UK Workforce Market Outlook For 2021

Jan 19, 2021

In November 2020, the Daily Telegraph reported on the economy, saying that there is a real danger of a New Year spike in unemployment. The UK government then reinforced this statement in the recent labour market report showing that the employment outlook for the UK workforce is the weakest in Europe.

Anyone looking for employment in Britain is obviously likely to feel the affect of the global pandemic and Brexit on the job market. On the other hand, even in an open employment market, employers will struggle to fill vital posts because of uncertainty resulting from our exit from the European community and the economy’s rapidly changing face.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news; Employers have seen an increase in creativity and expandable emotional intelligence in the available workforce. In real terms, what this means is change, and change is a good thing, for now is the time to retire outdated work practices and update systems for what will be a new era for virtually all sectors.

Change is Positive

In a report by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) they confirmed what most retailers already knew, spending had increased in the first four-week lockdown but almost exclusively online. Retailers who have a small or no online presence have taken steps to get their share of the market and embrace e-commerce in a big way.

Meanwhile, Debenhams and Arcadia’s corporate collapses have put into context the result of years of declining investment in up and coming trends and brand awareness; unfortunately, these stores do not look engaging to younger generations, who considered this retail style outdated and uninspiring. Proving that for organisations is time to update, offer more and buy into a modern way of doing business is key or else risk losing out altogether.

Adaptability is Key 

The practical world of work today bears no resemblance to what we once knew, working from home is the new normal and that is unlikely to change. Pre 2020 some organisations offered a work from home option for non-hands-on roles as an incentive for staff retention and not a lifestyle choice. If 2020 has taught us anything working from home full time is achievable and in some cases a profitable option.

Employers looking for key staff in an open labour market in 2021 will find that there is still a shortage of available skilled labour in critical areas. Therefore, attracting and retaining vital members of the workforce will be ongoing. 

While motivating your work from home employees is difficult enough, imagine the challenges faced for businesses who must have boots on the ground. Ocado announced a 40% increase in profits in a recent press release due to the pandemic and customers’ changing shopping habits. Ocado has upgraded its technology to make processing orders more efficient to maintain a good service in these difficult times and going forward. Employees work in 24 hours shifts to fulfil Ocado’s newfound obligations, highlighting how crucial it is to update to modern work practices as soon as possible.

The Option of Flexibility

The changing face of employment means that HR will become a strategy. With it comes the need to embrace digital technology and coordinate with every employee, while ensuring alignment with CFOs, budgets and other stakeholder. There is no doubt a new approach to employee hiring, training and retention is required. 

Consider the benefits of flexibility as a successful hiring strategy as well as a tool for staff retention. Let your employees create a flexible approach to their earnings and a flexible work schedule, by working out the hours they wish to work using a clock in and out app and deciding the days they want to work while accommodating both staff and employers.

So What Are the Trends We Can Expect in 2021?

Digital transformation and efficiency is an obvious choice for any business looking to save money and take control of sustainability and the broader consequences of digital ignorance.

According to PWC report Workforce of the Future, the potential for digital platforms and A.I. to underpin and grow the world of work is unbounded. They already play an essential role in the development of all Four Worlds of Work, matching skills to employer, capital to investor and consumer to supplier.

Forward-thinking, entrepreneurial organisations are already adopting innovative approaches to answer difficult challenges faced by a post-pandemic economy and at the same time, help with deeper societal issues.

By focusing on your digital toolbox and employing a progressive agenda that generates new business models and new ways of thinking, industries can overcome long-overdue institutional change. Enhancing digital sustainability can spur on innovation and strategy to positively impact society.

Now is the time to digitise everything. You can cut down on labour management systems like paper spreadsheets and internal auditing. With Workforce Management systems (WFM) such as ShopWorks you can bring budgeting, scheduling, training, compliance, time and attendance, demand, analytics and much more into the modern age. Take this philosophy and implement it into your business’s tactics no matter how big or small you will cut cost, increase productivity and look after the environment in one fell swoop.

While educated guessing is en-vogue right now, no matter what the future holds, PWC believes there are some ‘no regrets’ moves for organisations that apply universally:

  • Clarify how artificial intelligence can enable the redesign of work, enhance productivity and customer experience, and enable a focus on more value-added tasks.
  • Use sophisticated workforce planning and predictive analytics to plan for talent pipelines in multiple future scenarios.
  • Look for ways technology can enhance your people offering for potential and existing employees.
  • Understand the skills you have in your workforce now (not just the roles your workers currently do) and the gaps to the skills you will need in the future.
  • Strengthen innovation, creativity, empathy and leadership capabilities in your business alongside critical technology skills.
  • Make talent and capabilities management a matter of urgency – or risk losing the battle to harness technological breakthroughs and innovation in your sector.
  • Build and nurture adaptability in your workforce by harnessing a flexible talent mix.
  • Redesign traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ HR programmes and policies to deliver on new learning and development models, career paths, capability models and the redesign of jobs and compensation frameworks.

Workforce-related laws will change to accommodate the updated work environment. It’s not easy to stay on top of regulation and compliance. Managing staff schedules on a spreadsheet, for instance, will put you at risk of non-compliance of several regulations such as GDPR, working time directive, national minimum wage and right to work to name a few. 

Not to mention several directives that are in the pipeline as a result of Brexit. offers some information but these mandates are seemingly updated daily; it’s challenging to remain on top of all the new legislation. We don’t need to tell you that non-compliance can lead to punitive fines as well as the embarrassment of being “named and shamed” by HMRC.

The sensible suggestion would be to streamline everything right now before the market expands and our economy reverts to a positive trajectory. Bespoke and flexible systems such as ShopWorks can overcome and improve internal processes to effectively manage workforce, cut costs, improve productivity and profitability to stay ahead of your competitors.  


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