“You can't build an adaptable organization without adaptable people” Gary Hamel
‘Agility’ is a common factor that binds all successful employees-across time, geographies, and generations-together. Their agility factor, along with their resilience and nimbleness, makes them an asset for their companies. They are considered the building blocks of a thriving work culture and the ‘driving force’ for their organizations.
In the professional world, many people find it difficult to embrace change. The moment any change happens, they tend to lose their emotional balance, which causes unnecessary stress to them as well as everyone associated with them.
On the other hand, there are some professionals who are always ready to take any untoward situations in their stride and adopt and adapt to changes without wasting much time. Any changing situation cannot rob them of their energy and motivation. Instead, every time, they come out to be stronger, better, and tougher. This type of people are considered agile employees-who know how to embrace any change and use it for their own benefit.
According to several studies, most of the agile employees have an unrelenting desire to learn, work on mission-critical projects, explore, expose, and adapt to changing situations. Their risk-taking appetite always drives them ahead, while their willingness to come up with innovative solutions gives them the courage to break their personal glass ceiling.
You can find such agile employees almost in every industry. For example, in a manufacturing company, there are some people who keep experimenting with various delivery options by shipping the same product in different ways. In a bank, there are some employees who are cross-trained so that they can also dabble in customer service role, when required.
Now, the question is how individual agility equals organizational agility?
In today's fiercely competitive market, it is very difficult for any company to retain its market position and ‘edge’ factor only through its services/products. To stay competitive and future-ready, every organization has to explore and innovate. Therefore, organizations require agile workforce who can show agility in every aspect, right from critical thinking and working to taking decisions to solving problems.
Gone are the days when “Work smarter, not harder” was just an adage. Nowadays, it is a ‘success mantra’ that every professional should adhere to. Research shows that agile employees know better how to get a job done smartly. Further, their well awareness of the changing business landscape, technical advancements, and evolving customer needs helps their organizations capitalize on the ever-evolving marketplace, instead of being limited by it.
Not to be missed, employees' agility is largely influenced by their organizational culture. It has been found that agile organizations tend to empower and encourage their employees more to improve, explore and innovate. In such organizations, the cross-pollination of thinking and people among various disciplines and industries is very common, which ultimately contributes to organizational as well as professional agility.
On the other hand, organizations bounded by process and hierarchy often find it difficult to take the full advantage of evolving and emerging market opportunities and situations. Therefore, quite understandably, their market position erodes. Say for example Kodak who was unable to move into the digital space well on the time to retain its market leadership position.
Given the growing importance of employees' agility in maintaining organizational agility, talent managers in leading organizations are equipping employees with necessary skillsets. According to PwC's "People strategy for the digital age: A new take on talent," 81% of CEOs always look at preparing their workforce with new skillsets through learning programs, while 81% seek a broader range of skill sets at the time of hiring.
Today's professionals need to develop two types of agilities: Learning Agility and Professional Agility.
Professionals having learning agility are found to be resilient, focused, social and creative. They have the courage to challenge any norms. And their learning-agile behaviors-combining less defensive behavior, positive attitude to feedback, willingness to change-make them valuable resource for their organizations.
In its Learning Agility Assessment Inventory (LAAI), the researchers of Teachers College, Columbia University, have revealed the five key facets of learning-agile behavior. Of them, four are considered ‘Learning-agility Enablers’ and one is ‘Learning-ability Derailer’.
The following are these facets.
Innovating: Learning-agile professionals are found not to be apprehensive about challenging the status quo.
Performing:They tend to be calm while facing any difficulty
Risking: They have a risk-taking appetite and therefore, they do not hesitate to work on challenging issues
Reflecting: They tend to reflect on their experiences
Defending: They always avoid to be defensive in any adverse situation.
Several factors decide a person's professional agility. For example, how good the person is at streamlining his/her tasks, how good his/her listening and coordination skills are, how resourceful the person is, just to name a few.
The following are some to-do things that help in developing professional agility.
Adherence to task list: Agile employees tend to follow their task lists better. Research shows that this habit enables them to automate/streamline all routine tasks, prioritize the job to be done and manage their time more effectively.
Excellent listening skills: A number of psychological studies have revealed that only 10% of people listen appropriately. Indeed, poor listening skill can mar a professional's entire career. So, to stay agile and contribute to the agility of a company, one has to master the technique of listening clearly, intelligently, and systematically.
Personal resources: Agile employees, most of the time, boast of their personal resources. Believe it or not, they have a tendency to increase their resources. Here personal resources define both tangible and intangible resources. They tend to expand their mind, understanding and insights into any subject/topic. Similarly, they use their prolific networking skills when they need a third party’s help to get any job done.
Proactive approaches to deal with problems: Several studies show that agile employees always take proactive approaches to deal with problems. At first, they explore various cues to get a better understanding of the problem (s). Then, they explore different ideas to come up with the best-possible solution to it. Most importantly, dealing with challenges never drains them of their energy. Rather, they enjoy rising to every challenge.
It's now almost essential for every professional to stay industry relevant, as staying abreast of the latest trends and technology holds the key to success in present and future. In addition to having broad knowledge about the industry, one should have close focus on one's specialty. According to the above-mentioned report of PwC, 73% of CEOs think that the availability of skillsets is a major challenge. Therefore, professionals-no matter how agile he or she is in the job-should keep his/her knowledge or specialized skill updated. Certification is no doubt a good way for professionals to keep their expertise updated and enhance their personal brand. The similar thinking has also been echoed in a recent write-up published on CIO, "Certifications indicate to employers that you take your job seriously and that you are knowledgeable on the respective technology."