The COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder for employers to find workers, and recent insights gained from NJBIA’s 2022 Business Outlook Survey suggest that businesses are increasingly pessimistic about the core skills and abilities of those employees who are hired.
Compared to NJBIA’s 2021 survey, the percentage of employers grading entry-level workers as “fair” or “poor” increased by 9 percentage points in attitude and work ethic (66%); 7 points in time management (77%); 5 points in self-motivation (73%); 5 points in written communication (77%); and 3 points in verbal communication (68%).
In contrast, the percentage of “fair” or “poor” grades in attitude/work ethic and critical thinking was unchanged from 2019 to 2020. It increased by just 2 points in verbal and written communications and decreased by 1 and 2 percentage points in self-motivation and time management, respectively.
There are several potential explanations for why such a sudden shift would occur amidst the ongoing pandemic.
One possible explanation is that staff shortages and hiring challenges have increased pressure on employees to display higher proficiency in skills like adaptability and problem solving, bringing those abilities more prominently into the view of employers.
A McKinsey Global Survey published in April 2021 found that 58% of the executives and managers surveyed reported that closing skills gaps in their companies had become a higher priority after the start of the pandemic. When asked which skills their companies were prioritizing, responses primarily fell into two categories: social and emotional skills (communication, leadership, adaptability), and advanced cognitive skills (critical thinking, project management, information processing).
While the sudden focus on these skills may have been driven by the pandemic, Focus NJ’s Future of Work study released in 2020 identified many of the same skills as increasingly important across major industries. As the economy continues to transform thanks to technological innovations, the demand for skills, which can’t be performed by computers, will only continue to grow.
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