Emerging technologies are transforming the world of work, and businesses need to rethink their approach towards L&D and employee reskilling. Here we explore the future skills highlighted in ‘2020 Workplace Learning Trends: The Skills of the Future’ report, and how to future-proof your workforce.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping how organizations do business, engage with clients and customers, and manage their operations. According to Gartner’s Hype Cycle 2019, data analytics and AI is expected to augment employees’ efficiency over the next decade or so, with an increasing number of organizations depending on emerging technologies to gain the desired competitive advantage.

The explosion of AI-enabled technologies has left lasting effects on almost every industry. In finance alone, AI is already managing investment funds, while computers make up 35% of US’ stock market. However, with such rapid changes happening around us, most businesses are facing challenges in terms of keeping up with the technology itself.

Nearly 65% of business leaders feel AI is a (very) important aspect of human capital, while only 26% of surveyed companies feel they are ready for the proliferation of such technologies. AI, in particular, comes with the perquisite of big data. But, data alone is not the problem. Today, organizations the world over have limitless amount of data, which demands efficient management, processing and analysis, in order to gain actionable insights from the AI tools and solutions leveraged by organizations. In effect, AI calls for a data-driven culture, one that is sustainable in the long term.

So, given such massive technological disruptions, there is a pressing need for global businesses to respond effectively and focus on the future skills and talent management. Let’s explore how organizations can rethink workplace learning in the near future.

Rethinking L&D in 2020

Although AI has been popping in and out of business solutions for the past few years, 2020 is the year AI really goes big. Today, AI is being adopted in almost every aspect of the business, including Sales (real-time product updates, seamless information sharing), Marketing (customer behavior analysis, buying trends), HR (screenings, interviews, recruitments) and Finance (number crunching, market predictions), the list is endless.

Likewise, over the past few years, there has been a clear shift in the demand for future skills, particularly for AI and data science related skills. According to Udemy, demand for AI and data science skills have seen rapid uptake among its learners over past few years. Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Neural Networks (the engine behind AI) have revolutionized the world, and can be implemented in business solutions across all industries.

So, based on the report ‘2020 Workplace Learning Trends: The Skills of the Future’, here are the hottest skills L&D leaders need to look at in 2020-

  • Top Tech Skills 2020

Going into 2020, there is a near similar trend in terms of skills demands, where there is a huge uptake for skills like Python, machine learning and deep learning, along with cloud computing, web development frameworks and IT certifications like Docker (open source platform used to build software packages); while some of the top emerging tech skills include quantum computing, internet things Gatsby.js, React Hooks, Next.js among others.

No surprise then why L&D needs to prioritize these tech skills in 2020. When surveyed, 52% L&D leaders cited tech skills as most important for training at their organization in 2020. And, when asked about their top skills shortages, 43% L&D leaders cited software development (Python, Java script), and 35% cited AI, machine learning and neural networks and cloud computing.

  • Top Soft Skills 2020

People often underestimate the value of soft skills. However, analysis of the top in-demand soft skills at work in 2020 revealed an uptake in topics such as communication, creativity, and innovation and growth mindset. L&D leaders need to be privy about the increasing importance of adopting a growth mindset and fostering a culture of continuous learning and agility at the workplace.

Though employee skilling is critical, L&D leaders need to focus on building a learning culture across the organization in order to foster creativity, agility and innovation, as evidenced in the list of in-demand soft skills in 2020, and top soft skill priorities for L&D for 2020, including innovation (45%), change management (42%), communication & storytelling (40%), among others.

Tackling Reskilling Challenges

L&D leaders need to be not only aware of skills gaps but also start tackling reskilling challenges faced by organizations today, with 39% L&D leaders citing that existing jobs are constantly being transformed by automation and AI technology.

The trend of letting go employees and hiring newer (skilled) employees to address the skills gaps and achieve business growth is slowly beginning to crumble, given today’s highly competitive labor markets. Organizations are slowly realizing the fact that retraining and reskilling a talented employee seems more promising than hiring from the outside.

Agreed, reskilling calls for strategic measures and long term investment, however, disruptive layoffs pose more problems that they solve, and the best alternative remains employee training; 59% L&D leaders have already reskilled 20% of employees in 2019, with AT&T retraining 180,000 employees for its Future Ready program. This program has helped the company cut down on outside hire and reskilled employees to take up new roles.

Employees, on the other hand, are slowly settling into the disruptive nature of work tech, with more and more employees viewing automation, AI and other disruptive technologies as a welcome change and leverage the training programs offered by their organizations to fulfill new roles. As a result, in light of the dire need for reskilling, organizations are now prioritizing L&D investments, with 35% L&D teams witnessing a rise in budgets in 2019.

Furthermore, L&D itself needs a revamp to embrace agility and welcome newer roles like learning technology managers, learning experience designers and social community managers in the years to come.


With constant technological disruptions and the emergence of a new digital world, L&D professionals need to take inventory and asses their capabilities to reinvent the function itself in order to future-proof the workforce with relevant skills. Organizations need to engage newer techniques to retain, manage and develop talent (internally) to help leaders find relevant skills for future projects. In the coming years, L&D professionals will need to completely transform their approaches and processes, including redefining the learning ecosystem, leveraging technologies like AI and ML themselves to optimize the learner experience and achieve better learning outcomes and maximize business impact.