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In a hybrid working world, here’s what’s driving permanent placement trends

The recruitment world was evolving, prior to the global pandemic. It’s foreseeable, really, given the technological leaps that have been made over the past few years. Apart from technology, changes in lifestyle, especially ones forced on us by Covid, have resulted in massive shifts in mind-sets and traditional ways of doing things.

Keeping up with it all is overwhelming and you’re not alone. To make it a little easier, lets go through some of the current trends in permanent placements and what you need to be aware of, from a recruiter or job seeker.

The ideal candidate

Top candidates stand out for various reasons, but skills are probably the top criterion. It’s not necessarily the person with 12 degrees and 30 years of work experience who is guaranteed to make the cut, though. So what do employers look for when searching for the ideal candidate for a role?

Over time it’s coming down to a good balance between ‘hard skills’ and ‘soft skills’. Hard skills refer to specialised knowledge and technical abilities and are often easier to define and measure than soft skills. For example, if you are a back surgeon, you would obviously need a medical degree and the ability to perform surgery. Soft skills relate more to behaviour, ways of thinking, personality traits and cognitive skills, and are generally more difficult to measure.

While in the past the main focus for recruiters was hard skills, this has shifted with the realisation that while hard skills can be taught – even on the job – soft skills are generally the kind of traits you either have or you don’t. Let’s look at some of the most sought-after hard and soft skills post-pandemic:

Soft skills are leading the way

According to LinkedIn, the must-have soft skills at the moment are adaptability, collaboration, creativity, emotional intelligence and persuasion, while the New York Institute of Finance lists creativity, communication and adaptability as the most in-demand soft skills. All of these skills support a more flexible, agile workforce, so we can see why they’re in such high demand and don’t expect things to change too much in the near future.

Hard skills are still important

New York Institute of Finance says that business analysis, analytical reasoning, affiliate marketing, sales and cloud computing are the top hard skills to have. These are all specialised skills and critical to driving business growth. On the local front, according to an article from BusinessTech, the most sought-after hard skills are software development, middle/department management and representative/sales consulting.

The dream job

Just as the workplace has changed over the years, the needs of employees have also evolved. It is no longer enough just to offer competitive packages and benefits. In order to attract and retain the best talent, businesses need to understand what employees really want. (Hint: it isn’t just money.) People like to feel respected, valued and supported – and it is no different in the workplace. A study by  Mercer identified three main qualities that employees look for in a company.


Free Nespresso at the office is great, but many would give up such perks for a job that fulfils them. When employees lack purpose in their jobs, they feel that they are just working for a salary and not making a difference; there is no passion or connection to the company or its goals. When employees work with purpose, they are motivated and productive, and job satisfaction increases.


According to the Mercer study, one in two employees want more focus on wellbeing at their company: physical, mental and emotional. Unsurprisingly, employees want to be treated as human beings and not just a number. Workplace wellness programmes are not only about promoting healthy habits, they show employees that their employers care about their health.


Mercer found that 51% of employees wish their company offered more flexible work options. Flexibility helps employees maintain a positive work-life balance and helps to reduce workplace stress and boost mental wellbeing and productivity. This was evidenced during lockdown, when many companies were surprised to find that employees are actually more productive and work harder when working from home.

The current market

What does the local employment landscape look like currently? BusinessTech analysed vacancy levels in various employment sectors in South Africa to track supply and demand. The most in-demand sectors were IT, business & management and finance. Generally supply and demand seem to be in line with one another, but in some sectors supply is outstripping demand and vice versa, which means there are either job shortages or skills shortages in these sectors.

Let’s take the IT sector as an example. In the 2021 ICT Skills Survey, it was found that there are nearly 10 000 unfilled positions in the ICT sector. Apart from the impact of the pandemic and lockdown on working conditions, the skills gap in the ICT sector was put down to an insufficient number of skilled people coming through the pipeline. This is a skills shortage that needs to be addressed urgently, especially considering that recruitment activity in the ICT sector grew by a whopping 15% year on year.

On the opposite side of the coin, volatile recruitment conditions are being experienced in the admin, office & support, building & construction, sales, manufacturing & assembly, medical & health and warehousing & logistics sectors. The medical & health sector has been hit particularly hard, with hiring activity decreasing by 18% year on year.

Strategic HR partners

With all this knowledge under your belt, you’re all set to navigate the potentially tricky world of permanent placements.

But why do it alone? Kelly is built on specialist placement partners with a proud and long history in talent acquisition and specialised professional placements. We cover a range of industries, holding strong relationships with key stakeholders and ensuring the right fit is created for our clients and candidates.

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