By Kevin Young
One of the most essential characteristics of an effective leader is the ability to be open to new ways of thinking and acquiring new skills and knowledge along their career journey. This trait is usually ingrained in a person rather than developed over time. As a result, many employers searching for new talent are now looking for candidates that demonstrate the potential for learning and those candidates who actively pursue their own professional development.
Traditionally, there is a clear misconception that success only comes from sticking to tried and tested processes and as a result, managers and business leaders tend to be judged by their successes in the role. However, research suggests a change in the long-standing perceptions of successful leadership. The study examines the differences between individuals who were able to adapt to the dynamic requirements of the workplace, taking risks, testing new tactics; and those who stuck to well-established processes and protocols. The observations revealed that those who demonstrated learning agility were far more likely to succeed in upper-level management roles than those that resolutely stuck to traditional practices. The researchers attributed this success to self-improvement and increased efficiency in the workflow as a direct result of developing innovative solutions to work-related problems.
This research is just as relevant today as it was five years ago. It is now increasingly common for companies to screen potential candidates for evidence of learning agility. In fact, it has become such a desirable quality, that many HR directors now hold it in the same regard as existing skills and knowledge. In an interview with HR Magazine last year, Ellyn Shook, Accenture’s chief HR officer, indicated that the company considers learning agility to be an essential skill for new applicants, due to increased client demand for professionals that can adapt to dynamic changes in technology and the workplace.
However, whilst adaptability in a dynamic environment is particularly important in modern businesses, the potential to learn is only one side of the coin. In order to grow effective leaders for the future, business owners and HR leaders need to examine their development platforms and learning resources, to ensure that their best talent is provided with the necessary tools, enabling them to advance. For motivated workers who are capable of driving their own learning, advanced modern elearning platforms facilitate the process of finding the necessary materials which are relevant to their immediate and long-term development needs.
Elearning provides the added advantage of flexibility, where workers can choose to undertake courses at a rate that suits their work and home life and even use mobile platforms to complete learning on the go. With increased pressure on time and resource management this flexibility means companies can ensure professional development whilst maintaining workflow. It also has advantages for the employee, as the ability to plan training around their daily schedule allows the agile learner to apply themselves to learning at a time when they are most responsive and prepared to develop new skills and knowledge.
Agile learners are extremely valuable assets. These individuals require very little input whilst potentially contributing significantly towards the success of their organisation. Through the enablement of self-driven learning and development, employers can ensure the satisfaction of their most talented employees, whilst grooming the best candidates to lead the company to even greater success in the future.
Kevin Young is general manager, EMEA at Skillsoft.