What is “Learning Agility” and Why Should You Care?

What is Learning Agility? Is it the use of agile software development? Is it an improvable skill for finishing role-playing games? Is it what you do in yoga? The answer is, “None of the above!”

Learning Agility has been found helpful in predicting high potential future performance for over two decades. However, there is a lack of consensus on how to define and measure it. Although it has been embraced as a way to identify high performance potential at work, the scientific community remains divided. Companies find Learning Agility to be useful in taking their leaders to the next stage of development and to increase profit. As Human Resource, Talent Management and Organizational Development professionals, as well as human beings, it is important to know, “What is Learning Agility?”

One way to define Learning Agility is, “The ability and willingness to learn from experience, and subsequently apply that learning.” It is this application of learning which differentiates those who have high potential from those who do not. Using this definition of Learning Agility includes a five factor multi-dimensional construct with several sub-factors (or dimensions). This description of the five main factors is adapted from Korn/Ferry International:

1. Mental – The ability to think critically and be very comfortable with complexity.
2. People – A skilled communicator and adept at perspective taking.
3. Results – Achievement oriented and builder of productive teams.
4. Change – Comfortable with change and seeks continuous improvement.
5. Self-Awareness – Knows strengths and weaknesses; actively seeks blind spot information.

Igniting Energy and Excitement at the Workplace

“Please tell me we aren’t going to do ‘trust falls’ today?” At the beginning of a recent strategic planning session, I was asked this seemingly omnipresent question. Whether it’s an acoustic guitar, trust falls or a rope course, there are many misconceptions on how we drive change or energy within our workplace. Trust is an outcome of a great place to work and culture helps to create that dynamic. I believe culture is something you can influence and it doesn’t happen in a 30-minute exercise; you build it over time, actions and authenticity.

Much is made about improving culture or increasing employee engagement. In fact, these are words we use on our websites to drive business. From my experience, the workplaces that have the most positive energy have intentionally created their culture and community and do it in specific and well-derived ways.

They allow employees to float and hope they come to work. Forward-thinking companies are making spaces for employees to move around and feel at home while achieving higher work related attitudes. The layout of office spaces is changing dramatically from cubicles to offices with open space. Collaborative and community space is now vital. Regardless of size, organizations that expect a lot from their employees and show ample amounts of recognition create an environment where employees don’t want to work from home every day—for fear of missing out on what’s happening. Space matters in this regard [...]

No Career Overlap

Let’s examine flaw number eight of the traditional performance management. Number eight highlights the lack of career development inherent within review systems.

A couple months ago, I sat down with a new employee to work on their performance goals for the year. As we looked at her draft goals, there was some confusion about what was an organization goal and what was a career goal. I explained, an organization goal is about pushing the organization to perform; the career goal is something you keep—a skill, an enhanced competency or a certification of sorts based on the individual interests.Many review systems don’t overlap with the person’s career. Smaller organizations are more limited by this than big companies where a department of people exists to train and build skill. In small organizations, a year is like a dog-year. We age prematurely as there is so much work to do and very little thought given to our future or career. In my on-going desire to gain discretionary effort from my team and my client teams, individual motivation needs to be galvanized [...]

Clients named on Minnesota Business List

Minnesota Business magazine announced its second annual 100 Best Companies to Work For, saluting Minnesota organizations setting the standard for employee well-being.100BEST_LOGO Two of my clients from Employee Strategies services were announced on the list; SuperClean Brands and FISDAP. I am proud to be their employee experience provider. These companies represent how Employee Strategies creates great places to work.

Let’s hear what the clients have to say about Employee Strategies and the staff…

“Working with J. Forrest has been an absolute joy. His humor and personality makes everyone instantly like and trust him. He has helped us develop our workplace culture and competencies which has lead to a direct improvement in employee engagement and satisfaction. I would highly recommend J. to other organizations looking to make gains in these areas.” – FISDAP [...]

Performance Management Flaw – Forgetting 10 Months of the Year

In our series that examines the flaws of traditional performance management, flaw number 7 highlights the Golden Gate Bridge Effect of the review cycle.

I have heard this explained a number of ways over the years. Recency. Organizational Amnesia. A phenomenon of performance reviews is that we remember those things that happened within the very recent past.

If you look at a Suspension Bridge like the Golden Gate from the perspective of the water, you get the normal workflow for traditional performance reviews. From the left, the first tower illustrates the beginning of the year—time to set goals. Then begins the drop-off—the point at which no one looks at performance. Do we not care about performance from February to November? 10 months of the year. Of course not, we just don’t care about the Performance Review system. The primary reason for that, in my opinion, is because the system doesn’t tell us how we are progressing as an organization or individuals. What if your performance review gave you updates on organization performance? [...]

An Overused Word Starring in your 3:00 p.m. Meeting — Alignment

If you make a living as a consultant, a solopreneur, a legal or tax advisor, or spend a portion of your day on a laptop at a coffee shop or sitting on conference calls, chances are that you use the word Alignment too frequently.

Alignment. Sounds easy. The reality is alignment doesn’t come in words, it comes in tools, systems, and communication. And it is far from easy to achieve.

A few years ago, I received a referral from a client. A nice compliment, right. So, the setting is mid-December and the prospective new client called and said we need some serious help with our performance review system. I was instantly flattered for the call and the referral. The predicament they found themselves in stemmed from a lack of alignment in their Performance Review system. They used ratings and tied their ratings to bonus payouts. For many packaged review and HR Information Systems, this is quite common [...]

Yoga Mats for Sale at Target

I remember walking through Target about 10 years ago and seeing a yoga mat for sale. As I continued pushing my red cart, I thought Yoga is officially mainstream. It was no longer for the well traveled; it was now officially accessible for the masses at Target. The same could be said about published lists and competitions for being The Best Place to Work.

I first learned about these competitions while reading Fortune Magazine in the late 90′s. Instantly, I thought this was fantastic. Companies being recognized for their role as employers! Yes! To make matters even better, the data suggested that these Great Places to Work even outperformed their competition. Perhaps treating your employees well yields greater profits. That piece of data alone has probably sustained Fortune’s list over the past 15 years, but what’s interesting to me is how normal these lists now seem.

In the Twin Cities, I’ve noticed at least 3 separate Best Workplace Lists. Feels a little like seeing Yoga Mats for sale at Target. We’ve done a little analysis of the 3 Lists locally and want to add to the knowledge base about the lists and more importantly what separates a workplace from a great workplace.

In terms of the local lists, the biggest difference is how a “small organization” is defined. Whether less than 10, more than 10 or more than 50, the 3 Twin Cities lists differ on that category. One similarity is that each has a 3rd Party to facilitate the Employee Survey (Gilmore Research, Quantum and Workplace Dynamics—all of which have primary offices outside of the Twin Cities)! What I would give to facilitate the survey process for one of these! [...]

Minnesota Best Places to Work Analysis

 The Comparison of top four competitions saluting organizations that set standards for the best qualities within a working team. See the similarities, differences, and maybe event the best fit to apply your company into a competition.  Just remember, the secret for the CEO’s to make a commitment to this! COMPETITIONS Star Tribune – “Top Workplaces” […]

Performance Flaw #6: Not Enough Prep Time

In examining the flaws of traditional performance management, flaw #6 highlights the lack of prep time that spoils the review for everyone. “I’ve got 18 performance reviews to get done and put into the system before the end of the day. If you have a life threatening issue, call my mobile. Otherwise, I will talk to you when I finish this joyful task.”

The clock is ticking and you need to get your portion of the performance reviews complete. Copy and paste the same answers for everyone? Seen that. Check the boxes, but don’t provide any comments? Seen that. Provide a blanket statement or two without concrete examples? Seen that too. I hate to sound cynical, but even the best review systems will render themselves less useful with less time. I’m not suggesting you need to provide a full-day of time into each review, but managers who treat their reviews with importance, get follow up and success from their employees. We, as employees, want to be held accountable. We want to know that someone cares about our performance.

Have you ever worked for someone who can really run a good, productive and fun meeting? Chances are they have some facilitation skills AND they prepare for the meeting. This past year, I worked for a client that was routinely double and triple booked. How can you possibly prepare for a meeting or a review in that environment? You have to say no to the crazy making. You need to track performance throughout the year and mark yourself out near the end of the year to focus on the process. Excellent review systems will force succinct answers, saving you time; however, it can be difficult to say more with less. I challenge you to write your employee reviews this year in less than 300 characters. Use specific examples and consider the best the employee brings and their opportunity to make an even bigger difference next year [...]

Ratings—Kids look, Dad Exceeds Expectations on Occasion!

As performance review season is thrust upon employees and managers this winter, the mumbling about our HR systems galvanizes our employees. If there is one thing most can agree upon, is that we really don’t like our performance review process. Based on my experience, one of the Top 10 Flaws with our performance review systems is the Rating.

In the United States, we grow up with grades. Those grades lead to lists….the A Honor Roll, the B Honor Roll and bumper stickers that say my kid is smarter than yours. Somewhere along the way, performance reviews in our organizations and businesses thought it would be a good idea to roll out ratings for their employees. Instead of A, B, C, D and F, we took our school-based 5 point rating scale and dressed it up. By the way, what happened to E?

Back to my point, at work:

A= Exceeds Expectations
B= Exceeds Expectations on Occasion
C=Meets Expectations
D=Below Expectations
F= Needs Improvement

Can you imagine thousands of employees riding home on their bus, train or car and running into their home with their awe-inspiring rating ready for a prominent spot on their fridge? Look kids, Dad Exceeds Expectations on Occasion! Perhaps an after-market of a bumper sticker series [...]