Dubai: There’s no denying that the coronavirus pandemic is bringing about sweeping changes in the job market in the UAE and around the world. It is not only redefining the way we work, but also the skills that are required to stay competitive while seeking new opportunities.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Rajai El Khadem, Head of Public Sector at the employment platform LinkedIn (MENA), said, “A typically high-touch human process has suddenly shifted to virtual platforms. Teams are now required to conduct interviews, read tone and body language, and even onboard new hires online.”
Not just that. As Aws Ismail, general manager at the international recruitment firm Marc Ellis UAE, said, “The UAE has been reliant on skillsets from outside the country for a long time, and with the restrictions on travel, many employers are having to fill in the skills shortages by upskilling their current work force or looking at candidates inside the UAE, rather than continuing to bringing talent from outside. We believe now is the perfect time to develop new skills which are relevant to the market needs.”
A look at the new demands under the current circumstances from their points of view:
The LinkedIn perspective
According to El Khadem, approximately 58 per cent of talent acquisition professionals concur that a major impact of COVID-19 is the transformation of in-person interviews to virtual ones. “Many companies now have a virtual onboarding process that integrates videoconferencing software, videos, live sessions moderated by facilitators, as well as a new-hires page on company portals, among other digital solutions. In addition, a range of enabling software provides engineering hires with a mentor to take them through a multi-week onboarding process virtually,” he said.
New skills that are required
According to him, the following skills are key for professionals to keep up with the rapid transformations in the job market as a result of the COVID-19 impact:
Adaptability: The pandemic has introduced new work schedules, workspaces, technologies, and even altered roles for many in the workforce. To be able to thrive in the prevailing workplace, all professionals will require to constantly learn and un-learn.
Tech savviness: With the world moving online, businesses are evaluating and recalibrating their business strategies to accelerate digital transformation. They are looking more closely at big data, AI and emerging technologies to ensure greater agility and resilience in overcoming future threats. It’s crucial to be aware of these trends and to work with them as they continue to evolve.
Leadership: Within the context of remote work, more people will find themselves leading their colleagues and making quick decisions. The gig economy is set to grow further, and employees within teams will take the lead at different times. Professionals with strong leadership skills, including an ability to inspire and collaborate, will be in greater demand than ever before.
Customer service: As the global health crisis continues to impact the way companies do business, strong customer service skills remain critical. Employees that can show clients they are valued are in high demand, especially with multiple services now completed online, rather than in person. In fact, our data for the UAE shows that customer service roles are among the top jobs today.
Emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence or the ability to be aware of one’s own as well as others’ emotions plays a crucial role in effectively responding to and interacting with colleagues in the workplace. While task-oriented skills remain critical to workplace success, LinkedIn data shows that employers value the ability to work well within teams. Emotional intelligence helps assess how employees work with one another to bring new ideas to the table.
How prime candidates will be filtered out
Accordingly, platforms like LinkedIn have introduced new tools to help job seekers keep pace with new demands.
Its Video Introduction feature, for example, allows hiring managers to request a video introduction of the candidate, giving them a chance to stand out among other candidates with written applications.
“This process can help filter out prime candidates for a role,” said El Khadem.
He said in March 2020, professionals watched over four million hours of LinkedIn Learning content, reflecting a proactive approach by professionals in preparing for the uncertainty.
Practice sessions with feedback
He said, “We also released an AI-powered interview feedback feature that enables members to privately record a practice interview, following which instant feedback is shared to help refine their performance. This feature helps job seekers practise their interview answers and boosts confidence ahead of a real interview. Once the answers are recorded, the AI feedback will assess the answer delivery and point out pacing, how many times filler words are used and sensitive phrases to avoid.”
Similarly, the Video Introduction feature provides a window into soft skills and mannerisms, and the Skills Assessment tool helps candidates define five extra skills on their profile pages, thereby enabling them to elevate their profiles to recruiters.
Marc Ellis initiative: Upskilling talent in the UAE
Marc Ellis recently launched a new initiative called Marc Ellis Training Academy to offer a range of courses to support the upskilling of UAE residents who have faced redundancy, or the prospect of redundancy or who simply want to use the current time to develop new skillsets.
Aws Ismail, general manager, Marc Ellis UAE and Zaid Alhiali, regional director, said they had noticed through their helpline launched recently that many applicants were willing to work in new industries or saw this as an opportunity to move into new careers.
“Coming from a recruitment background, we are aware that employers tend to look for people with experience or knowledge in a certain field before hiring, and this means a lot of people find it extremely difficult to switch careers. To support those people, we decided to reach out to our network and asked professionals who are willing to spend some of their time to provide coaching/training sessions as a way to support the job hunters during these difficult times”, Ismail said.
Sharing skills by making time for others
Within a week of the launch, courses for Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel for beginners were conducted, providing a two-hour training session for around 25 to 30 people each time, via the Zoom platform. The course was conducted by a professional technology project manager who was willing to give up some time to help people.
Ismail said, “We decided to create a platform which will make it easier for people to register their attendance to multiple courses and once again reached out to our network for their support. This time, over 40 professionals/coaches were willing to provide some of their time to provide training sessions around their specific domains, from Leadership, Management, Business Development, Marketing and Human Resources, all the way to more specific courses around some of the latest technologies including Data Analytics, Robotic Process Automation, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Web Development, Graphic Design and so on.”
Ismail said, “The kindness of people is truly showing by the number of professionals whom have registered their interest to support this initiative absolutely free of charge.”