New digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and automation tools are rapidly changing the way we work, develop products, and interact with our customers. Intelligent automation tools augment what people do at work and will redefine what’s possible.

As organizations navigate this complex digital transformation, learning & development (L&D) leaders are tasked with keeping employees up to speed with the ever-evolving skills ecosystem.

To uncover emerging trends and predict what’s required for 2019, we surveyed 400 L&D leaders to find out what they’re doing to prepare their workforce for this digital transformation. We also took a look at the hot new topics trending on our global Udemy marketplace of 24+ million learners and thousands of businesses.

Here’s a glimpse into what we discovered. For the full report, download our 5 Workplace Learning Trends & 5 Predictions for 2019.

1. Businesses are now the architects of the future of work

With the rise of automation, the world of work is experiencing the largest job transition since the shift from agriculture to manufacturing jobs during the Industrial Revolution. “By 2030, as many as 375 million workers—or roughly 14 percent of the global workforce—may need to switch occupational categories as digitization, automation, and advances in artificial intelligence disrupt the world of work,” according to McKinsey Global Institute.

L&D leaders fully recognize that we’re in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution. In our survey, we found 30% of organizations have a formal future of work plan, 31% of organizations have an informal future of work plan, while only 13% of organizations have no future of work plan in place at all. Read How Ernst & Young (EY) is Preparing its People for the Future of Work.

In our era of rapid technological change, learning & development’s (L&D) role is to train employees for jobs that don’t exist yet. L&D must become a well-oiled “reskilling machine” and provide the tools to constantly re-skill workers for new, emerging roles. Rather than hiring and firing talent, employees whose jobs are automated can be reskilled for new kinds of roles at organizations.

Udemy for Business customer Malwarebytes, a Silicon Valley cybersecurity firm, automated its quality assurance testing for software development. However, instead of laying off these employees, the company turned to online learning to quickly re-skill their workforce for new programming skills required in a rapidly changing cybersecurity industry. A computer now handles mundane testing tasks, while the up-skilled employees apply their programming knowledge to help identify errors in the company’s codebase.

2. Automation and AI are new recruits to the workplace

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the nature of office work, freeing people from routine jobs and allowing them to focus on more creative, strategic, and collaborative work. “[The] latest recruits include machines and software intelligence that they are using to bring new skills to help their people do new jobs and invent a new future for themselves and the organization,” according to Accenture.

As organizations augment their workforce with digital tools, it’s not surprising that the #3 most popular brand-new emerging skill in 2019 on Udemy for Business is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Much in the same way that physical robots have revolutionized the manufacturing industry, software robots are now capable of having a similar impact in the office world. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) simply means using modern process automation tools to quickly and reliably replicate how human beings perform routine daily office work on Microsoft Excel & Word documents, web applications, CRMs, desktop apps, APIs, databases, and Citrix terminals. See the top 10 new emerging tech skills in 2019.

3. Towards a digital-human workforce: soft skills matter

The future workplace will involve a new relationship between people and machines. In fact, according to Accenture, intelligent automation thrives when paired with people to drive better outcomes. “Far from killing jobs and creating a dehumanized future, pioneering companies are using intelligent automation to drive a new—and much more productive—relationship between people and machines,” says Accenture.

Customer service firm 24/7.AI reinvented itself from a call center to an AI-driven customer support experience. But as its AI technology took over simple customer requests, the company trained its human workforce in critical emotional intelligence skills to handle more complex customer calls. See How L&D Helped a Customer Service Firm Prepare for Digital Transformation.

As routine jobs become more automated and we move toward a digital-human workforce, people will need to specialize in key soft skills that robots lack. The good news is humans excel in areas like conflict management, emotional intelligence, and storytelling—which top the list of soft skills employees are busy learning in the workplace in 2019. In fact, research shows organizations that help foster these natural human traits such as collaboration and storytelling are higher-performing than those that don’t, according to our recent Humanizing Learning Report.

With our rapidly evolving landscape, change management also crept up on the list of fastest-growing soft skills in 2019. As organizations drive their digital transformation, automate their processes, and adopt new technologies, change management will play a critical role in facilitating a successful workforce transition. See the top 10 fastest-growing soft skills in the workplace in 2019.

To get our other 7 workplace learning trends and predictions for 2019, download the full report here.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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