Learning isn't supposed to be something you pick at once in a while like string cheese--it's meant to be a lifelong quest that constantly evolves and improves you. And it's not just those at the top who understand this, with new research revealing that access to employer-paid education is one of the most popular perks you can offer, second only to health care benefits.

But the face of learning has shifted incredibly. Workplace learning is all about getting online, and within that, LinkedIn Learning's 2019 Workplace Learning Report reveals three major trends that should be on the radar in every business.

Micro-Content Skills

There's always a place for extended online learning, including courses for certifications or new degrees. But according to the report, workers now rank self-directed learning experiences--that is, bite-size learning like reading articles, watching videos, or attending web conferences they can grab whenever necessary in a short time frame as immediate needs arise--as their preferred learning approach. The preference is highest among Gen Z (43 percent) and Millennials (42 percent). 

These pieces of micro-content allow workers at all levels to solve problems and fill small skills gaps related to immediate projects. Subsequently, they are able to react with high agility to the real-time demands of the market, meeting short-term goals that contribute to their company's long-term vision. They also make sense given the rise of freelancing, as teams can use micro-content to bring flexible workers up to speed quickly.

Embracing the preference for micro-content means that you can provide small goals for your team that can boost their confidence, and that you can build many opportunities for one-on-one evaluation. It also means you can encourage workers to be more creative and mindful, as they can explore many options in a present-focused way.

Creativity, Coaching, and Other Soft Skills

While technical skills are still a backbone for business, the rise of A.I., automation, and other technologies means that businesses also are honing in on soft skills--that is, the "human" side of work. They want workers who can communicate effectively, for instance, just as much as they want proficient coders or machine operators, and perhaps ironically, they're using increasingly sophisticated technologies to train workers in those soft areas.

The LinkedIn report, however, identifies creativity as the top soft skill companies are looking for most. Persuasion and collaboration rank second and third, followed by adaptability and time management. And leaders who learn online also are focused on soft skills like executive leadership and coaching.

As you take advantage of content related to soft skills for leadership yourself, your challenge is to understand where your operations need a human touch and where technology can take over. You also need to make sure workers actually have opportunities to practice the soft skills they learn online, such as through increased face-to-face interactions, networking, and mentoring. Letting go of the wheel and reasonably delegating also will allow others to practice, all while giving you a much needed break.

Coding/Development and Data-Driven Skills

Certain skills are of interest across generations. For example, coding is high in demand with both younger employees and Baby Boomers, with Python training being the top course both generations watched.

But young employees are focused intently on learning to be developers. Workers with two or less years of experience watched two times more content on programming languages compared with the average learner. And for Millennials, data-driven skills (e.g., visualization, statistics, data modeling) are the life of the party, with this generation watching 1.2 times more content in these areas than the average learner.

Generation also influences how workers get online for their learning. Gen X workers, for instance, learn more on mobile than any other generation, doing 39 percent more of their learning on mobile than Gen Z workers.

These realities mean that, as you try to develop a culture of learning in your company, certain groups of workers might emerge as being more proficient in some areas than others, and you might be able to get people initially interested in online learning by pitching those subjects on specific platforms.

But there is also common ground, and emphasizing that common ground can unify and prevent team members from adopting an us-versus-them mentality. It is worthwhile to stress that anyone, regardless of age, background or other factors, has the capacity to use their individual strengths to learn whatever they want.