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Learning Agility: What it means for HRs, Employees and Organizations

Workforce of the future: Why employees need to be learning agile

When you look at job openings today, the number of jobs requiring data analytics, coding, and software development skills is staggering. You can barely find a job that simply requires soft skills such as verbal ability, basic numerical skills, or communication skills. This is because any job that requires performing basic repetitive tasks are getting automated. This a source of concern for individuals who do not have any technical skill sets and are from a non-tech educational background. The old age thinking of working as per one’s educational training is hindering the ability of people to learn new skills on their own. The siloed thinking of people that makes them stick to a certain type of job role is going to be a major cause of unemployment in the future.

Our research shows that the fastest growing demand for technology skills is actually across all jobs, not just technology-specific jobs. As technology and automation advances, all employees will need to develop new skills and become increasingly comfortable with working alongside and, in many cases, working for intelligent machines. Traditional jobs requiring a narrow skillset will make way for less repetitive, non-routine work requiring complex problem-solving, curiosity, foresight, empathy, resilience, and accelerated learning.” –Aaron McEwan, from CEB, now Gartner

Work tasks are becoming increasingly novel and requiring strong analytical and interpersonal skills.

  • Jobs requiring employees to do manual and repetitive work are disappearing fast
  • Automation is taking care of work tasks that are repetitive and does not require the use of high cognitive abilities or human touch
  • All work tasks in all job roles globally are becoming increasingly novel/non-repetitive and requiring the usage of high cognitive abilities.


mettl learning agility changing nature of work

Future of Work: Why is it Important for organizations to have a learning agile workforce?

The skill gap is widening.

One of the biggest talent-related challenges that organizations face today is acquiring talent that possesses the right skill set that the job role demands. With the advent of AI, machine learning, IoT, and deep consumer analytics-driven business strategies, it’s not surprising that the talent is finding it difficult to keep up with the new technologies that businesses are imbibing.

Businesses are struggling to constantly upskill their employees so that they remain relevant in their job role. But all employees do not have the capacity to learn new skills fast.

HR’s and hiring managers find themselves riddled with questions such as-

  • How do I know if my employees can be relied upon to drive organizational growth and profitability in the present and future?
  • So, a candidate performed great on an aptitude test or a coding simulation, does it ensure that he/she will be able to evolve along with the job and organization to meet the future needs of the customer?
  • How do you identify talent that can lead the company tomorrow?
  • Is IQ or domain skills enough to determine an employee’s success at work? What are the skills that guarantee high performance, be it any job?

Questions like these have triggered the need for redefining the criteria that are generally equated with high performing employees. It’s not education or experience or even IQ. The new criterion that separate high performers from average ones is – Learning Agility.

Organizations in all sectors that don’t find a way to develop learning agility will quickly be left behind.Dani Johnson, RedThread Research

Creating a future-ready workforce: How can HR’s identify learning agile talent?

In the past, we have tried to predict an individual’s potential for future success based exclusively on past performance and demonstrated skills and abilities. However, this approach is inherently flawed. Research shows that fundamentally different behaviors are required across organizational levels and that the behaviors that are effective at one level do not necessarily lead to success at the next. Moreover, the rate of change within organizations is greater than ever; thus, leaders are constantly required to adapt. When discussing the issue of long-term potential then, an individual’s current skill-set is of secondary importance to their ability to learn new knowledge, skills, and behaviors that will equip them to respond to future challenges. As a result, our focus must shift to finding and developing individuals who are continually able to give up skills, perspectives, and ideas that are no longer relevant and learn new ones that are.



I’d argue that learning agility is one of the most exciting, game-changing concepts in the field of talent management today. Those of us who want to stretch ourselves at work can examine our strengths and take concrete action to develop our weaker skills. By doing so, we can reach our untapped potential.”W. Warner Burke, Professor of Psychology at Columbia University and developer of the Burke Learning Agility Inventory™ (Burke LAI)













Originally published February 20 2019, Updated June 16 2020

Romila Kanchan

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