Develop The Skill Companies Need Most

In today’s constantly changing business environment, there is one skill that companies are demanding more than any other – the ability to learn quickly. Employers want workers who can adapt to new technologies, processes and market conditions through self-motivated learning.

In essence, companies need employees with a strong “learning agility.” Learning agility is the speed at which someone can understand and apply new knowledge and skills to a job. Employees with high learning agility can more easily switch between tasks, pick up new tools and technologies, and continually update their skills. As the workplace becomes more fluid and dynamic, this rapid adaptability has become a must-have for every 21st century professional.

So if you want to attract top employers and stay relevant over the course of your career, here are the steps you should take to develop your learning agility and become the ideal employee that companies desperately need:

Cultivate a growth mindset. Adopting a growth mindset – the belief that abilities and skills are developable through effort – is a foundational trait of learning agility. Those with growth mindsets embrace challenges, view setbacks as opportunities to improve, and persist through difficulties instead of giving up. You can foster a growth mindset through affirming self-talk, seeking out opportunities to learn from failures, and celebrating every small step of progress.

Improve self-awareness. Understanding your own strengths, weaknesses, interests and cognitive biases helps calibrate your learning in the right direction. Pursue tools like personality and skills assessments to gain clarity on how you learn best. Then reflect regularly on what methodologies, environments and types of content optimize your retention and application of new knowledge. High self-awareness enables you to quickly adapt your learning approach based on feedback.

Build mental flexibility. The ability to switch perspectives, think outside conventional frames and consider multiple solutions arises from mental flexibility. Challenge your assumptions, consider alternative viewpoints and avoid getting stuck in “that’s how we’ve always done it” thinking. Enhance your mental flexibility through activities like doing puzzles, seeking diverse experiences and frequently updating your formulas for success based on changing realities.

Seek feedback continuously. The fastest way to improve your learning agility is through feedback that pinpoints gaps in your understanding, skills or execution. Actively solicit feedback from mentors, coaches, peers and managers on a regular cadence. Listen intently and ask clarifying questions to fully comprehend what skills you need to develop next. Then actually implement the feedback by acquiring new knowledge that fills those gaps. Constant feedback loops turbocharge your learning potential.

Embrace failure. Learning agility requires a willingness to take risks, try new approaches and occasionally fail – all knowledge gained that ultimately accelerates your progress. Expose yourself to situations where failure is a likely outcome. Evaluate what went wrong, what surprised you and what you’d do differently next time as opportunities to strengthen your knowledge foundation and skill set. Over time, you’ll learn to view failures as essential steps in the learning process.

Network obsessively. Who you know significantly impacts what you learn and how quickly you learn it. By expanding your professional network, you gain exposure to fresh perspectives, career opportunities and direct mentoring from subject matter experts. Networking allows you to learn from and collaborate with the right people at the right time to maximize knowledge absorption and application. Make networking a daily habit that fuels your learning agility.

Seekretch assignments. Taking on responsibilities or projects that push you beyond your comfort zone forces you to quickly boost your skills and knowledge simply to complete the assignment. Volunteers for “stretch” work that challenges you just beyond your current capabilities. The accelerated learning you’ll experience during these high-pressure situations will significantly enhance your long-term learning agility. Over time, you’ll get faster and faster at ramping up to learn new things on-the-fly.

In summary, developing a strong learning agility through tools like a growth mindset, self-awareness, mental flexibility, feedback, failure tolerance, networking and stretch assignments will make you the ideal candidate that companies desperately seek in today’s economy. Building this vital skill now will give you an edge for attracting top opportunities and remaining relevant over the course of your entire career.