I get asked quite often about the one trait that I look for when I am assessing talent. Over the years I have dissected, analyzed, poked and scratched at the question. I quipped that it was dependent on the context of the organization, the role you were looking to hire for, etc. I thought I was being smooth and tactful. But in reality, I was being too political and not taking a stance. The reality, which I learned through all my years in talent management and leader development space, is that learning agility is the most important quality for assessing talent.
It is really clear in this new environment, where the pace of change is at warp speed, that we need employees who are capable of learning on the fly, and have an interest in learning new and differentiated skill sets. It is imperative that we start building an ambidextrous workforce. Employees need to be ready to cope with change, learn new skills and deal with ambiguity if they want to succeed.
Employees, particularly Gen Xers, need to demonstrate the learning agility trait if they want to succeed in our current workforce. It is no longer enough to rely solely on one set of skills. It is now a requirement for success that you are diversified in your skills and you show a penchant to learn more.
This places a heavy burden on the HR profession. We are the group responsible for helping organizations build the structures to recruit, identify and develop this ability within our organizations. It requires that we build a flexible model that supports cross-functional opportunities where people can share best practices and learn on the job. It also requires that we develop innovative ways for people to learn, that we refocus our efforts on learning and development, and that we challenge the practitioners in that space to design spaces for people to learn in ways that we have not done.
We need to challenge the status quo and try new things. It is up to us to help cultivate learning agility as the prime factor for success in our work place.