HR managers are key resources in spotting and developing learning agility in any organisation. Research from many respected human resources authorities has shown that the ability to learn from experience is one of the key characteristics of people with high potential. High potential employees usually have learning agility but not always. Those who respond flexibly to new processes and institutional changes perform even more effectively than high potential employees.


What Is Learning Agility?

Learning agility is the ability to incorporate new material quickly, and the concept developed in the business world where it was found that the ability to learn quickly and use that information in business was the strongest predictor of success. Those with agility show strong leadership qualities. Only about one-third of high-potential employees live up to their promise, but those with various dimensions of learning agility perform at the highest rate. These skills can be developed and improved. Those with various agilities learn quickly from information and experience, take risks, strive for growth and exhibit resiliency. These people absorb information through books and classes, peer learning, direct experience and reflections on past performances. Even failure can prove valuable to those with agility because they grow from their unsuccessful experiences.


The Five Dimensions Of Learning Agility

Learning agility isn’t a single skill but a broad area that includes at least five aspects of learning. Each person is likely to have relative skills and shortcomings in different categories, so it’s critical to determine how each employee ranks in five categories. These categories, which were identified by Korn/Ferry Lominger after extensive research, include:


1. Mental Agility

Mental agility, despite common misinterpretation, doesn’t mean intelligence and book smarts but is closer in meaning to street smarts. Those with mental agility are curious and work quickly to identify the salient practicalities in new information and work processes. These people cut through extraneous information, quickly find the most relevant insights and use that data to improve business practices and perform their duties at the highest level.


2. People Agility

People agility consists of people skills and leadership qualities. Those with people agility connect with others on an emotional level and display true empathy. Others look to them when changes occur or a crisis develops. These individuals work through conflict, value diversity and obtain actionable insights from different perspectives.


3. Change Agility

People with change agility thrive on new challenges and first-time endeavours. Unlike people who prefer highly structured and predictable work situations, these workers prefer to challenge the status quo, try new methods and improve business operations and/or their work environments. These individuals aren’t afraid to fail because they learn something even when they don’t succeed the first time.


4. Results Agility

Results agility is similar to change agility, but those with strong results agility strive to succeed the first time. These people consistently deliver the best results when undertaking new challenges.


5. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a critical element of career success. People who know their own strengths and weaknesses perform better on average than those with any of the other skills. A Cornell study found that accurate self-awareness was the greatest factor in predicting leadership qualities and career success.

Smart managers and HR staff encourage development in each area while using relative skills and weaknesses to allocate resources more effectively. For example, those with strong people skills might become managers, front-office staff or salespeople. Those with self-awareness know their limitations and try to get projects within their respective wheelhouses. Results-oriented performers show others how to succeed in new projects, and those with change agility find new and better ways to accomplish their duties.


Why Learning Agility Is Important?

Today’s complex and competitive business environment has generated many changes in standard operating procedures including more flexible and agile responses to change. Leaders can’t rely on traditional practices where employees follow well-established and inflexible rules. Savvy leaders respond proactively to change and industry trends, and they do so by inspiring and cultivating learning agility in their teams. Fostering a learning ecosystem gives employees the tools to access educational resources, advance their careers and establish themselves favourably in their industries and among their peer-to-peer contacts.


By : Ari Kapulos

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