19: The Impact of Learning Agility

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Linda Hlavac hosts a discussion on the importance and impact of learning agility with Dr. Linda Gravett who makes the business case for how and why HR professionals need to understand and develop learning agility for personal and organizational success.
Linda Gravett is a Senior Partner at Gravett & Associates, an organizational development firm headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. Linda has also been a coach and facilitator with Xavier Leadership Institute for over 15 years. She has worked with numerous organizations of all sizes across industries, focusing primarily on leveraging the skills and talents of diversity with an emphasis on generational and cultural differences and emotional intelligence. Linda has authored multiple books on these and other topics of interest to HR professionals. Most recently she coauthored Learning Agility: The Impact on Recruitment and Retention.

Dr Linda Gravett Quote on Learning AgilityKey Learnings From This Episode

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  • How did Linda become interested in the field of HR and organizational performance? After beginning her career in the field of Accounting, during which she was recruited by the Civil Service to work on an Air Force base in Japan, Linda realized that it was people who drove profitability, revenue and numbers. Upon returning to the US as the CFO for a manufacturing company, the company needed to launch an HR department, and Linda volunteered for the role.
  • How did Linda become an expert in the area of learning agility? While working on the dissertation for her PhD in industrial psychology, Linda realized that enthusiasm and engagement in one’s work, and enjoyment of learning, had a greater impact on whether individuals were going to be involved in their developing their careers than elements of diversity (such as age, race and ethnicity). While not the focus of her dissertation, Linda kept learning agility and emotional intelligence in the back of her mind for an opportunity to do research in this area. 
  • What would interest someone about the book? The book, which came out in May 2016, is about learning agility and the impact on recruitment and retention. What is it about really smart people that causes them to fail in their career? Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory is a prime example - brilliant yet inept when it comes to the social graces, empathy, or the ability to relate to other people or to anyone outside his own mental map or paradigm. We think about people like Sheldon – is there a way to help them to be successful and to truly adapt what they know from book smarts into the real world?
  • Is there an aspect of learning agility that HR and development professionals should pay particular attention to? HR professionals should study learning agility and learn how to foster it in their organizations. In studying 300 organizations that have particularly hired for, and started to find concrete ways to build learning agility, we found they had a 46% increase in profitability and a 39% increase in creativity and retention of employees. Ultimately, their customers win.
  • Advice for HR professionals on how to get learning agility in the dialogue within their organizations, with their conversations with clients, and in their HR strategies. When companies conduct customer surveys on services they need and what the company can do for customers that they are not currently doing, the answer is typically going to be people related – it is usually around customer service. That speaks to creativity and being able to problem solve. HR should have access to the survey results in order to determine how they can promote and foster creativity, innovation, problem solving and decision making. The HR team can and should be a real catalyst for making positive change an important part of the organizational culture.
  • Interpretation of learning agility. Learning agility is the ability, when faced with new information and new situations, to see it, hear it, touch it, and get it  - quickly. There are four dimensions of learning agility:
    1. Mental Agility: Capacity to deal with new information that is complex.
    2. People Agility: Ability to relate to others - having empathy.
    3. Change Agility: The recognition of opportunity – to examine a new process and take folks through the changes necessary to meet different needs of customers.
    4. Results Agility: The ability and capacity to see what you are going for, the target, the goals, and while managing through change, how you can still stay focused on the target.
  • The most common or important dimension of learning agility that people are most challenged by and/or is most needed in today’s work environment. The dimension of People Agility is most needed in today’s work environment. You need to be able to understand that there are people who have different perspectives, that they are valid perspectives, and they may have a totally different approach. Generational differences is an example. There are five generations in today’s workplace who all think differently, yet everyone has common goals. Being able to recognize that, being able to seek out those common goals and work with folks who have a different mindset based upon their age, race, ethnicity, background, education, where they were raised – these are the things that give an organization a competitive advantage.
  • Order of importance of the other three learning agility dimensions. Change Agility would be next because in this complex, global society we are always invited to embrace change. Results Agility would be next because we cannot just theoretically think about change and ‘what if’, we need to execute, and we need to keep our focus on what are we looking for. Lastly, but closely related, would be Mental Agility, the ability to work with different ‘balls in the air’, and to know that if you are not the right person with the skill set to deal with a particular problem, you know to bring in someone else.
  • Most organizations today are set up in a matrix structure. Is there a correlation with that structure and People and Change Agility? Yes, for any project, it is about pulling in the right people with the right skill sets at the right time and leveraging all of those skill sets and that knowledge for a particular problem or issue. To get work done, you need learning agility, particularly People Agility, in order to assess who’s got what skills and how they can work most effectively together given their personalities. That is complex. A true HR leader deals with those issues every day, especially in a matrix type organization.
Dr. Linda Gravett HR Studio Podcast Notes
Dr. Linda Gravett HR Studio Podcast Notes
Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - 8:00am
Linda Hlavac
Dr. Linda Gravett
HR Studio Podcast