What Will Learning Look Like in 2021?

Put upskilling on the priority list for learning and development.

The year 2020 found most of us readjusting to work done differently in unique settings. And for too many employees, learning and career development fell by the wayside.

Massive open online course (MOOC) provider Udemy provides some insights on upskilling in its 2021 Workplace Learning Trend Report, which surveyed more than 500 global professionals, drawing on the users of the Udemy for Business platform. Udemy is an online learning platform used by more than 50 million students and professionals, with 57,000 instructors teaching 100,000 courses in 65-plus languages.


The overall focus of the Udemy report is the need for upskilling and learning agility. Amidst the pandemic, more employees were upskilled in 2020 (38 percent) compared with 2019 (14 percent), with the primary goal of closing the skills gap. But only 57 percent of respondents are very or somewhat satisfied with their organization’s learning and development. The Udemy survey pinpoints six emerging trends for 2021:

TREND #1: Amidst uncertainty, self-mastery is a valued skill.

There is a growing need for take-charge employees seeking to gain control over their personal well-being and mental health. Interest in courses teaching time management, motivation, focus mastery, selfdiscipline, memory, and goal achievement has increased exponentially. Udemy reports research from Health Affairs journal that 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.

Succeeding in today’s workplace requires strong collaboration and teamwork. Making this happen requires excellent communication skills and exemplary leadership skills. No wonder communication courses on topics such as listening skills, business communication, conflict management, and interpersonal feedback showed significant percentage growth.

In terms of leadership skills, diversity and inclusion led the course path, followed by decision-making, strategic thinking, facilitation, teamwork, and cultural awareness.

TREND #3: Data literacy is the new computer literacy.

Too few employees know how to assist their leaders in deciphering the potential of systems’ data and analyzing them for functional application. However, areas such as data visualization software are in demand and stimulate employees to learn software such as Google Sheets, Salesforce, and Qlik Sense to present the data they are analyzing in meaningful ways to their managers and leaders.

TREND #4: Automation skills let data scientists focus on strategy.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence have opened up the door for automating many functions. Learning the language of program libraries and machine learning techniques allows for careful manipulation of data to solve future problems before they happen.

TREND #5: Farewell, silos; hello, hybrid tech roles.

Faced with the need for more agile project management, technical teams are finding they need greater diversity of expertise. This is leading to more hybrid job functions as employees are encouraged to gain expertise in several subject areas. People in software development, for example, are eating up courses in DevOps learning, continuous integration, and opensource software application JMeter.

TREND #6: Cybersecurity training takes on a new urgency.

With remote work comes greater digital security risks and the need to educate everyone on topics such as e-mail scams, malware and phishing, safe Internet habits, and personal information protection. IT leaders must examine security gaps to prevent financial loss, and protect intellectual property, employee and customer data, and their organization’s reputation.

Whatever happens in 2021, it’s crucial to help employees plan their learning and career development.

Roy Saunderson, MA, CRP, is author of “Practicing Recognition” and Chief Learning Officer at Rideau Recognition Solutions. His consulting and learning skills focus on helping companies “give real recognition the right way wherever they are.” For recognition insights, visit: http://AuthenticRecognition.com. For more information, e-mail him at RoySaunderson@Rideau.com or visit www.Rideau.com

Roy Saunderson, MA, CRP, is author of “GIVING the Real Recognition Way” and Chief Learning Officer at Rideau Recognition Solutions. His consulting and learning skills focus on helping companies “give real recognition the right way wherever they are.” For recognition insights, visit: http://AuthenticRecognition.com. For more information, e-mail him at RoySaunderson@Rideau.com or visit www.Rideau.com.