Roadmap for recovery - the workforce after Covid: what needs to change?

09 July 2021

How a shift in our industry’s talent and skill set can help the UK on its journey to economic recovery.

The Covid-19 crisis has reframed our perceptions of what’s possible. And, we’ve seen just how adaptable the financial and related professional services industry can be. The flexibility and rapid adaptation of employers and employees had seen firms continue to retain talent and provide opportunities for well-paid jobs that people can do from home; while also meeting the changing needs and expectations of customers.

But our industry is not immune from the restructuring affecting other parts of the economy. For it to flourish post-Covid, reskilling and upskilling the current workforce is vital. Nurturing home-grown talent, meanwhile, is also crucial to help bolster the UK economy. we also need to ensure our workforce is representative of the customers we serve. We need to double down on efforts to enhance diversity and ensure we are attracting people to our industry from all talent pools and from across the UK.

2020 will in many ways be the year the changed everything about how we work. And our industry can take forward some important lessons from this crisis about how to make the necessary changes to our workforce and the skills developed within it. In TheCityUK’s recent ‘A roadmap for economic recovery’ report, they set out a series of recommendations to support this next transition.

Diversity and inclusion

The past year has highlighted the need for greater diversity and inclusion at all levels of the workforce, while the need to improve the working experience for underrepresented employees has become all too clear.

At a societal level, the benefits of making progress in this area are indisputable. But there are commercial benefits, too. Firms with increased ethnic or cultural diversity are 33% more likely to have increased profitability.[1] There is also a correlation between diverse leadership teams and increased performance and innovation — crucial to driving economic growth.

Positive initiatives within firms and an increase in public commitments to diversity and inclusion are good starts. But more can be done.  Going forward, our industry needs to identify the structural issues that impact underrepresented groups and promote best practice and collaboration.

Youth and mobility schemes

The pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on young workers. Commitments to apprenticeships, graduate programmes and internships need to be met, underpinned with mentoring and social mobility schemes.

We also need to ensure diversity in our recruitment schemes, while initiatives like online internships can increase the opportunities for work experience across the UK and deliver real benefits to individuals in underrepresented communities.

Home-grown talent

In theory, virtual working means firms can access a global marketplace of skills. But physical border closures and restrictive quarantines have also reinforced the need for a pipeline of domestic home-grown talent. Ensuring a strong seam of future employees for one of our nation’s economic powerhouse industries has wider economic benefits.

What’s more, with the move to shorter global supply chains due to Covid-19 and Brexit, the UK will need to build skills in the current domestic workforce. Not only will this futureproof the UK domestic workforce, but it will strengthen the competitive position of our industry internationally.

Demand for a revised skill set

In a recent survey, every participant said that the pandemic has changed the skills they need for their role.[2] Those capabilities are not just confined to data and technology, but also ‘human’ skills and behaviours: adaptability, resilience, creativity, innovation and emotional intelligence.

If we focus on building out these skills, we’ll provide a pipeline of highly skilled, productive talent for the whole of the economy.

Align training to industry needs

Recent government announcements on investments in training and increased employer involvement in skills planning are welcome. The ‘lifetime skills guarantee’ for adults without an A-level or equivalent qualification, for example, has the potential to be transformative for the UK’s financial services sector.

To deliver the greatest possible impact, our industry needs to work with the government to ensure that the skills taught are aligned with the needs of business and that training opportunities are accessible.

To emerge from the pandemic stronger, we need to rethink the composition and skill set of our workforce. But what else does our industry need to focus on in a post-Covid world?  Read TheCityUK’s full ‘A roadmap for economic recovery’ report.  

Claire Tunley
Financial Services Skills Commission

[1] McKinsey & Company, ‘Delivering through diversity’, (January 2018)

[2] KPMG & Financial Services Skills Commission ‘The Future of Work: Lessons from a pandemic’ October