If the Great Resignation has taught us anything, it’s that while competitive pay is important, it isn’t enough.
In addition to fair compensation, it’s now table stakes for an organization to foster employee growth, engagement, and wellbeing if they want to retain staff and secure top talent.
Pew Research found that a lack of opportunities for employee advancement and growth was one of the top reasons workers left their jobs in 2021. Yep, that’s at the top of the list along with compensation and feeling disrespected at work.
Businesses are now being forced to address a critical fact of business in a post-2020 world: Employee engagement is tied to growth. Without an engaged workforce, turnover will remain high as workers take their talents to organizations that align better with their priorities and values.
There are many approaches to bolstering employee engagement, and one of the most impactful is ensuring employees have opportunities for growth and professional development. Giving employees easy access to learning opportunities shows them that they have avenues for advancement at your organization, and that you’re invested in their growth and care about their long-term career goals.
So what are the most important skills for employees to develop, both for their own careers and for the potential value they could add to their teams?
Using data from its global customers, Udemy has identified professional development and learning trends from the past year that will have the most impact on people’s careers, the job market, and the future of work in 2022 and beyond.
Power skills: Who are you calling “soft?”
2022 is the year “power skills” will start to take center stage.
Once called “soft skills,” power skills are a crucial set of competencies that deal with intra- and interpersonal work. Communication, collaboration, strategic thinking, and diversity/equity/inclusion (DEI) are all power skills.
So what’s with the rename? Calling a set of foundational skills “soft” underplays or even discredits their importance, even when they’re the very skills that bring your employees the most power and growth. In an increasingly automated world, it’s these skills that will not only empower your employees in their careers, but will also future-proof your company.
Strong power skills are essential for leading change, building strategy, motivating employees, and fostering a sense of belonging and trust, which improves employee experience and fosters a positive company culture. This is crucial for employee retention.
Communication and teamwork
Communication and teamwork skills are among some of the biggest opportunities for development. Assertiveness training surged in 2021, with a 250% increase from 2020. Behind it were facilitation (148%) and team building (129%). This could point to a workforce that’s committed to upward mobility; to combat career stagnation and build on reputation and trust, workers may be focusing on ways to demonstrate potential for leadership as a means to climb the career ladder.
Leadership and management
Leadership-specific skills are in high demand as well. As in previous years, courses centered around diversity and inclusion saw the biggest increase in demand (205%). These skills are and will continue to be critical for leadership and company culture, and it’s important to note that simply having a diverse team doesn’t guarantee employee engagement. It’s necessary to include equity as part of your leadership toolbox if you want to prove to your team that you walk the talk.
Productivity and collaboration
Productivity and collaboration skills are trending upward as we’ve seen—and continue to see—an increase in digital collaboration. With around 70% of white-collar workers continuing to work remotely and the growth of global teams, the biggest jump in collaboration skills came in courses related to computer skills at 169%. This includes tools such as Powerpoint, Confluence, Slack, and Microsoft Teams.
Udemy has also tracked the need for time management courses over a four-year period, which continues to be a popular skill that workers revisit often when they feel their productivity is lagging.
Personal development and wellness
People found fulfillment in learning skills for personal development as well, which is worth noting, as work-life balance has become an increasingly relevant topic. Making time for personal development and wellness is crucial to keep your team happy and fulfilled.
English language courses saw a 150% jump, offering both professional and personal development in one package. People also took on creative hobbies: Interior design (115%) was a popular one, likely due to the switch to remote work and the need to think mindfully about home office spaces. Music and fitness also rated highly; both great ways to reduce stress and improve cognitive function.
Tactical skills: how to make the day-to-day easier
The professional development landscape isn’t all power skills, though. Many people assessed how to fill their tactical skill gaps as a means for advancing their careers and excelling in day-to-day functions of their roles.
Unlike the personal nature of power skills, tactical skills are all about getting day-to-day work done. These vary across teams and roles, so Udemy broke them down by job function. Some of the biggest focus areas were in business intelligence and data literacy.
Until recently, data skills were considered a specialized role, but they have become increasingly necessary for a wider variety of roles. As organizations work to grow their employees’ data literacy, consumption of courses related to Excel Analytics and Tableau have spiked. This trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
Data literacy is an area worth developing for employees regardless of role, but should prove especially useful in IT and BT teams, where the impact of new technologies, tools, and automations will need measurement and analysis.
Technical skills: getting down to brass tacks
These learning trends are pointing to an interesting facet of professional development: The skills needed for technical roles are no longer exclusive to the jobs to which they’re traditionally associated. This is due in large part to the prevalence of cloud computing solutions, which require a widespread understanding of cloud technologies in the organizations that use them.
Udemy mentioned a few key skills that leaders––including CIOs––should ensure their teams develop to become more agile and align with business priorities regardless of job title:
This was a big one: Google Cloud Certification courses alone saw a 645% increase in enrollment, with Microsoft AZ-500 following at 393%.
In order of most hours consumed, Microsoft Azure certification, Amazon AWS certification, and Google Cloud certification are the courses that led the pack, which falls in line with industry trends that name Amazon and Microsoft as leading the cloud infrastructure market.
Cloud computing has such a wide variety of applications that it could become a standard skill in white collar work––similarly to how computer skills were once a specialized skill set and are now considered standard. It’s worth developing your knowledge in cloud computing now, and as far as we can see, that trend will only continue.
Cybercrime has been on the rise for years, and the pandemic and remote work revolution only spurred it on. With phishing and ransomware attacks becoming more commonplace than ever, cybersecurity is a skill that BT and IT teams need to beef up, and continue developing as cybercrime evolves.
CompTIA CySA+ certification and CISM (Certified Information Security Manager) courses saw significant increases in the past year (155% and 135%, respectively).
What’s interesting is what this jump in cybersecurity interest may indicate. Currently, the demand for cybersecurity skills outpaces the supply for qualified talent. This increasing development around cybersecurity skills may point to a need for companies to look inward to fill the talent gap, or to recruit outside of traditional parameters. This means putting less emphasis on degrees and direct security experience, and focusing more on related skills. For example, DevOps and financial operations have a ton of transferable skills to a security role.
Organizations that are fortunate enough to have a data science team aren’t resting on their laurels, though. They know that data scientists still need to develop and update their skills around the tools that help them do their day-to-day work.
Courses around Amazon Sagemaker saw a 219% jump year over year, with AWS Certified Machine Learning Specialty coming in right behind it at 212% and Apache Airflow at 178%.
Machine learning and AI were of particular interest to data science teams, likely because businesses have an increasing need to future-proof their consumer-facing products and internal systems through automation.
While software development is quickly becoming the cornerstone of all IT work, IT professionals have been supplementing their software development skills with robust database management (475%) and IT service management (278%) training.
One interesting metric to note was the long-term growth of training in Kubernetes, an open-source container orchestration system for software deployment, scaling, and management. Between 2020 and 2021 Kubernetes training saw a 137% increase, but since 2017 it’s seen a steady 842% surge. This will likely be an important skill set to follow as time goes on, and may be worth developing now.
Unsurprisingly, software development training continues to surge. This is another skill that’s becoming a required skill in the tech world regardless of job title.
Development is changing rapidly. GitLab’s 2021 report on DevSecOps says that almost 60% of developers are releasing code two times faster than before. To remain competitive, developers have to uplevel their skills, and those in related positions are realizing that development skills will give them added value in their own teams.
Developers also saw their own roles changing, often taking on more DevOps responsibilities than ever before.
Because of this evolution of development, Udemy suggested extending skills and methods traditionally considered the domain of software developers to entire technical teams, encouraging a learning culture and adapting agile methods to train entire development teams.
As for the skills themselves, Terraform (372%), Python scripting(314%), and react hooks (295%) surged among Udemy’s learners. In the five-year scope, Google Flutter saw a whopping 966% increase in interest.
It’s important not to see learning as simply a means to solving a retention problem, but as an enriching part of life and work that benefits everyone involved.
Our brains are always looking for more information: to improve ourselves and the world around us, to help others, to seek out opportunities, to warn us of danger, and ultimately to survive. Humans are perceiving, thinking, and analyzing beings, and learning engages us at this very core aspect of ourselves.
There’s a lot to learn as we look toward the future, and professional development plans are essential at every level, from the personal and professional to the organizational.
So get out there and develop yourself––and if you have the power, help others do the same.