THE UPSKILLING IMPERATIVE: How Learning Can Help Any Workforce Triumph Over Uncertainty

Shelley Osborne, VP of Learning at Udemy, challenges leaders to foster a highly skilled and agile workforce built for long-term resilience

SAN FRANCISCO – August 25, 2020Udemy, the largest global marketplace for learning and teaching online, is pleased to announce the launch of “The Upskilling Imperative: 5 Ways to Make Learning Core to the Way We Work,” a book published by McGraw-Hill and authored by Shelley Osborne, VP of Learning at Udemy. In today’s uncertain world and business landscape, the imperative to make continuous learning a fundamental part of how we work and live has never been more critical. The book takes a red pen to the outdated, traditional corporate training methods that are no longer engaging for modern workers or conducive to our current remote work environment.

In The Upskilling Imperative, author Shelley Osborne draws from nearly two decades of experience in the learning and consulting sector to provide a framework for effective learning
that is sustainable and democratized across an entire organization.

“Learning is the future of work. We’ve entered an era of unpredictable change, and there’s no way for us to survive without continuous learning,” says Shelley Osborne, VP of Learning at Udemy. “I wrote this book as a roadmap for individuals, managers, and organizations to thrive in the midst of these changes.”

Estimates indicate that rapid changes in technology and economic conditions have reduced the relevancy of skills to only five years of a person’s 50-year career. Technological and economic shifts are occurring at whiplash speed and are increasing in frequency, placing more onus on individuals and businesses to continuously learn to sustain a competitive edge and long-term success. Highlighting how to nurture a growth mindset, Osborne shares proven learning methods she refined from her time as a high school teacher, and now at Udemy, whose corporate customers include Adidas, General Mills, Volkswagen, and more.

The Upskilling Imperative
challenges one-size-fits-all Learning and Development (L&D) approaches that are no longer relevant to 21st-century workers. Instead, Osborne offers a modern and inclusive five-step approach to building an organization where learning is core to unlocking innovation and performance:

  • Develop and Foster Agile Learners: Organizations must empower individuals to access learning resources in their moment of need.
  • Feedback Is Fuel for Learning Cultures: Feedback must maximize strengths and encourage people to become their best selves. People stop putting forth their full effort if they believe others will accept nothing less than perfection;
    it has to be okay to talk about our mistakes.
  • Think Like a Marketer to Drive Learning and Development: The best way to retain learners is to understand their needs and market to them before, during, and after training.
  • Put Learning into the Flow of Work: Professional development opportunities must be democratized throughout the organization.
  • Signal the Value of Learning: Building the business case for creating a learning culture is critical to addressing the many challenges posed by rapid technological change.

To learn more about the author, Shelley Osborne, and to order a copy of The Upskilling Imperative today, visit:


Shelley Osborne has over fifteen years of experience across the education, consulting, and corporate sectors. She is the Vice President of Learning at Udemy, where she leads the company’s learning strategy and continuous upskilling of employees globally. Before that, Shelley was the Vice President of Learning & Development at Farside HR Solutions, where she advised early- and late-stage companies on talent leadership, management training, and soft-skills development.

Shelley speaks regularly at industry events and has provided expert commentary to numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Fast Company, Inc., and more. Shelley is the author of The Upskilling Imperative: 5 Ways to Make Learning Core to the Way We Work.


5 Ways to Make Learning Core to the Way We Work
By Shelley Osborne
McGraw-Hill Education
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Hardcover; 6 x 9; 224 pages
Price: $28.00
ISBN: 978-1-26046-668-3


With a mission to improve lives through learning, Udemy is the world’s largest online learning destination that helps students, businesses, and governments gain the skills they need to compete in today’s economy. Millions of students are mastering new skills from 57,000 expert instructors teaching over 130,000 online courses in topics from programming and data science to leadership and team building. For companies, Udemy for Business offers an employee training and development platform with subscription access to 7,000+ courses, learning analytics, as well as the ability to host and distribute their own content. Udemy for Government is designed to upskill workers and prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. Eighty percent of Fortune 100 companies trust Udemy for employee upskilling. Udemy is privately held and headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Denver, Brazil, India, Ireland, and Turkey. Udemy investors include Insight Partners, Prosus Group (Naspers Ventures), Norwest Venture Partners, Stripes Group, and Benesse Holdings.

Praise for The Upskilling Imperative and Shelley Osborne

The Upskilling Imperative offers a remarkable amount of insight into how knowledge and learning can be unleashed in an organization. Every leader hoping to build or maintain a successful learning culture within their company should read this book!”

—Marshall Goldsmith, The New York Time #1 bestselling author of Triggers, Mojo, and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

“Make no mistake: it’s not easy to make learning part of our everyday life. Shelley’s book, however, will help each of us do just that. It’s full of the very best kind of advice: straightforward and supremely doable ideas that you can put into practice right away—and that will make an actual difference.”

—Francesca Gino, award-winning Harvard Business School professor and author of Rebel Talent and Sidetracked

“It’s time for individuals and companies to recognize that we must never stop learning. The way to survive and thrive in today’s world is to learn—again and again. In The Upskilling Imperative, Shelley Osborne not only makes the case for continuous learning but provides an action plan we can all adopt.”

—Diane Flynn, CEO of ReBoot Accel, Udemy instructor on Growth Mindset, and author of The Upside

“Keeping up with the rapid pace of change is an uphill battle for many employees. Yet learning, upskilling, and just trying to stay relevant has never been more important than right now. How can companies today best support continuous learning and development for employees? With The Upskilling Imperative, Shelley Osborne maps out exactly how we can infuse our workplaces with a learning culture that will fuel performance, boost success, and add more meaning for companies and employees alike.”

—Ginny Brzezinski, coauthor of Comeback Careers

“In a workplace with five generations, there’s one skill that’s important no matter your age: continuous learning. The Upskilling Imperative is a road map for anyone who wants to build learning into the flow of work, foster growth throughout every stage of an employee’s career, and ultimately use continuous upskilling as a competitive advantage.”

—Chip Conley, Airbnb Strategic, Advisor for Hospitality and Leadership and Founder of Modern Elder Academy

“In today’s workplace, employees want to grow on the job – up, down, and sideways. Companies that will thrive in today’s world of work take professional development personally and are creating a culture where learning is valued. The Upskilling Imperative makes the case for learning as the way we grow and transform as individuals and organizations. Just about every page has an idea that you can put to use right away to make your workplace more human and be more productive.”

—Erica Keswin, Workplace Strategist and author of The Wall Street Journal bestseller Bring Your Human To Work

“Every top performer I’ve ever met always has one thing in common: they’re lifetime learners. Rather than settling after formal education, they embrace a love of learning for the long run. Shelley Osborne’s The Upskilling Imperative gives a fresh and honest take on how organizations can harness that mentality and cultivate top performers every day.”

—Josh Linkner, The New York Times bestselling author, tech entrepreneur, venture capitalist

“When employees think about learning and development, they typically picture a workshop or program that aims to inspire, motivate, and educate — and rarely does any of those. And yet, organizations are still offering them, and employees are still attending them, costing both of them time and money. Why? The Upskilling Imperative not only answers that question but offers fresh and actionable insights into how we can change the learning game into one where everybody wins. Written for readability and packed with relevant research, this book should be top of mind for anyone changed with helping people get better, faster.”

—Deborah Grayson Riegel, CEO and Chief Communication Coach, Talk Support and author of
Overcoming Overthinking

“With the excruciating speed with which work, and learning, is changing – automating, shifting to machines, disrupting every part of our lives, creating workplaces of rich, diverse, perpetual learning is no longer an aspiration. It’s a moral imperative. We owe it to those who’ve served our companies well to prepare them for the future and to keep our enterprises viable and thriving. Osborne and Witkin, and their Udemy team, have done a marvelous job in this book providing a blueprint for how to do it. Scrap everything you thought you knew about what learning really is, and start over by reading this book. Learning is a consequence of thinking and being, not teaching. The Upskilling Imperative will guide you on your journey to real learning if you have the courage to follow.”

—Ron Carucci, bestselling author of Rising to Power and Managing Partner, Navalent

“We’re going to live to a hundred! Or more. That means lifelong learning isn’t a nice to have, it’s a necessity—for individuals and organizations. In her new book The Upskilling Imperative, Shelley Osborne, Vice President of Learning at Udemy, provides practical advice along with psychological research (on why certain methods work) and the science behind successful sales (so you can market educational opportunities). Osborne demonstrates that democratizing learning is the key to organizational inclusion and personal empowerment. It’s a must-read for learning and development professionals and the people enlisting their services.”

—Melanie Katzman, Ph.D., author of the #1 The Wall Street Journal bestseller Connect First