Customer-centricity is a more customer-focused approach to business. It’s about employees having the end-user as the focus for every business decision they make. And it’s crucial that every single employee understands their role and how it plays a part in this. This is a big focus of our Future Skills Bootcamp and when we asked students they often don’t quite understand how important their role is to customer satisfaction, particularly if they aren’t traditionally in a “customer facing role”. By the time they graduate they have learned that every employee plays a role in this.
Customer-centric companies try to understand what customers need and give it to them, rather than thinking about what they want/are asking for. Take Ford. When Ford invented the motor car were his customers telling him that they wanted a motor car? No, they were asking for faster horses. Ford took the time to understand their problems. They needed to get from A to B more quickly. This meant Ford sought out the best solution to meet this need and designed the motor car.
To be customer-centric employees start from a position of having deep empathy with their customers. Employees really see things from their customer’s point of view no matter whether they work on the retail floor, in the marketing team or in the product design team.
In today’s digital world this is harder to do now than ever before. Have you ever contacted a business to either give them feedback or perhaps to complain about something? How did you do it? In the old days, thinking about my Nan here, you’d have the option of going to the business in person and asking to speak to someone. Or you could phone them up and ask to speak to someone. That was pretty much it. Then email came along so, of course, you could email the business. But then social media was invented. Suddenly there are a LOT of ways to contact a business. And customers expect an immediate response on any one of these channels they can contact you on - Whatsapp, text, phone call, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, via email or via your website online chat function. How do brands manage this? Well thankfully companies are responding with digital solutions.
Customer support software streamlines this process so whether you email, text or tweet a company it all goes into the same place and can be managed seamlessly. The software tracks response times and also customer ratings of the response so you have visibility over how you are performing as a brand. Let’s say Sandra is one of your customer support officers and she is often a bit hungover and a little short with customers. Well your customer support software would let you know that this particular employee was consistently getting a lower score than everyone else. Good for the brand. Bad for Sandra.
Internet and messenger chatbots are also increasingly being used to automate customer conversations. If you’ve ever used the online chat function of a website you’ve probably used a chatbot. It’s software that’s programmed to have a conversation with you. Traditionally, chatbots haven’t been great at having these conversations. In fact they can be incredibly frustrating and make you want to throw your computer out of the window. But the artificial intelligence is becoming more and more sophisticated over time as things evolve. And they are never hungover so that’s also a bonus.
How to build these skills
We do cover this briefly on our free How Modern Workplaces Work course to find out more but you can also build some knowledge around customer-centricity and human-centred design (sometimes known as people-centred design) on this Open Learn free short course here.
Last but certainly not least, creativity is the soft skill that consistently comes out top of the charts. When LinkedIn compared all soft skills alongside the results from all hard skills, creativity still came out as number two, beaten only by cloud-computing.
People often think they aren’t creative. They believe that creativity is something only the few possess. This is nonsense and generally a result of our education system making us think that to be creative you have to be able to create art or music. Mr Jones made my sister think she wasn’t creative because her drawings of our cat never really looked anything like our cat. But creativity isn’t just about artistic skill. Often creativity is more about the way you think and one element of creativity is the ability to come up with new ideas to solve problems. And the world has a whole heap of problems so we need all the creativity we can get.
The importance of creativity is no longer limited to traditional creative roles. Employers want people that can come up with new ways to solve problems and challenges they face in their daily work lives.
This may seem like one area where digital skills don’t come into play right? Wrong.
In today’s data-driven world creativity goes hand in hand with data and insights to evidence any creative decisions with data.
With artificial intelligence automating more and more repetitive tasks, it’s complex soft skills like creativity that will build your resilience in the job market.
How can I build these skills?
This is a more challenging area of skills to build without completing practical, hands-on design projects that involve generating new ideas and working with data to inform insights. Our advice here is to sign up for a course that gives you the direct experience of these areas but it’s unlikely to be free.
Want to build all these skills in one go for free?
Do you want to build all these in-demand skills in one go for free? If you’re living in England, don’t currently have a University Degree and are either currently employed or have recently been made redundant apply for a free place on our Future Skills Bootcamp as we build all these skills in an accessible way. Register your interest to find out more here or if you aren’t convinced watch our video here to find out what it’s all about.