Why LinkedIn's data on skills should make us optimistic about the UK economy

LinkedIn's UK boss Josh Graff digs out four challenges facing British business, but finds cause for hope.

by Josh Graff
Last Updated: 10 Dec 2018

In business today, it can often feel that the only certainty is uncertainty. Economic, social and technological change currently threaten to upend many of the conventions and assumptions on which we all rely. And, of course, Brexit – with its many unknowns, is now only months away.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Drawing on insights based on the behaviours of nearly 600 million LinkedIn members worldwide has given me the confidence to believe that we should set our anxieties aside, and be optimistic about our future.

The Brexit effect on talent is slowing

Many are concerned that since the Brexit referendum the UK has lost its relevance. It is true, for example, that numbers of professionals migrating to the UK fell after the vote – making our country a ‘net exporter’ of talent in the first quarter of this year, according to our data.

But, the net loss of talent appears to be slowing in a number of regions. At the same time, the number one city in Europe for business expansion continues to be London. In fact, London is the only European city in the top ten for business expansion worldwide.

While there’s a lot to do, UK businesses can continue to compete for talent in the global marketplace.

We all invest so heavily in marketing our products and services, but the question now needs to be, how do we most effectively market our businesses, and our country, to attract and retain top talent?

Diversity and inclusion are on the rise

There’s a sense that businesses are losing touch with what their employees want, particularly when it comes to hiring and retaining millennials.

Our research shows that these groups look closely at the culture and values of an organisation when choosing a place to work – and critically at issues of diversity, inclusion and belonging. For any business to be competitive, it’s vital to create a culture in which everyone feels as if they truly belong. This is what the next generation of workers are looking for from an employer, which gives cause for hope: I’ve seen in my life, and the lives of those I work with, what belonging brings to the office. People are happier, more creative and more productive.

New skills are emerging

The pace at which new skills are emerging is sobering. The average useful shelf-life of skills and knowledge has shrunk to less than five years, and the top emerging skills on our platform didn’t even exist five years ago. For employees, the challenge is how to stay relevant. For employers, it’s how to fill skills gaps.

Part of the answer is both sides making a commitment to lifelong learning. This doesn’t mean employers merely providing training sessions, but integrating learning into the operations and priorities of the business as a whole.

To attract and retain talent in today’s highly competitive labour market, we need to identify and mobilise new groups of workers by making much better use of the UK’s neglected talent pools. That includes mothers with tech skills looking to return to work, and older workers with the potential and ambition to learn new and emerging skills.

AI is helping us, not replacing us

There’s a widely held belief that new technologies are going to take away or de-skill jobs.

But there’s a flipside to this narrative. A piece of research LinkedIn recently conducted for The World Economic Forum found that AI skills are among the fastest-growing on LinkedIn - with a 190% increase from 2015 to 2017. Yet the very same data set showed that soft skills are more in demand now than ever before.

For the majority of the workforce ensuring we’re still relevant in a highly automated working world doesn’t mean becoming an AI Engineer, as strength in soft skills will be at the heart of many careers. While uncertainty may be the dominant theme of our times, we can still look to the future with optimism. 

Josh Graff is UK country manager at LinkedIn.

Image credit: Pixabay

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