Better Investment in Employees is a Top Trend for 2021


As the new world of work takes shape, one of the top talent trends that emerged for 2021 has been a drive to reskill and upskill employees.

As national and global policies are shifting to focus more on talent investment, Lucinda Pullinger, Global Head of HR & Talent at Instant Offices, a workspace specialist, provides research and insights into how businesses can give better support for employees during this time of uncertainty and beyond.

According to a McKinsey survey, 69% of respondents say they have seen an increase in skill-building during the pandemic, and 58% say that closing skill gaps has become a higher priority for their companies since it started. However, skill-building as a strategy is outstripping other key methods of closing skill gaps, such as hiring, contracting, redeploying and releasing.

Various countries adopted temporary policies to help protect the jobs and incomes of the population by incentivising employers to retain their workers despite the financial challenges of 2020.

Wage subsidies:

The UK offered a maximum payment of £580 per employee per week via wage subsidies. Ireland provided £360 per week, while Australia paid the equivalent of S410 and Canada S500 per week.

Unemployment benefits:
For those with an initial offering in place, the UK provided claimants with an extra £20 per week, Australia paid S150 extra per week, and the US paid an extra $600 per week.

Work from home allowance:
With the sharp rise in remote working during the pandemic, more workplaces are also being encouraged to cover employees for expenses incurred while working at home (such as electricity or laptop repairs).

Investment in Mental and Emotional Health

With the growing need for empathy in mind, more companies say they plan to promote long-term health goals for their employees in the future. The most popular strategies are:

  • Add benefits to address mental or emotional health issues: 47%
  • Enable remote and digital health-check services: 36%
  • Include a mental or emotional wellbeing strategy: 33%
  • Add services to address physical health issues: 29%
  • Train managers to notice signs of mental health issues: 29%

Upskilling Spend: Asia-Pacific Countries Leading the Way

By looking at significant projected year-on-year increase in upskilling and reskilling spend per employee, the following countries are currently spending the most on their employees. Out of all the top ten countries, China, Australia and Hong Kong dominate the list as the region with the most talent competitive countries in the world.





Middle East




United States


Hong Kong






United Kingdom






Which Skills are Companies Prioritising?

The skills currently taking top priority when it comes to reskilling employees (i.e. those which have seen the biggest year-on-year increase) are:

  • Interpersonal skills and empathy
  • Project management
  • Leadership and managing others
  • Basic digital skills
  • Adaptability and continuous learning
  • Quantitative and statistical skills
  • Critical thinking and decision-making

Experts predict that to succeed in the new world of work, companies will need to place empathy at the heart of their operations. Nearly 2 in 3 employees were already heading for burnout before the start of the pandemic, which clearly shows that going “back to normal” won’t be sustainable in a post-pandemic world.

As some employees try to cope with the anxiety of returning to work and others continue to navigate the emotional challenges of working remotely, more companies must start seriously investing in the wellbeing of their people.