WorkSmart | Turn on your talent

Talent Agility: A Positive Wrinkle in the Fabric of Business

November 26, 2014

When you think of the word "agility," what ideas or synonyms come to mind? What about flexibility, speed, dexterity - words often used to describe high-performing athletes? What about "agility" in the workplace? Can the same words be used to describe the qualities of superior workers? Two increasingly-popular phrases, “talent agility” and “learning agility,” suggest they can and already are!

So what exactly is talent agility? First, let’s consider two separate definitions: 
Agility (n.) - The power to move quickly and easily; the ability to swiftly think and draw conclusions.
Talent (n.) - A natural ability or aptitude; a capacity for achievement or success. 

These two terms, when combined in the world of business, result in a phrase that can be defined as "the knowledge and skills necessary for individuals to efficiently adapt to changes in their work environment." How, though, can organizations measure their overall agility? Companies can start by asking these questions:

  • Do you have the talent in place to anticipate and respond to changes in your organization or industry?
  • Do you have a clear picture of what talent you do have, and exactly where that talent is located in the organization?
  • How does the talent you have compare to that what might be found in your industry or market?
  • How do you assess people to be sure they are ready for lateral moves or promotions, that they are qualified for specific careers?
  • Are career possibilities and career-development opportunities well-defined and openly-communicated?
  • Are there creative tactics for people to have new job experiences?
  • Do cross-functional opportunities exist within the organization, and are they broadly communicated?
  • If you were confronted with a major challenge tomorrow, would your people be ready? Would your company demonstrate the resilience necessary to quickly respond and remain competitive?

These questions can give you an idea as to where your company stands. The next logical step is to determine how to improve talent agility. Improvements can only be made, though, if your organization's workers possess learning agility.

Learning agility is demostrated when people use initiative to apply preexisting skills and knowledge in novel situations and circumstances. Evidence of learning agility is shown when workers know what to ask, who to seek out, and what resources to explore when searching for answers. Being out of sorts doesn’t make them uncomfortable - they are seen as problem-solvers who welcome new challenges. The Internet appears to provide answers to nearly every possible question, but not everyone possesses learning agility. “Knowledge is power” does not apply in this case - learning agility is not measured by what you know, but how your knowledge is applied.

The bad news?: most people don’t intuitively practice skills related to learning agility. The good news, though, is encouraging: this is a skill that can be taught. So far, the most effective method seems to be firsthand experience. Put individuals in unfamiliar situations that require them to apply their knowledge, evaluate their responses, and coach them to improve their performance. Readers can try this themselves by stepping outside their comfort zones every so often, taking on new challenges and "streching." Try to "flex," exploring new and unfamiliar situations, tasks, and responsibilties.

June 9, 2016

Many of us have worked with a bad boss in our lifetime. Remember the micro-manager, the yeller,  the softy, the one who’s never there, and/or the boss who takes all the credit for your work? We've all experienced trials and tribulations working under these leadership styles. "It’s frustrating," we say to ourselves, "but that's life." What if, though, we could somehow magically transform supervisors of this sort into competent, inspiring leaders?

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