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Trends that Will Define Workplace Learning in 2021

Udemy highlights some key trends on how workplace learning took shape around the globe and what it means for your organization in 2021.


The 20th-century Japanese scholar Okakura Kakuzo said, “The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” And perhaps 2020 would stand as a testimony to this adage. While much of 2021 is also uncertain, one thing about the future of work is clear: The world needs to get increasingly tech-savvy in a hurry, as technology is advancing at lightning speed, and digital transformation has taken over the workplace and creating a need for CXOs to be more digitally equipped to handle the future.

The annual learning trends report published by Udemy highlights some key trends on how workplace learning took shape around the globe and what it means for your organization in 2021.

“The future of work many of us have been talking about is no longer an eventuality — it’s our current reality. Around the world and across industries, organizations are rethinking what work looks like in fundamental ways. And it’s on all of us — from senior executives to individual contributors — to provide meaningful solutions to navigate the days, months, and even years ahead,” Shelley Osborne, VP of Learning, UdemyAuthor of The Upskilling Imperative said, adding that the trends can help CXOs understand the kind of upskilling and learning agility that is required to keep pace with the “new normal.”

Pursuit of Self-mastery

What was once considered a taboo topic has become a major area of focus for big and small organizations today, who are increasingly prioritizing the mental health of their workforce. In the Udemy report, the top trend listed focuses on skills to assist “self-mastery.”

Anxiety management, resilience training, stress management each saw more than a 1,000% surge in use on Udemy for Business, with meditation and mindfulness training increasing by 886% and 784%, respectively. The report said that the “increased demand for productivity and mental health skills indicates that employees are adamant about mastering their minds and taking control of their time.”

Remote collaboration

The report notes the importance of collaboration in a remote work setting. In a recent Harvard Business Review cover story, Harvard Business School professor and behavioral scientist Francesca Gino says the secret ingredients of sustainable collaboration — such as effective communication and social awareness — are rare. But a trend in the Udemy for Business consumption data shows that teams are growing more aware of the skills needed to “crack the code” on collaboration.

Udemy finds the courses key to collaboration such as listening skills, business communication, business writing, and business etiquette surged by four-digit percentage points. Consumption of conflict management and interpersonal feedback courses increased by 890% and 686%, respectively. The technology and software industry saw a more than 3,000% increase in listening skills courses.

Data literacy imperative

increased consumption of data analysis, data manipulation, and data visualization skills on Udemy for Business tells us that data science isn’t just for data scientists anymore, with Udemy stating that “data literacy is the new computer literacy.” In 2020, the consumption of business intelligence training increased 1,411% on Udemy for Business.

Salesforce courses increased 664% and SAP courses saw a 428% surge in consumption on the platform. Software skills to enable data visualization also saw a boost in 2020. For example, Google Sheets courses increased 858% between 2019 and 2020.

Data Science Automation

Digital transformation has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, courses to enhance automation skills have also increased in the last year, per the report. Between 2019 and 2020, PyTorch and TensorFlow courses increased 542% and 458%, respectively, with OpenCV seeing a 300% surge in demand. Within the technology and software industry, TensorFlow courses increased 1,599%.

“Recently, huge strides in machine learning and artificial intelligence have allowed for the creation of new data science tools that automate a variety of repetitive tasks,” says Jose Portilla, Head of Data Science, Pierian Data Inc. “Data scientists have more time to focus on developing clear business solutions instead of cleaning data.”

Hybrid tech roles

In the spirit of agile project management, many technical teams are moving away from single domain expertise. Rather, hybrid roles are becoming the norm as leaders encourage employees to build expertise in more than one subject directly related to their job function.

The report provides data illustrating ways organizations are embracing agile project management. Consumption of DevOps skills courses such as JMeter increased 2,590% between 2019 and 2020. Docker certified associated courses increased 1,308% during this time. Online learning related to cloud computing also saw a boost with Microsoft AZ-900 courses seeing a 2,417% increase on Udemy for Business.

Cybersecurity urgency

Cybersecurity attacks have increased markedly during the coronavirus pandemic. That said, organization prioritizing cybersecurity training is a key workplace learning trend. With the switch to remote work, general training topics including “information, network, wireless, and web security saw notable growth” as members of IT teams helped structure “a safe remote workforce.”

According to PwC, not only do organizations with poor security practices risk financial loss, but their intellectual property, employee data, customer data, and hard-earned reputation are at risk as well.

Osborne believes, traditional training approaches were built for a world we don’t live in anymore and can’t keep up with the pace of change we’re experiencing.

“Your organization’s success greatly depends on more upskilling and a strong culture of lifelong learning. And it’s up to leaders like you to make it happen,” she concluded.

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