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Is the Workforce Ready for the Digital Demands of Tomorrow?


Long before the pandemic, enterprises were already looking at various strategies on workforce development. Job automation, AI adoption and embedding analytics into business processes were just some of the tech-driven trends one can think of and the skills associated with those trends were gaining prominence. While the going was good, 2020 turned everything upside down, forcing people to learn, grow and adapt to the new ways of working during the coronavirus pandemic. This compelled organizations to rethink the future of work  with a focus on upskilling and reskilling and how they can prepare their current workforce to adapt to the digital demands of tomorrow.

Recently, Udemy for Business conducted a study in Asia-Pacific region to understand the trends that are being followed around in 2021 and how organizations can prepare their workforce for a skillful future.

Shelley OsborneThe 2021 Workplace Learning Trends Report is based on data from the learning behavior of thousands of global companies using the Udemy for Business platform and a survey of over 500 L&D professionals.

“We’ve all experienced the world of work getting flipped upside down without warning in 2020. While much of this year has been uncertain, one thing has become undoubtedly clear,” notes Shelley Osborne, Vice President of Learning, Udemy and author of ‘The Upskilling Imperative’.

She continues, “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.”

The key trends 

If we come to India specifically, the key skills that are mostly in demand for today’s workforce includes: Microsoft AZ-900, software testing, IELTS, Microsoft certification and email etiquette to name a few. However, there are some other key areas, the report points out, where upskilling/reskilling is the need of the hour to meet the digital demand of tomorrow.

Amidst uncertainty, self-mastery is a valued skill

Fortunately, the topic of mental health and its effect on workplace productivity has been more frequently discussed in the last few years. And, based on the demand for these skills in 2020, it’s safe to say that employees are adamant about mastering their minds and taking control of their time.

What was once considered a taboo topic has become a major area of focus for organizations like Starbucks and Unilever, who prioritized the mental health of their workforce before the pandemic.

“Learning and development extends far beyond vertical movement and technical skill development,” says Culture Amp Senior People Scientist Sahra Kaboli-Nejad. “This mindset is a fundamental shift to focusing on the whole employee, rather than simply the technical skills related to their outputs or deliverables.”

Organizations that prioritize the wellness of their people in 2021 will benefit tremendously, too. For every dollar spent on wellness programs, companies can expect their healthcare costs to decrease by approximately $3.27.

Automation skills let data scientists focus on strategy

Machine learning techniques that provide insights and predictions far beyond the typical dashboard. But preparing the massive amounts of data needed for those pipelines is no simple task. Automation tools help data scientists speed up the process.

“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. “Data scientists have more time to focus on developing clear business solutions instead of cleaning data.”

Rising demand of Hybrid Tech roles

Hybrid roles are becoming the norm in 2021. Leaders are encouraging employees to build expertise in more than one subject related to their job function. The technical skills related to this trend, like software testing and infrastructure architecture, has seen a sizable growth in countries across the APAC region — including over 5,200% year-over-year growth in Japan, the study shows.

The idea is to encourage technical employees to have ‘jack of all trades but master of one’ mentality. For example, an employee with computer technology skills can complement it by learning business analysis, python language, business communications and more.

QA testers and developers, if not already functioning in hybrid roles, are working closely together to expedite project completions. Likewise, IT specialists are mastering cloud computing platforms and infrastructure, moving beyond help center or security specializations.

Collaboration a must for remote employees:

The study shows that remote is not going anywhere. In fact it is an universal truth now. People are going to be involved in their daily work and would need special initiatives to engage with colleagues virtually. This has called for a new range of behavior and skills where organizations are forced quickly to prioritize solutions for collaboration.

So to help them succeed, employees can be encouraged to interact with colleagues and develop related skills like business communication and listening.

Cybersecurity urgency

As employees transitioned to working from their home offices, consumption of courses related to digital security spiked. General topics like information, network, wireless, and web security saw notable growth as IT teams of all sizes created a safe remote workforce.

Organizations must protect their employees and bottom line with continuous security training for all technical teams and training for all employees in cybersecurity best practices. Security is every employee’s responsibility, especially as they work from home and are expected to implement initiatives like single sign-on and multifactor authentication. General cybersecurity skills became a priority for the Consumer Goods & Services industry, where consumption grew by 6,343%.

Our take on the report

  • 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. An 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.
  • If an employee wants to be part of organization’s growth strategy, excel in troubleshooting solutions, develop leadership portfolio then they have to upskill/reskill themselves.
  • Studies have proved that a tech-savvy workforce can respond better and faster to dynamic changes in the business environment and customer expectations, helping maintain a company’s competitive edge. And it is up to the organizations, and their leaders to recognize the potential of employees (going beyond the formal resume) and deliver employee learning and development at scale.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at