LinkedIn says soft skills in high demand as hiring picks up in certain sectors

Exclusive: 'Worst slump has already occurred', professional networking platform claims

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The worst of the hiring slump is over in the UAE and the most in-demand skills are changing to better handle crises, according to data from LinkedIn.

"We have noticed an increase in the demand for soft skills and a higher emotional quotient [EQ]," Ali Matar, LinkedIn's head of the Europe, Middle East and Africa emerging markets, told The National.

"During a time of uncertainty, we have seen an increase in members adding critical thinking and crisis management to their skill list, as it became apparent that employees who are able to adapt quickly and be creative problem solvers are revered in an economic crisis."

The Covid-19 pandemic, declared by the World Health Organisation on March 12, devastated the global jobs market as lockdowns and travel bans adopted to contain the public health crisis disrupted livelihoods and supply chains. The labour body of the United Nations estimates that 6.7 per cent of working hours were lost globally in the second quarter of this year – the equivalent of 195 million jobs worldwide.

About half of the UAE's adult population, four million people, are members of LinkedIn, which shared its jobs and hiring data for the 12 months to the end of July with The National.

With certain sectors struck particularly hard as a result of the pandemic, LinkedIn observed a trend of professionals shifting industries, possibly for good.

Those working in the recreation and travel industry were five times more likely to apply for a job outside their field during the 12 months ending in July. In the retail sector, people were 2.1 times more likely to apply for a job in a sector other than their own.

Looking at labour statistics predating the coronavirus pandemic, LinkedIn found a gap between workers in industries with declining job opportunities – in part, due to automation – and workers with in-demand job prospects. It found that workers with in-demand jobs tend to stay in high-demand roles, even when they change jobs.

"For workers with jobs in decline, there's a negative feedback loop: the majority of career transitions they make are into another declining job," Mr Matar said.

"Today, it's all the more important to zero in on these transitions since coronavirus has put so many of the declining roles at even greater risk," he added.

In the UAE, the top three skills following the outbreak of the pandemic have been analytical skills, project management and communication, according to LinkedIn.

"Looking at millions of job postings, soft skills such as these are crucial in the current economic climate," Mr Matar said.

After the drop in the UAE’s hiring rate between the months of March to May (hiring fell to 62 per cent of last year's level in April), there has been a period of recovery as the rate began to rise again steadily in late June and July when the lockdown was lifted.

The software and IT sector saw a 44 per cent increase in the share of job postings for the period of May-July 2020 compared with the year before. To build the workforce that will carry organisations into the new digital, post-pandemic world, employers are looking for critical skills in the field of IT and technology.

Technology skills are important, but they have a shorter-than-average lifespan and it is easier than ever to acquire the skills needed, Diana Wu David, the founder of Future Proof Lab in Hong Kong and a partner at the Future Work Forum, told The National.

She said that today's workplace – and increasingly workplaces in the future – will demand interdisciplinary skills.

"Someone crunching the data now needs to know how to do some storytelling around that data. The roles are blurring," she said.