Before we provide you with a formula to measure Learning Agility, it’s important to know what Learning Agility is and why this skill is so essential for professionals, leaders, and organizations to have.
What is Learning Agility?
Learning agility is the ability to continually and rapidly learn, unlearn, and relearn mental models and practices from a variety of experiences, people, and sources, and to apply that learning in new and changing contexts to achieve desired results.
Need For Learning Agility
The increasing volatility of industries, the novelty of job roles and changing skill demands are necessitating the need for having an agile learning workforce.
The skills landscape is changing faster than ever. The skill set that was required to excel in any job role five years ago is entirely different from what is needed today. Therefore, organizations are on the constant lookout for talent that can keep up with the rapidly changing skill demand of job roles today. Owing to the consistent shrinkage in the shelf-life of a skill, organizations will have to look harder to meet the high skill demand required for job roles. For a business that desires consistent growth, the need of the hour is to hire workforce who are more than willing to learn new skills at an accelerated pace while unlearning the old skills that are either already irrelevant or will become obsolete soon. But it’s easier said than done. To accomplish this feat, organizations must factor an important parameter to fuel their hiring decision, which is learning agility.
Organizations across the globe agree that all employees- from entry-level to leadership levels need to be learning agile. Learning agility is one of the strongest indicators of an individual’s/employee’s potential to succeed in their present and future job roles. This is because agile learning employees are very adaptive to change and can tackle new problems and situations with ease. An agile learning workforce is needed to sustain and increase organizational productivity in the present and future.
An organization with an agile learning workforce has:
- Higher employee productivity
- Future-ready workforce
- High number of high potentials
- Higher overall organizational productivity and profitability
San Ngo, CEO of Tankscrib, a social enterprise which provides free consulting for students applying to colleges in South Asia, shared his own experience of why he considers Learning Agility as the most important skill to look for during hiring- ‘Since we hire only new graduates, in all cases learning agility is our top priority, no compromise. They often do not have rich working experience, so learning agility is almost the only way they could do the job successfully. There was only one time we hired a person, who through the interview demonstrated that he was slow in learning. We hired him because he has proven his technical ability through awards won in college. However, a year on, and I have to say I regret that decision: he struggled to keep pace with the real world and convert his ability into working successes. He is still contributing to the company, but nowhere near the hope we had for him.’
How to Measure Learning Agility?
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 practices that are effective at one level may or may not hold for subsequent steps. Moreover, the rate of change within organizations is higher than ever; thus, leaders are always 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.
Keeping this in mind, Mercer | Mettl has devised a method for measuring a person’s Learning Agility based on two factors: ability and orientation.
◼ Ability to learn: essential cognitive competencies that predisposes a person with the ability to learn quickly by identifying patterns, logical rules, and trends in new data.
◼ Orientation to learn: essential behavioral competencies which will predispose the respondent to learn new things faster than others.
To accurately and reliably predict the Learning Agility of an individual, it is essential to measure both the ability and orientation to learn. This method of measuring Learning Agility is based on the extensive research which includes a review of literature from peer-reviewed journals as well as qualitative data collection, and interviews from subject matter experts (SMEs).
Measuring Learning Ability
An individual’s ability to learn is determined by their fluid intelligence or their ability to learn new things from scratch and then apply that knowledge in different ways. Fluid intelligence can be measured with the help of abstract reasoning or spatial reasoning tests.
Learning Ability = Fluid Intelligence = Ability to discern patterns and linkages and the ability to make fresh connections between different concepts.
Measuring Learning Orientation
An individual’s 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 = Essential behavioral competencies which will predispose the respondent to learn new things faster than others.
Ren Jones, owner of Rennovate It shares how learning ability and intent/orientation are both needed to be learning agile- ‘Learning ability is not weighted more or less heavily than learning intent, but rather, they are both necessary for a learner. For learning to occur, the learner must have varying degrees of intent and ability, the necessary levels of each depend on each other. For instance, if an employee has lower learning ability, they will need a higher level of intent/orientation to help them comprehend the new information. If an employee has low intent, they will need a higher amount of ability to help them catch on. The best employee would be one with a healthy balance of both ability and intent. If an employer is attempting to decide which candidate is a better choice-the one with the high ability or the one with the high intention, the best thing to do would be to fill that position with someone who loves to learn. Someone with a hunger for learning likely already has a higher ability to learn (we typically don't enjoy doing things we are not good at. If someone enjoys learning, it is likely because they can do so fairly well and/or quickly). Selecting someone who is a proven, successful learner is a sure way to ensure that you are hiring the most capable employee. Tip: anyone can say they are a dedicated learner. Look for those who have taken additional classes in their free time, those who maintained a high GPA, or those who can otherwise demonstrate.’
Creating a Future Ready Workforce with Mercer | Mettl's Learning Agility Matrix
Any company can require employees with fundamental to a high level of Learning Agility. To identify the Learning Agility demand of every job roles, industries and organizations, we have devised ‘Mercer | Mettl's Learning Agility Matrix.’ This Matrix can be used to categorize job roles, industries and organizations based on their Learning Agility demand. As per this Matrix, we have identified four categories of Learning Agility, based on different permutations and combinations of learning ability and learning intent. The four types are average, enthusiastic, latent and high potential.
Mercer | Mettl's Learning Agility Matrix is a matrix that measures an individual’s/organization’s learning agility and provides actionable insights needed to improve the organization's performance and productivity.
Who is an average learner?
An average learner is an individual having average levels of both fluid intelligence (ability) and behavioral traits that support a Learning Agile mindset (intent)
When do you need an average learner?
A job role, industry or organization demands average learners if the workforce is required to perform routine, non-novel and straightforward tasks.
e.g., Data entry, KPO/BPO
Who is an enthusiastic learner?
An enthusiastic learner is an individual having an average level of fluid intelligence (ability) and above average level of behavioral skills that support a Learning Agile mindset (intent)
When do you need an enthusiastic learner?
A job role, industry or organization demands enthusiastic learners if it involves performing work that requires creativity, people skills, passion, expertise in their fields and innovative thought process.
e.g., Journalism, Media & Entertainment, Photography
Who is a latent learner?
A latent learner is an individual having above average level of fluid intelligence (ability) and the average level of behavioral traits that support a Learning Agile mindset (intent)
When do you need a latent learner?
A job role, industry or organization demands latent learners if it involves performing work that requires attention to detail, focus, and perseverance, performing complicated routine tasks and strong cognitive abilities.
e.g., Accounting, Banking
High Potential Learners
Who is a high potential learner?
A high potential is an individual having both: very high level of fluid intelligence (ability) and behavioral traits that support a Learning Agile mindset (intent)
When do you need a high potential learner?
A job role, industry or organization demands high potential learners if it involves performing work that requires very strong interpersonal, cognitive, analytical, problem-solving, logical thinking and decision-making skills. High potentials are required when the nature of work is very complicated, novel and has high stakes attached to it.
e.g., CXO and leadership roles, stock market trading, management consultant
In sum, Learning Agility is a meta-concept reflecting the constellation of an individual’s cognitive ability and behavioral predisposition. Outcomes of High Learning Agility includes the ability to make a smooth transition between different roles as per the role/company requirement, having a high potential for career advancements and better job performance due to the constant addition of new skills and knowledge.
“We have found that learning ability is the leading predictor of success, number one above intelligence and education!”-Laszlo Bock, former Senior Vice President HR of Google
Topics: Learning Agility