We’ve all experienced the world of work get flipped upside down without warning in 2020. While much of this year has been uncertain, one thing has become undoubtedly clear. The future of work that 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 fundamentally rethinking every aspect of how we work. And it’s on all of us — from senior executives to inpidual contributors — to provide meaningful solutions and learn the necessary skills to navigate the days, months, and years ahead.

In Udemy’s 2021 Workplace Learning Trends Report, we analyzed which skills have surged in consumption on Udemy for Business in the past year as employees adapted to our “new normal.” We also examined the learning behaviors of thousands of global companies to determine the six trends that will define the workplace in 2021. 


6 Workplace Learning Trends that Will Define 2021 

Trend #1: Amidst Uncertainty, Self-Mastery is a Valued Skill

  • Workplace well-being is even more imperative today. A study conducted in March and April of 2020 found the mental health of almost 42% of respondents had declined since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
  • The increased demand for productivity and mental health skills indicates that employees are adamant about mastering their minds and taking control of their time. For example, in the Government and Nonprofit sector, we saw an 8,660% increase in consumption of mindfulness courses, and for workers in the Healthcare industry, we saw a 5,408% increase in consumption of stress management skills compared to 2019.
  • 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.

Trend #2: Remote Work Makes Collaboration a Priority

  • Collaboration is hard. It’s even harder when working remotely. The demand for communication and leadership skills hints that employees are trying to crack the code on remote collaboration. For example, in the Software and Technology industry, we saw a 3,201% increase in consumption of listening skills, and in the Retail industry, we saw a 2,042% increase in consumption of business etiquette courses compared to 2019.
  • The communication process is often taken for granted, causing teams to navigate a sea of ambiguity and abstraction. But in 2020, the high demand for communication skills shows that teams are learning how to be better listeners and make space for healthy debate — and, more importantly, one another.

Trend #3: Data Literacy is the New Computer Literacy

  • Not long ago, computer skills became a minimal requirement for almost all employment. The growing consumption of data analysis and data visualization skills tells us that data literacy has become important for almost everyone across industries. For example, in the Government and Nonprofit sector, we saw a 9,464% increase in consumption of Qlik Sense courses compared to 2019.
  • Clear understanding of dashboards, visualizations, and analysis will soon become a default skill set required of any office worker.   Workforces with strong data skills across all departments in an organization are more “data self-sufficient” and therefore spend less time distracting data scientists from complex projects.

Trend #4: Automation Skills Let Data Scientists Focus on Strategy

  • According to our data, data scientists are learning new automated processes and tools, meaning they have more time to focus on developing clear business solutions instead of cleaning data or building models. For example, we saw huge surges in consumption of Tensorflow courses in the Transportation industry (463%) and in the Software and Technology industry (1,599%) compared to 2019.
  • Humans, not algorithms, are the ones who understand where data is coming from and how it should be used for machine learning purposes. But, to use their time efficiently, companies must equip employees with training in the automation practices their competition is rapidly adopting.

Trend #5: Farewell Silos, Hello Hybrid Tech Roles

  • In the spirit of agile project management, many technical teams are moving away from single domain expertise. We see this reflected in the consumption of skills related to DevOps and cloud computing. For example, we saw a 1,189% increase in consumption of Google Cloud courses in the Manufacturing industry and a 693% increase in consumption of continuous integration courses in the Retail industry compared to 2019.

Trend #6: Cybersecurity Training Takes on New Urgency

  • As global workforces went remote because of COVID-19, IT teams urgently upskilled to protect their organizations from cyberattacks that target employees’ home networks and personal devices. For example, we saw a 5,598% increase in consumption of ethical hacking courses in the Media industry and a 6,343% increase in consumption of cybersecurity courses in the Consumer Goods and Services industry compared to 2019.

Here are a few tips on how to promote learning more effectively

  • Ask leaders to share lessons from their past experiences: Leadership signals are the most powerful and impactful mechanisms for spreading a culture of learning. Encourage leaders to be vulnerable and admit their mistakes, too. There's a lot of wisdom to be gained from failure.
  • Include learning in career development and performance conversations: At least twice a year, share observations of employees' talents, coach them to think through their career experiences, and connect them with opportunities to try new things and learn more in areas where they're looking to grow.
  • Hold postmortems and retrospectives on projects: Successfully completing a project is a reason to celebrate. It's also an opportunity to reflect and build a culture of healthy feedback. A good postmortem takes an honest look at the completed work and asks, “How can we do better next time?”

Reproduced from Learn@IBF with permission from Udemy