During the peak of the pandemic, several companies found themselves in a situation where they didn’t know what to do. Some waited for a solution to arise and eventually vanished while a few moved out of their comfort zone figured out how to solve the situation. Most tried to capitalize on every opportunity they got during the crises and evolved stronger.
For instance, Shree Shakti Enterprise, a Walmart supplier dealing in essential Kitchenware, had to close all their three manufacturing units during the lockdown due to low consumption and sales. However, instead of panicking, they ventured into uncharted territory by tapping into the need of the moment. From sensor-based sanitizer dispensers to automatic foot sanitizers and handsfree sanitizers, Shree Shakti started building products that could be useful during the crisis. It received 850+ orders and had Rs. 1.15 crore sales during the lockdown.
The agile mindset helped businesses like Shree Shakti Enterprise respond promptly to the changing market demands and flourish during the crisis. If the same agility is applied to the learning and development of employees, a company can withstand any business turmoil. Post-covid, the need for a workforce that can adapt to the changing situations and execute the business leader’s plans has increased. So, learning agility has become the core focus of many organizations to prepare their employees to adapt and respond to unpredictable market conditions with confidence.
What is the meaning of learning agility?
Learning agility is the willingness to learn from experiences and apply those learnings to new situations. It is the core capability to develop effective behaviours and keep pace with changing situations.
Speed and flexibility are two important components of learning agility. Speed enables employees to take quick action, and flexibility helps them be open to new concepts.
Learning agility is the best way to future-proof your employees from unforeseen circumstances that might hinder their path to fulfilling the business goals. So your employees need to learn, unlearn and relearn continuously. They need to develop high-order thinking, problem-solving ability, and meta-skills to survive in the Post-COVID era to address the disruption caused due to digital acceleration.
Why is learning agility important?
Agile learning has a profound impact on performance, so several companies are incorporating it in their learning strategy.
60% of companies experience growth in profits after adopting an Agile approach.
Agile learners are not afraid of risks or challenges; they are comfortable in uncomfortable scenarios. Learning agility helps employees create a mindset that propels them to seek challenges, ask for feedback, ponder over shortcomings, improve and grow. Learning agility has a positive impact on both the employee and the organization’s success.
With uncertainty becoming the new normal Post-COVID, strategies that led to success earlier now result in stagnation. Success is the destination that only the adaptable, innovative, and resilient employees can reach in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world.
Learning agility is crucial for both the team and the leaders. Leaders who have not walked on the learning agility path might find it challenging to manage change. In fact, they might not see the change in the first place; this might affect both the leader and the team’s performance. So it is pivotal to cultivate a learning agility culture for both the leader and the team so that they can unlock the lesson of experience when they get stuck in challenging situations.
5 factors of learning agility
So what makes up learning agility?
Korn Ferry has stated five factors of learning agility:
Mental agility is more akin to street smart rather than book smart. The best example is those best-performing salespeople who can play on the USPs of a product. They make you swipe the card with the power of their words. Such employees are curious, and they constantly explore new strategies and techniques to excel in their selling game. Employees with mental agility embrace complexity, stay inquisitive and make fresh connections.
People’s agility consists of characteristics like communication, interpersonal, and leadership skills. Such employees have a high level of emotional intelligence and are capable of bringing out the best in others. So people often approach them during crises. For example, employees with great leadership qualities who are good at navigating difficult situations. Team members often prefer them during mock calls or stress testing. Individuals with people agility are constructive towards others and can seamlessly work through conflict. They are great collaborators and are capable of obtaining insights from various perspectives.
Individuals with result agility can deliver consistently in new or challenging situations. They are often calm and composed. Such employees do not give up and try to reach their goals even in unfamiliar situations. For instance, the best-performing SEO specialists try to keep up with Google’s ever-changing algorithms and explore different approaches to ensure the website ranks well. They do not panic even if they see a dip in the website traffic. Instead, they experiment and collaborate with other teams like the content writers and marketing team to improve the ranking and traffic of the website.
Such professionals keep enhancing their knowledge to respond to various challenges that come their way.
Change agility is quite similar to result agility. Those with change agility are experimental, and they do not hesitate in walking on unknown paths to solve a problem. They aren’t afraid of failure; such employees learn from their experiences and keep trying until they succeed. The best example of change agility is the top-performing customer success executives who do not give up despite not getting referrals. They change their approach and try again to get quality referrals from successful clients.
Individuals with change agility are always willing to learn something new. They integrate learning into the flow of work to address any hurdle that comes their way easily
Employees who achieve a high score in self-awareness know their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. They take feedback to get better and excel at their job. The best example is the employees who are aware of the possibilities of improving. They often note their goals and track their progress through objective assessments.
Employees with low learning agility vs employees with high learning agility
Agile learning can bring a notable difference in work performance.
Well, let’s compare employees with low learning agility to employees with high learning agility to see that:
- Employees with low learning agility hesitate to move out of their comfort zone and perform new tasks. While employees with high learning agility confidently develop expertise in performing new tasks quickly.
- Employees with low learning agility fail to add value as they blindly follow instructions. While employees with high learning agility move beyond the horizon, take initiatives, experiment, and innovate to always add value.
- Employees with low learning agility don’t like change or challenges. While employees with high learning agility put their best foot forward during challenges or change. They invest time in upskilling themselves for unleashing their full potential
- Employees with low learning agility are confined to present business requirements. While employees with high learning agility foresee future requirements and accordingly learn new skills to always be job-ready.
- Employees with low learning agility fail to cope up with new processes and so end up taking more time in completing tasks. Employees with high learning agility embrace the latest tools and upgraded skills so they can do more work in less time.
- Employees with low learning agility need to be supervised while employees with high learning agility can monitor their work and fill the performance gap in real-time.
Various aspects of learning agility
Below are the different facets of learning agility that you must consider if you want to be an agile learner:
Challenging the status quo
It is important to question the status quo, to discover new and innovative ways of doing things. Most employees feel bound by their status in the organization and are afraid of challenging the long-held assumptions. This stereotype needs to be changed.
For that, one needs to have new experiences and grow the knowledge base of understanding. High learning-agile individuals generate fresh ideas through their ability to view issues from multiple perspectives. They ask questions and even voice their opinions until they fully agree with a point of view.
Learning from experiences
Overcoming an unfamiliar challenge is an experience. To learn from such challenges, it is important to be calm, focused, and engaged. Further, one needs to efficiently handle the stress that accompanies such uncertainties and adapt swiftly to perform better. Keen observation, listening skills, and the ability to process data quickly are of paramount importance here. Doing so enhances the capability of high learning-agile individuals to quickly pick up new skills and deliver better performance compared to their less agile peers.
Well, just having new experiences doesn’t ensure that one will learn from that experiences. It is essential to garner feedback and invest focused energy processing information to have a better understanding of one’s assumptions and behavior.
- Venturing into unknown territory
The next core component of learning agility is venturing into unknown territory and putting oneself in an unfamiliar environment to try new things. Agile learners are curious, adventurous, and comfortable with progressive risk. They welcome risks that lead to opportunity, not just thrill-seeking.
They don’t hesitate in volunteering for jobs and roles where success is not always guaranteed, and in fact, where failure is a possibility. Learning-agile individuals never miss on any opportunity to learn, and they amass confidence by stretching themselves outside their comfort zone, resulting in a cycle of perpetual success.
Learning agility best practices
Learning requires an agile and receptive mindset. Anyone can become an agile learner and achieve success in the current VUCA world.
Below are the best practices that can help cultivate a learning agility environment.
Assessments to measure learning agility
Learning agility is an important metric while focusing on the learning and development of employees. Companies can consider the 5 learning agility factors while measuring the learning agility of any employee. Using that as a base, you can assess the personality traits, abilities, emotional intelligence, and behavioural style to gauge the learning agility level of an individual.
Developing meta-skills to deal with uncertainties
Meta-skill is the high-order skill that’s a catalyst for learning and building new skills quickly. Mastering meta-skills can help your employees navigate through uncertainties without any hassle. It is imperative to create a culture of continuous learning as we live in a transition era. An agile learner tries to cultivate meta-skills through self-paced learning or microlearning for developing a broad set of capabilities that can be applied in unforeseen circumstances.
Collaboration through social learning to learn from colleagues
Collaboration plays a significant role in achieving a high level of learning agility. Collaboration helps in finding faster solutions to unforeseen problems. You can bring all your employees on one platform to brainstorm and address uncertain situations through social learning. For instance, disprz offers a social learning platform like Buzz where all the employees can post queries, discuss new strategies and discuss the plan of action to tackle various challenges.
Learning agility helps your team capitalize on every opportunity that comes their way. It helps them develop the skills needed to survive in today’s volatile, uncertain, and unpredictable business world. When blended with the right learning solution, learning agility can help empower your employees to address any challenge or roadblock. Preview disprz, an all-in-one skilling suite to explore how it can help in making your employees future-ready.