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Soft Skills & Hard Skills

Focus on cross-functional skills: Learning Agility

eye 309 Published on 11 May. 2022
tag ##SkillDevelopment

Cross-functional skills are now the reference in terms of assessment. Competitive advantage in the context of recruitment, vector of visibility for educational and professional orientation, new base for piloting GPEC, powerful development path for coaching … all sectors of career management are converting to it.

The common challenge for HR professionals: to understand and appropriate these transversal skills in order to make them a strategic resource for the company. On one hand, by supporting employees in identifying, deploying and perfecting them, and on the other hand, by injecting these skills into the right places in the company.

Among the range of transversal skills, learning agility stands out as a key skill to evolve favorably in this new era of work. Let's see what it means, what makes it up and how to develop it.

Learning agility: a key skill for the future

Scientists agree to define agile learning as: “showing an inquisitive, curious mind, and a great interest in novelty”.

This skill is increasingly sought after since it is akin to an art of living that pulls an entire organization upwards. Resolutely turned towards the future, agile people thrive on novelty and are galvanized when they succeed in making sense with new and/or complex information.

Agile people are distinguished by their flexibility of thought and action. They quickly grasp the stakes of a situation and immediately find original and appropriate solutions. They know how to mobilize their various resources when necessary to understand a problem and find appropriate answers. They also know how to offload resources that they consider useless in order to unlearn a knowledge and integrate a new one. 

The underside of agile learning

Several elements constitute a cross-curricular competency. In their own way, they have an impact in which the skill will be mobilized, mastered and be helpful in developing potential. There are five of these elements:

  • Personality : These are the natural character traits of a person. The more traits a person includes in a skill, the more easily he will be able to mobilize and use it effectively. That being said, since personality traits are stable in nature, developing a skill from personality requires more hard work.

    Regarding agile learning, the traits involved in this skill are a reflexive way of thinking and a strong need to understand things. We also find curiosity, combined with a search for varied experiences and a strong attraction for novelty, in order to open up to the world and discover it in many ways. Finally, agile learning, with regard to personality, requires an adaptable and dynamic nature, geared towards enrichment and change.
  • Interest and motivation : They relate to what the person likes to do, what motivates and excites them. They play a major role in the exercise of a skill since they are linked to the pleasure and satisfaction provided by an activity. They impact the potential for skills development, since a motivated person is more likely to make the effort to improve. If the motivation is not there, the development of the skill can be compromised.

    The interests and sources of motivation required in agile learning are a great intellectual curiosity and a taste for surpassing oneself. This skill tends to reach its peak when the individual is driven by a need to be nourished intellectually and to be able to learn and develop through his work.
  • Abilities : They call on the person's life skills and know-how and are acquired. They bring together professional skills but also the famous soft skills, which, thanks to their strong evolutionary potential, have a positive impact on the development of skills.

    A person with a positive vision of change and a flexibility to incorporate new elements into existing knowledge will have an ease in demonstrating agile learning. On the other hand, they are expected to show a desire to try new things and an open-mindedness in order to engage concretely in the discovery of their environment and to transform their experiences into knowledge.
  • Cognitive : It is related to the person's ability to think and it allows him to understand his environment, to grasp its complexity and to provide appropriate responses. The potential for developing cognitive abilities is conditional on the effort and regularity of the person on the exercises to be performed.

    The cognitive abilities involved in agile learning require active reasoning in order to analyze and judge information to produce meaning. Cognitive abilities impact the ease of grasping new instructions without requiring long explanations, the ability to understand complex information and to assimilate new ideas in order to improve a background of skills.
  • The environment : Any skill can be exercised effectively if the environment in which it is required allows it. In other words, an unfavorable environment can stifle the potential for deployment of a skill and/or prevent its development. The more a person is in tune with the environment in which he finds himself, the more he will feel good and be able to give his best.

    Regarding agile learning, the most favorable environment will be that of innovation. The omnipresent emulation, the content of the projects to be carried out, the creative work atmosphere and the values ​​of change, avant-garde and intrapreneurship, contribute to stimulating this skill among employees.

Development paths 

Agile learning can be developed through playful but sustained brain activities to propel cognitive abilities. The individual can also force himself to put on the glasses of innovation to deal with current situations rather than constantly relying on the past, the familiarity and security. Experiential workshops, where a lived experience gives way to a reflective activity to extract knowledge, can also be appropriate.

If we cannot do things for the person, the company can at least put in place incentives for the development of the various cross-functional skills. For agile learning, a major turning point can be made by putting in place a culture of learning. By believing in everyone's learning potential, it will be possible to promote diversity by creating mixed teams, encouraging initiatives, and promoting modern learning activities that go beyond the traditional format.

That being said, it's not so much learning that is the skill, but the agility. Also, it will be difficult to push someone to develop this skill if the motivation is not there. It may therefore be relevant to identify the areas or themes that interest the individual in order to estimate the possible desire to deepen knowledge.

Helen Simard

Consultant psychologist

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