Digital transformation and innovation have been accelerating at a striking pace today. Prolonged economic uncertainty and the rise of new technologies, such as ChatGPT and cloud-based tools, are exacerbating an already worrying skills gap, says Caoimhe Carlos.

In fact, the World Economic Forum predicts 85 million jobs could be displaced by automation and AI by 2025 and yet 97 million new roles are expected to be created.

Enhancing the knowledge and competences of existing employees can be a key strategy that adds agility to a business and also helps overcome skills shortages. Opportunities for flexible and effective skills development creates several positive outcomes for organisations with respect to employee retention, cost savings, higher productivity, and ultimately achieving business goals. Organisations of all sizes are therefore looking to learning and development (L&D) programmes to help them remain competitive in a volatile business environment.

Companies looking to build their L&D offerings in the current environment need to start by evaluating the right learning partner that aligns with the needs of their employees and emphasises the value of ongoing and flexible training opportunities to develop their skills. This could cover technical areas, role-specific business competencies or the professional power skills that create effective managers.

Demand for specialised skills

One approach that’s gaining traction is the use of micro-credentials i.e. certificates of learning that are quick to complete and can be highlighted in real-world professional scenarios. Unlike a traditional degree or diploma, industry certifications allow a learner to signal their competency in a niche subject. Certifications can be one of the most instrumental tools used by businesses to accelerate upskilling and support the adoption of new technologies, tools and systems.

Importantly, businesses can roll out new training courses based on emerging skills and train their employees without interrupting existing workflows. Likewise, short, stackable courses and certificates on a specific tool or topic can give employees a clear direction for their learning, making it more digestible and rewarding. In addition, they are proving to be more convenient than conventional training programmes as they can be easily slotted in around an employee’s other work/life commitments. Learning organisations like Udemy provide personalised, multimodal learning experiences that are more engaging and effective for professionals.

The success of an L&D programme depends on business leaders first determining which teams and roles need to prioritise upskilling. Surprisingly, 87 percent of executives surveyed by Deloitte have identified a skills gap within their organisation.

Acquiring technical, business and power skills

A company’s L&D team needs to ensure potential training partners are on top of market trends so they can support learners to prepare for the latest and most in-demand skills and certification exams. For example, Udemy’s Q1 2023 Workplace Learning Index highlighted a growing demand globally for studying for certifications, particularly associated with new data-related technologies, Python programming and cybersecurity. In Q1, demand for ChatGPT courses saw a massive growth of 4,419 percent as the race to understand and effectively implement generative AI within the workforce continues.

The demands of professionals have been changing frequently in recent years, whether for home office or a hybrid work regime, due to the pandemic, or for more diversity and inclusion policies, for example. These changes, along with the constant transformations in the roles that professionals perform, require them to acquire new power skills, and this can be especially pertinent to younger generations. A successful business also needs employees to brush up their power skills, such as collaboration, communication and creative problem-solving – especially when an employee is stepping into a manager or leader role.

Future-proof your workforce

The working world is becoming more competitive and, as a result, the demand for new skills is increasing. However, people who are working full-time don’t always have the capacity for extended periods of study. Micro-credentials therefore provide a more efficient approach for employees to expand their skill sets and increase their knowledge base. Employers need to offer opportunities for targeted training which can be completed depending on the employees’ flexibility.

To achieve the best outcomes businesses need to work with a training partner that has a proven track record of delivering engaging, flexible skills programmes that align with the needs of individual employees. By upskilling staff early and routinely, companies will be in a better position to navigate any economic challenges by creating a workforce that is appropriately resourced and trained.

Most importantly, for businesses, the adoption of robust learning programs will help ensure they will still have a skilled and loyal workforce once the current economic uncertainties have passed. Upskilling staff relatively early and habitually can lead to lessening the need for mass redundancies or negative business outcomes.


Caoimhe Carlos is Vice President of Global Customer Success at Udemy.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.