Why the Future of Work Is Agile
Remember life in March 2020? Almost overnight, our personal and professional lives changed dramatically. The pandemic taught us that it’s possible to be agile when the circumstances require it. But let’s say you’d like to be agile by choice. What does this involve, and how can you guide your company in this direction?
This is a topic Tiffany Missiha often considers. As Senior Principal at Korn Ferry, Tiffany leads the strategy, design, and delivery of organizational and leadership development solutions for her clients. Recently, Tiffany shared with Udemy Business customers her insights into why the future of work is agile — and what this means for you and your organization.
Agility is a top concern for executives
Drawing on her conversations with clients and colleagues, Tiffany identified a few key themes keeping executives up at night. These include:
- How do we remain customer-obsessed?
- How do we innovate quickly?
- How do we create an inclusive environment?
- How do we work and sustainably create value for the world?
- And how do we remain agile?
That final question about remaining agile is essential because agility is both a priority and an enabler of these other goals. “If we can become agile,” Tiffany says, “We’ll be more likely to deliver for our customers, innovate, and so on.”
The nature of workplace problems is changing
Agility matters because the very problems we face are changing. You may have heard the acronym VUCA, which stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. We need to accept that in the future our work will take on more of these VUCA qualities. Tiffany says, “We’re moving away from solving problems to managing paradoxes.” The changing nature of workplace problems means:
- We’re no longer working with problems that have a clear scope and boundaries.
- Instead, we’re tasked with managing paradoxes that are more complex and ambiguous.
- Paradoxes often have more than one good answer but no single “right” answer.
The shift toward paradoxes means we need to rethink the way we develop our people, says Tiffany. She suggests the following three methods to reframe learning and growth:
- Instead of focusing on individual brilliance, we should consider collective wisdom.
- Rather than thinking of learning as knowledge acquisition, we must ask, “How can we build capability more broadly?”
- We should replace our focus on building working relationships with thinking about building social capital.
The thread that ties these concepts together? Learning agility.
Empowered employees display learning agility
What exactly is learning agility? “Knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do,” says Tiffany. And it’s the key to helping your employees pick up new skills quickly and effectively. Like any other skill, learning agility improves with practice.
When employees develop learning agility, they have the confidence to manage the complex problems of today’s workplace. Tiffany says, “If we can quickly accept that we don’t have all the answers, we can then focus our energy and efforts on building and accelerating our capability to figure it out.” And this can become a crucial differentiator for your business.
Learning agility drives business results
Learning agility isn’t just a buzzword that’s gained popularity among learning and development professionals. “It helps move the dial on other indicators of success when it comes to business performance,” says Tiffany. Korn Ferry research shows that companies and leaders with high learning agility enjoy several benefits:
- 25% higher company profit margins
- 5x higher engagement among executives
- Employees are 18x more likely to be identified as high potential
- Individuals with high learning agility are promoted twice as fast
Put agile learning in action
From here on out, the pace of change will only accelerate. The problems we face at work will take on more of those VUCA qualities, and employees will have to adapt quickly. We can’t eliminate ambiguity or unpredictability from the workplace, but we can give our employees tools to help them face these challenges. Learning agility is the key to accepting uncertainty without hesitation.
Want to explore how you can put agile learning into practice at your organization? Watch Building Agile Learning Teams to Speak the Language of Your Business. This on-demand webinar will help you incorporate agile learning tactics into your L&D programs.