The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler

Living and leading today is more unpredictable than ever. In this kinetic environment, leaders can no longer rely on strategies that have worked in the past, or even those that are working for now. That’s why the mainstream term VUCA (Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) that has come about is so appropriate in describing our current environment.

Therefore, more and more pressure is being placed on leaders and talented individuals running organisations. Daily they are facing new circumstances that requires different ways of applying themselves effectively. As a result, there should be a strategic emphasis on developing talented employees and leaders that will ensure that they are retained and, in a position, to develop their own successors eventually.

These are called High Potential employees and they are those individuals that the company believes have a high probability of becoming successful future leaders based on various psychometric and other assessments that they would have been subjected to.  This doesn’t mean that they already have all the skills and knowledge to function in these roles, they do however have the potential to learn and accelerate into positions of leadership faster.

This is why learning agility is often used as a construct for predicting potential in employees. Learning agility is about finding yourself in unknown territory and being able to navigate a way that yields the necessary results and outcomes that would be desirable.

Adapt and learn.

Learning agility is about knowing what to do when you don’t actually know what it is you should do.

Its about collecting patterns and drawing inferences in one situation which can then be applied to a completely different situation. Allowing individuals to navigate those unchartered waters in a VUCA situation or environment.

Korn Ferry has identified 7 agility roles through their research.

Problem Solvers: Given an ambiguous problem, they explore its complexities, develop a notion of what will work, and then set about resolving the situation with a mix of drive and resourcefulness.

Thought Leaders: Determined seekers of insight and truth, they ask hard questions and strive to make difficult connections. They are committed to seeing progress; however, they tend to function best behind the scenes versus being out-front champions for change.

Trailblazers: They have a clear sense of where they need to be and are determined to make it there, sometimes by whatever means are available. Laser-focused and confident in their approach, Trailblazers are at home where others fear to tread.

Champions: Individuals fitting this profile have a flair for saving the day in grand style. They can handle difficult situations with humour and grace. By focusing primarily on people and results, they also allow others an opportunity to shine.

Pillars: Pillars put considerable effort into crafting and implementing highly refined solutions, but tend to focus more on creating an improvement than making a dramatic change. They lead with a harmonious blend of insightful thinking, focused action, and an open, inclusive manner.

Diplomats: When the stakes are high and the situation calls for smooth people skills, these are the individuals you want to be at the forefront. They are deft at sizing up others and can adjust their style to fit the situation.

Energizers: Achievement-oriented, extremely hardworking, and able to inspire others, Energizers establish larger-than-life, almost iconic reputations. Energizers put together a committed and capable team and always get the job done.

Objectively identifying managers and individuals with high levels of learning agility has tremendous value for an organisation. Developing these candidates certainly stretches the thinking of traditional HR and designing the right programs and initiatives will be a strategic imperative.