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What is Learning Agility?

Lead consultant at Test Partnership, Ben Schwencke, explains what is learning agility.

0:59 Quickly understand what is learning agility.

Learning agility is a crucial attribute for employees in today's rapidly changing work environment. It refers to a person's propensity to seek, acquire, and value new knowledge. This trait is essential for success in the workplace and is becoming increasingly important as the pace of change continues to accelerate. Although different models of learning agility exist, Test Partnership uses a five factor model which comprises five broad areas: mental agility, people agility, change agility, results agility, and self-awareness:

  • 1. Mental agility refers to the ability to think creatively and critically. People with high mental agility are able to solve problems, think outside the box, and come up with new ideas. This trait is important for innovation and for finding new ways to do things.
  • 2. People agility refers to the ability to work well with others. This trait is important for building positive relationships, working in teams, and learning from other people. People with high people agility are able to communicate effectively, collaborate, and build trust with their colleagues, helping the flow of information.
  • 3. Change agility refers to the ability to adapt to change. This trait is important for staying current and for keeping up with new technologies and trends. People with high change agility are able to adjust to new situations and find new opportunities in the face of change.
  • 4. Results agility refers to the ability to achieve results. This trait is important for meeting goals and for delivering on projects. People with high results agility are able to set clear goals, work towards them, and make things happen.
  • 5. Self-awareness refers to the ability to understand one's own strengths and weaknesses. This trait is important for personal growth and for understanding how to improve oneself. People with high self-awareness are able to reflect on their own performance, identify areas for improvement, and take action.
Learning agility is particularly important from an employee selection perspective.

When selecting new employees, employers should look for individuals who possess these traits. They are more likely to be successful in a rapidly changing work environment and to benefit from training and self-directed learning. Learning agility is essential at all levels of recruitment, but is especially important in emerging talent roles, such as graduates, internships, and apprentices. In these roles, training and development are key, and thus learning agility is likely to drive effective knowledge acquisition.

Learning agility is also particularly salient in management and leadership roles. Managers with high learning agility are able to think creatively and critically, work well with others, adapt to change, achieve results and understand their own strengths and weaknesses. These traits enable managers to lead and inspire their teams, stay current and innovate, and drive the organization's success.

Without learning agility, managers tend to become inflexible and uncompromising, resulting in dated approaches to problems.

Although there are similarities, learning agility differs from cognitive ability in a number of ways. Learning agility underpins a person’s behavioural propensity towards learning, it doesn’t necessarily suggest an ability to learn. Cognitive ability largely determines the extent in which people are capable of learning, but has no motivational implications, and many intelligent people are simply uninterested in learning or personal growth. Consequently, when selecting candidates based on learning agility, we always recommend including cognitive ability tests alongside, allowing organisations to capture both the ability and behavioural propensity to learn.

Why is Learning Agility important?

Learning agility is a critical attribute in today's rapidly evolving world. In an era of constant change, organizations need employees who can quickly adapt and acquire new skills to stay ahead. Learning agility enables individuals to embrace unfamiliar situations, learn from experiences, and apply that knowledge to solve problems effectively. It fosters a growth mindset, where employees are motivated to continuously learn and develop. Moreover, learning agility enhances employee resilience, allowing them to navigate ambiguity and seize opportunities in dynamic environments. By prioritizing learning agility in hiring and development initiatives, businesses can cultivate a workforce that thrives amidst uncertainty and drives innovation. Don't overlook the importance of learning agility; it is the key to success in a constantly evolving landscape.

How to measure Learning Agility?

Measuring learning agility can be challenging but crucial for identifying individuals with the ability to adapt and learn quickly. Several approaches can help assess learning agility. First, behavioural interviews can gauge past experiences of handling unfamiliar situations and learning from them. Psychometric tests, such as cognitive assessments or problem-solving exercises, can evaluate an individual's ability to apply knowledge in novel contexts. 360-degree feedback and performance evaluations provide insights into an individual's openness to feedback and willingness to learn. Additionally, self-assessment surveys or questionnaires can gather self-perceived levels of learning agility. By combining these methods, organizations can gain a holistic understanding of an individual's learning agility and make informed decisions in recruitment, development, and succession planning processes.

Why do you want candidates with high Learning Agility?

Hiring candidates with high learning agility offers numerous benefits to organizations. Firstly, in a fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape, employees need to constantly adapt and acquire new skills. Candidates with high learning agility are more likely to embrace change, readily absorb new information, and quickly apply it to their roles. This ability to learn and adapt swiftly enhances their productivity and effectiveness, ensuring that they can keep up with evolving job requirements and contribute to organizational growth.

Secondly, high learning agility promotes innovation and problem-solving within teams. Employees who are eager to learn and explore new ideas bring fresh perspectives to the table. They are more likely to experiment, think creatively, and identify innovative solutions to complex challenges. By seeking candidates with high learning agility, organizations foster a culture of continuous improvement, knowledge sharing, and a willingness to take calculated risks, ultimately driving innovation and staying competitive in the market. Embracing candidates with high learning agility not only future-proofs the workforce but also nurtures a dynamic and resilient organizational culture that thrives on growth and innovation.

Best practices for assessing Learning Agility:

Assessing learning agility requires a thoughtful and well-designed approach. Here are some best practices to consider when evaluating this crucial attribute in candidates.

Firstly, define clear criteria: Begin by establishing specific indicators of learning agility that align with your organization's needs and goals. This could include factors like adaptability, curiosity, self-reflection, and willingness to learn from failure. Clearly defining these criteria will guide the assessment process and ensure consistency in evaluating candidates.

Secondly, employ a variety of assessment methods: Utilize a combination of techniques to gather a comprehensive understanding of a candidate's learning agility. This may involve behavioural interviews, case studies, simulations, role-playing exercises, or even scenario-based assessments. By employing multiple methods, you can gain a more holistic view of a candidate's ability to learn, adapt, and thrive in different situations.

Lastly, involve multiple perspectives: Incorporate diverse perspectives by including various stakeholders in the assessment process. This can include HR professionals, hiring managers, team members, or even external experts. Each perspective provides valuable insights and reduces potential biases, resulting in a more accurate evaluation of a candidate's learning agility.

By following these best practices, organizations can effectively assess the learning agility of candidates, enabling them to identify individuals who can navigate change, embrace growth opportunities, and contribute to the organization's long-term success.