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5 Ways To Encourage Learning Agility
By: Michelle Bennett on May 31, 2022 5:00:00 AM
The world of work is changing, and it is putting increased pressure on employees and the organizations they work for to keep pace. According to IBM’s Future of Work Trends, “The total number of skills required for a single job increases by 10% year over year. At the same time, these skills are other in-kind — 33% of the skills present in an average job posting in 2017 will not be needed by 2021.”
For employees and managers to meet the new demands, continuous learning needs to be a central strategy, and continuous learning starts with learning agility. Let’s begin with a learning agility definition to understand the topic better.
What Is Learning Agility?
Learning agility is an individual’s openness, desire, and ability to continuously upskill and gain knowledge, abilities, and new ways of working to adapt to change. It is a general curiosity and aspiration to learn and seek new information, perspectives, and experiences.
Learning agility is knowing how to learn. It is the ability to learn from experience, apply it to new situations, and fill in the gaps with new information. It’s the foundation of continuous learning.
How Does Learning Agility Make A Manager’s Job Easier?
In reading the learning agility definition, it is clear that having a team of individuals with learning agility is the envy of every manager. A dream team where everyone seeks out new information, is open to new ideas, and takes the initiative to make themselves better.
However, learning agility may not come naturally to many, but it is a skill, and like any skill, it can be developed with knowledge and practice. Here are five practical ways you can build the learning agility of your employees.
How To Encourage Learning Agility On Your Team?
In many organizations, the HR and learning teams will have a strategy to promote learning agility and a culture of continuous learning. However, there are additional ways people leaders can facilitate this critical skill within their teams and go even further if they do not have access to learning professionals within their organizations.
1. Provide Coaching and Positive Feedback
By the time we’re in our careers, we’ve concluded, based on our experiences, what we’re good at. We create beliefs about ourselves when we’re young that stick with us throughout our life. For example, the belief that I’m not good at math. This type of self-opinion can hold people back from pursuing upskilling in a given area as they believe they cannot learn this topic, and it is called a fixed mindset. As a leader, you can encourage your employees to adopt a growth mindset, where they genuinely believe they can learn new things.
In a one-on-one meeting, provide coaching, positive feedback, and praise when you see or hear about an employee learning a new skill or making a new discovery. This little bit of motivation can help spur a growth mindset and the confidence to pursue continuous learning and upskilling.
2. Exposure To New Ideas
Exposure to new environments, industries, and people can highlight how little one knows about a topic. Ignorance can be bliss, and exposure to new ideas can build conviction that upskilling is needed.
A few ways to get your employees outside of their comfort zone and be exposed to new environments, people, and ideas could include:
- Cross-training or stretch assignments: Give employees a chance to work in another department or tackle a project that is new to them.
- Attend conferences: Whether it's an industry or a role-specific functional one, conferences are a quick way to build new ideas and perspectives. To make it worthwhile and applicable back on the job, ensure the employee comes back with ideas to pursue further.
- Roll Out a New Team Initiative: Have each employee present on a topic they’ve researched in a team meeting. The act of researching and learning about innovation, technology, a competitor, or a new process encourages learning agility. In addition, the presentation of the findings to the team will inspire others to think about how that information can be applied to their role and will also expose gaps in knowledge.
3. Encourage Questions and Challenges to the Status Quo
Deflecting, discouraging, or dismissing questions or challenges to the status quo will stifle learning agility. When individuals ask questions, take the perspective they seek to understand, not question your decisions. The same goes when you receive feedback, ideas, or innovations. If you want to encourage those around you to grow and be open to change, you must be yourself.
4. Lead by Example
Your employees will be less inclined to embrace learning agility if you’re stuck in your ways, resist change, or are unwilling to admit you do not have all the answers. The people around you pay much attention to what you do and say. Be authentic in admitting what you do not know and sharing how you will go about upskilling.
In addition to embracing learning agility yourself, promote continuous learning by asking powerful and interesting questions, sharing that you do not have the answers, and asking your team to help find them out.
5. Attend training
As mentioned previously, learning agility is a skill that can be learned. Attending a program as a team where participants learn about the benefits of learning agility and have the opportunity to practice and hone their skills is a great way to develop this competency. In addition, when everyone on the team has had the chance to learn together, they can encourage each other to apply the skills back on the job and be each other's accountability partners to ensure they’re continually growing and learning.
We believe learning agility and a growth mindset are critical skills workplaces need; that’s why it is one of the four competencies we develop in our Future Skills Program, designed to develop everyone in an organization, from front-line employees to executives.
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