Technical and role-related skills will always be important. But if employers want to set their workforces — and their business — up for long-term success, soft skills must be an essential part of training programs. 

But, at the moment, they’re not. Only 17% of workers have a plan to develop specific skills according to Degreed’s How the Workforce Learns Report.

Which soft skills training will be necessary for the future of work? According to Udemy 2020 course consumption data, four patterns emerged.

1. Wellness skills build a healthy foundation

Eighty-nine percent of employees who participate in wellness programs say it’s had an impact on their overall health and well-being. But in 2020, the pandemic highlighted the importance of wellness skills like stress management. 

Sahra Kaboli-Nejad, Senior People Scientist at Culture Amp, describes this trend. “There’s a fundamental shift to focusing on the whole employee, rather than simply their outputs or deliverables. Our data is showing substantial improvements in wellbeing because leadership is supporting employee management of their wellbeing (up 22%) by providing access to resources to manage stress (up 12%) and emphasizing work-life balance (up 14%).”

Demand for these wellness skills grew exponentially year-over-year:

Investing in wellness skills gives employees the tools that will help them adapt and thrive, even in times of stress and uncertainty.

2. Productivity skills help separate the signal from the noise

Focus and productivity have been challenges for employees for several years now. The Udemy 2018 Workplace Distraction Report revealed that 50% of employees were not as productive as they could be due to workplace distractions. 

Distractions, however, took on a whole new dimension in 2020. Seventy-four percent of employees said concerns about the coronavirus were a distraction that affected their work. Beyond the pandemic itself, those working from home report top distractions as personal calls and texts, watching TV, and kids or other family members. 

To combat this lack of focus, employees are increasingly turning to courses on productivity skills: 

The distractions of the world aren’t going away — especially while remote work continues to be the norm. So make sure improving productivity is a goal of your L&D strategy.  employees tune them out and focus on what matters most during their workday.

Soft skill training for the workplace

3. Communication skills keep the remote workplace running

Communication skills are essential in today’s workplace. Annie Lin, Vice President of People at recruiting software company Lever, told SHRM, “In today’s new paradigm, flexibility, strong communication skills, and the ability to adapt as working conditions evolve are the most important qualities a candidate can have.” 

In the remote setting, communication can’t rely on personal interaction and nonverbal cues. According to MIT Sloan Management Review, “One of the biggest downsides of remote work…is the loss of face-to-face communication as companies turn more heavily toward low-bandwidth communication methods like email and chat.” 

Learners in 2020 are focusing on the following communication skills:

Whether employees work remotely or in an office, communication skills are key to collaboration and company success.

4. Leadership skills promote organizational strength and agility

Sue Ashford, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business believes leadership skills are for everyone. Not just those who consider themselves leaders. “We need people taking leader-like actions in more places so that they can react more quickly,” she told Harvard Business Review. “And react in a way that allows more voices to be heard to handle some of that complexity and ambiguity.”

Yet many people who find themselves in leadership roles feel unprepared. McKinsey finds that 40–50% of new leaders fail within 18 months of their transition to a leadership role.

On Udemy, consumption of leadership skills skyrocketed in 2020:

Developing leadership skills gives all employees the confidence to make decisions and act in the best interest of the business.

Kickstart the soft skills revolution in your company

Job-related skills will always be important — engineers will still need to code and marketers will continue creating campaigns using the latest tools. 

But at the same time, employees need to be encouraged and empowered to develop soft skills. Whether it’s promoting wellbeing, communication, or leadership, soft skills training leads to personal career achievements, fosters better relationships with coworkers, and results in long-term benefits for the company. 

Want to dig deeper into the soft skills revolution and what it means for your organization? Read the 2021 Workplace Learning Trends Report to learn more.