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Learning and Development | 6 Min Read

What is learning agility, and how to measure it?


Learning agility is a combination of skills highlighting employees’ willingness to learn from experience and apply these insights to function in challenging situations effectively. In simple terms, it is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Research by the Center for Creative Leadership suggests that learning-agile employees commonly have specific behaviors. For example, these employees are active, sociable, methodical perfectionists, come up with new ideas, have the power to challenge colleagues, and express their thoughts clearly. They are resilient, at ease, and calmer, which helps them address challenges effectively.


Why is learning agility important?

Today, rapid technological advancements emphasize ongoing personal development and learning agility. It is essential for employees to keep developing to stay competent in their current positions. These competent leaders drive successful organizations and are excellent at managing unknown challenges, ambiguity, and uncertainty.

An organization with an agile learning workforce has:

  • Improved employee productivity
  • Future-ready workforce
  • Increased number of high-potentials
  • Higher organizational efficiency and profitability


An overview of the future of the workplace

Top skills that organizations look for while hiring talent are:


Infographic 1


The importance of continuous learning and willingness to develop new skills

The desire to learn new skills and improve has become crucial with ongoing technological disruption. Continual learning helps employees evolve and stay relevant in their current job roles. The willingness to learn has multifold benefits, such as:

  • Career growth and promotion opportunities
  • Readiness to resolve challenges
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Flexibility and adaptability


Why is it essential for organizations to have an agile learning workforce?

A significant challenge today is the widening skills gap, which complicates hiring skilled talent for in-demand job roles. On the other hand, the advent of AI, machine learning, IoT, and in-depth consumer analytics-driven business strategies has made it imperative for businesses to hire a learning agile workforce.

Hiring managers often experience the following challenges:

  • How to gauge employees’ value in driving organizational growth and profitability in the future?
  • If candidates perform well on an aptitude test or a coding simulation, would they evolve with the organization to meet customers’ future needs?
  • Are IQ or domain skills enough to determine employees’ success at work?
  • What are the skills that guarantee high performance for different job roles?

The new benchmark that separates high performers from the average is learning agility, not education, IQ, or experience.


How to measure learning agility

Learning agility can be measured by assessing talent on tasks they don’t have prior experience with.


Learning agility = Ability to learn + Orientation to learn


Employees’ learning agility depends on their ability to learn and their inclination or orientation to learn. While high IQ or cognitive intelligence contributes to learning agility and determines whether professionals can learn quickly, behavior is another key factor in gauging this.

Mercer | Mettl’s Learning Agility assessment assesses the following:

  • Ability to learn: It involves assessing essential cognitive competencies necessary for employees to learn quickly by identifying patterns, logical rules, and new data trends.
  • Orientation to learning: It involves assessing crucial behavioral competencies that predispose employees to learn new skills faster than others.

Measuring learning ability

Candidates’ or employees’ ability to learn is determined by their fluid intelligence or the ability to grasp new things from scratch and apply it in different ways. Fluid intelligence can be measured using abstract reasoning or spatial reasoning tests. Learning ability = Fluid intelligence = The ability to discern patterns and linkages and connect different concepts.

Measuring learning orientation

Candidates’ or employees’ orientation to learning is determined by their behavioral attributes, such as open-mindedness, drive for mastery, consciousness, and inquisitiveness.. Learning orientation = Open-mindedness + Inquisitiveness + Drive for mastery + Consciousness

Developing learning agility

Like other skills or competencies, employees can learn to be agile by strengthening their fluid intelligence with practice and developing an interest in learning new things.

Mercer | Mettl’s Learning Agility Matrix


Mercer | Mettl’s Learning Agility Matrix is an essential model for employees’ or an organization’s learning agility and provides actionable insights into improving performance and productivity.


Mercer | Mettl’s Learning Agility Matrix


Organizations require employees with different levels of learning agility, so the model identifies the demand for multiple industries, organizations, and job roles. There are four learning agility categories: average, enthusiastic, latent, and high-potential. These are measured on fluid intelligence and behavioral traits. While fluid intelligence is the learner’s ability to process complicated information using current knowledge, behavioral traits define the learner’s characteristics and behaviors in different situations.




Who is an average learner?

An average learner has average fluid intelligence (ability) and behavioral traits that support an agile learning mindset (intent).

When do you need an average learner?

An organization requires average learners if the job mandates performing routine and straightforward tasks, such as data entry, KPO, or BPO.

Who is an enthusiastic learner?

An enthusiastic learner has an average level of fluid intelligence and an above-average behavioral skills level that supports an agile learning mindset.

When do you need an enthusiastic learner?

An organization requires enthusiastic learners if the role involves performing work that requires creativity, people skills, passion, field expertise, and an innovative thought process, such as journalism, media and entertainment, and photography.

Who is a latent learner?

A latent learner has an above-average fluid intelligence level and average behavioral traits that support an agile learning mindset.

When do you need a latent learner?

An organization requires latent learners if the role involves performing work that requires attention to detail, focus, perseverance, performing complicated routine tasks, and strong cognitive abilities, such as accounting and banking.

Who is a high-potential learner?

A high-potential is an individual with a very high level of fluid intelligence and behavioral traits that support a learning agile mindset.

When do you need a high potential learner?

An organization requires high-potential learners if it involves performing work that requires robust interpersonal, cognitive, analytical, problem-solving, logical thinking, and decision-making skills. High potentials are required when the nature of work is complicated, such as CXOs and leadership roles, stock market trading, management consultant, etc.


The business impact of using learning agility competency assessment

Learning Agility Assessment by Mercer | Mettl assesses candidates’ cognitive ability and behavioral predisposition. It gives insights into employees’ ability to make a smooth transition between different roles as per company requirements, their potential for career advancements, and their ability to learn new skills and knowledge constantly.

This assessment is beneficial when:

  • Identifying high-potentials, including early career and emerging talent, specific job assignments, development and coaching support, and succession planning
  • Making better-recruiting decisions for roles where learning agility is critical
  • Ensuring appropriate team-building exercises for different levels of employees
  • Finding current employees who are expected to succeed in complex tasks

According to Mercer | Mettl’s State of Workplace Learning and Development 2020, training effectiveness significantly increases when organizations measure employees’ learning ability before the training.


Assessing Training Effectiveness of Organizations that Measure Learning Agility


The research indicates that 51% of organizations that use the Learning Agility Matrix have more successful training programs as it helps identify the employees’ training needs effectively. Contrary to this, organizations that do not invest in analyzing their workforce’s mental agility have low training effectiveness of 35%.

The Learning Agility Matrix gives insight into which employees can be trained and which skills can be easily trained. This cumulative intelligence assists L&D departments in devising customized development plans to increase training effectiveness.



Learning agility is among the top skills sought by organizations while hiring and selecting people who can take up leadership positions in the organization. Employees with high learning agility are proven high performers and high-potentials. Organizations focusing on selecting and promoting learning agile talent are more future-ready and would have a much easier time adapting to technological skills and business environment changes.



What is a learning agility test?

Is learning agility a skill?

How do you show learning agility?

How many aspects go into learning agility?

What is the most critical attribute of learning agility?

Originally published December 13 2018, Updated May 24 2023

Written by

A writer at heart, Megha has been in the content industry for 4 years. Starting her career from print, her journey spans across IT, legal and consulting industries. She has been associated with Mercer | Mettl as Assistant Manager, Content Marketing for 2 years.

Learning Agility

How to identify highly agile learners, and more

Learning agility is the ability and willingness to learn quickly and easily and incorporate new learnings in daily and first-time tasks. Learning agility is among the most wanted skills in employees in today’s fast-changing work environment.

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