Inducing Learning Agility Across the Enterprise

Businesses today compete in an environment which is ever-changing and goes through unprecedented technological evolutions.

Technologies like machine learning, AI, and automation are driving efficiencies and productivity for a business. But these changes are not all about the technology alone as it has shifted the mindset of how organizations create value for their customers.

It has become increasingly important for enterprises to decide how they tap into the new talents and shifting skill sets that align with the overall pace of business and development of their employees.

Given the scenario, the only way to thrive in a competitive market where technology is constantly disrupting business patterns and decisions is to inculcate learning agility across enterprise development programs.

What does agility mean in the context of learning?

Simply put, learning agility is merely knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do. It is the ability and willingness to learn from experiences and then apply in new situations. Adapting to evolving business strategies, working with a multicultural workforce, and taking on dynamic assignments, all demand individuals to be flexible and agile. Individuals who are learning agile are:

  • Constantly look out for new experiences to learn from.
  • Thrive on complex problems and challenges.
  • Enjoy making sense out of the different experiences they encounter.
  • Deliver better performance as they have new skills ingrained in them.

Much like how SDLC requires the virtue of agility to keep pace with the frequent paradigm shifts, agility brings the following values into learning:

It is imperative that one understands the difference between flexibility and adaptability in the context of learning agility. While flexibility simply implies being able to change frameworks as deemed necessary, adaptability is being able to quickly adjust to an alien situation.

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The idea is to be people-driven and not process-driven. It requires an approach of continuous learning, ideally on a daily basis. This takes a lot of burden off enterprises as employees are able to handle their own daily work much more efficiently. When you infuse learning into daily work, employees tend to graduate almost every week, instead of once in a lifetime, and they are less tormented by disruptive technological changes which have become a bit too frequent these days.

Three essential components of learning agility

At a time when enterprises need leaders with learning agility, the question remains the same, can we teach employees to be more agile? As per a study at Harvard Business Publishing, they have identifies certain key elements that could boost the learning capabilities of employees and lead their business to success. As per the study, these capabilities include:

  • Potential to Learn: The shelf life of skills are reducing drastically and the technical competencies relevant today might not be sufficient for an employee tomorrow. Thus an employee with open and receptive mind-sets will be able to constantly experience new things to reach new business goals in shorter spans.
  • Motivation to Learn: Enterprises need to ensure that their learners are engaged and inspired by the learning process considering the fact that it is hard to change the ingrained behaviours and long-held learning habits of individuals.
  • Adaptability to Learn: As different organization manages operations differently following a traditional learning routine may not be sufficient for employees. Adaptability to learn attitude and consistently working on improving their skills becomes an asset to have among employees.
Successful companies are the ones that tapping Learning Agility to rapidly adapt, adopt and innovate

Automation is supposed to eliminate a larger proportion of current job profiles by 2030 and employees need to be pushed towards cross-functional promotion from the product side and their transition from individual contributor to a team manager on the leadership side. Learners who can learn while they work, work while they learn can be considered as the most valuable resource in a team.

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Employees having high levels of learning agility show 5X times higher engagement rates compared to an average employee. Having an agile workforce has helped enterprises post 25% higher profit margins compared to their nearest competitors and they realise this rise.

One notable aspect of having an agile workforce is that enterprises can now find 50% of their next business leaders from the agile talent pool in the workforce.

The need of the hour: A continuous professional development platform to harness learning agility

Workplaces are getting digitally transformed and the traditional L&D process doesn’t seem to accommodate the rise of millennials and the generation Z. Harnessing the learning agility of this emerging workforce requires a comprehensive continuous learning and an effective performance tracking mechanism which measures both technical and organisational skill employees possess and acquire.

  • When it comes to measuring a workforce’s agility, L&D professionals need to think beyond just ‘training’ and deploying learning and development programs that set a culture of lifelong learning among the employees.
  • Modern L&D programs are supposed to work as a development platform that bundles learning with work to develop agility among learners.
  • Assessing cognitive abilities help L&D professionals identify agile individuals who show willingness and ability to learn throughout their careers, if not lifelong learning.

We are well in between a neo-industrial revolution dominated by the trends in automation and data exchange across industries that disrupts the very way we work.

For Learning & Development to keep up with this, the brick-and-mortar strategies will have to change. The inclusion of learning agility among employees is going to be the difference between an organization thriving or disappearing.

Traditional methods of setting goals – planning – execution seek a replacement in the form of a contextual intent-based framework that embraces situational awareness while learning.

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