How to cultivate agility through learning

Agility in the workplace
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In the sixth article in our series looking at how learning professionals can deliver on five key business outcomes, Laura Overton, CEO and founder of Towards Maturity, provides insights into how the most successful organisations are cultivating agility through learning.

To survive and succeed in today’s fast-moving, ever-changing world, organisations need L&D functions that are ready for, and responsive to, change.

But L&D has to be more than that – it has to be at the forefront of change, cultivating agility and helping organisations respond to organisational change. That’s why cultivating agility through learning is such a key requirement in today’s L&D teams.

L&D leaders know this, which is why many of you are seeking ambitious agility outcomes. Our research demonstrates this. Just take a look at these statistics:

  • 97% of you want to speed up and improve the application of learning in the workplace
  • 96% want to improve employee engagement with learning
  • 95% want to provide a faster response to changing business conditions
  • 93% want to push updated information to employees at the point of need
  • 93% want to improve staff motivation
  • 92% want to improve communication and team-work
  • 75% want to improve staff retention

The big question is, of course, are these goals being achieved? Are we attaining these agility outcomes?

Sadly, many of us aren’t, but not through want of trying. These are difficult goals to achieve, that’s why, on average, only 20% of us are achieving them.

The Top Deck however (the 10% of highest performing organisations in our Benchmark Index) report much better results – a little over half (54%) are achieving them.

What benefits can L&D teams expect to enjoy as a result of improved agility?

Our research tells us that there are some quite significant benefits to be had from cultivating agility through learning. You can:

  • expect to change new products and procedures 24% faster
  • expect your measures of staff satisfaction and engagement to improve by 18%

With this in mind, what tactics are at our disposal to cultivate agility? It’s always good to look at what the Top Deck is doing and learn from their strategies so here goes:

  • Firstly, they are developing a strong profile of their ‘customer’ and are very learner-centric. Almost half (43%) of what we call ‘agility achievers’ are proactive in understanding how staff are learning, with 19% using electronic diagnostic tools to help provide tailored learning.
  • They are using content to connect and engage with staff and they are doing it promptly – this is critical for cultivating agility. Many (62%) apply storytelling techniques in instructional design and 42% provide micro-learning, where appropriate.
  • They are analysing and giving stronger feedback related to business outcomes. Our research shows that 38% collect information from line managers regarding the extent to which learning points have been applied at work and 31% collect financial data related to programme benefits when learning technologies are involved.
  • They recognise the importance of trial and error, with 60% encouraging staff to learn from their mistakes.

What about the learners themselves? What is their role in all of this?

Learners are critical to agility and when they understand how to identify the right information needed for their job and are proactive about getting it, organisations reap the results.

It’s important that L&D and organisations recognise this – at the moment, 44% of agility achievers do, compared to 25% of non-achievers.

From the learner perspective, learning is all about experimenting and sharing. Our results show that:

  • 86% find working in collaboration with other team members is essential or very useful
  • 82% find general conversations and meeting people essential or very useful
  • 80% are willing to use technology to share their knowledge to help others learn
  • 61% are downloading and using apps for social networking to their mobile

Plus, one in two rank collaboration in their top three factors contributing to a smooth and successful online learning experience.

Take note L&D: listen to your learners.

In our next article we’ll look more in depth at how to cultivate agility through learning with several practical tips. In the meantime, we ask you to tap into the resources you have freely available to you.  Participate in the Towards Maturity Benchmark Study and review your strategy, compare your performance and find out what actions you should be prioritising with your personalised benchmark report.

About Laura Overton

About Laura Overton

Laura Overton is managing director of Towards Maturity

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