Academic journal article Human Resource Planning

Learning Agility as a Prime Indicator of Potential

Academic journal article Human Resource Planning

Learning Agility as a Prime Indicator of Potential

Article excerpt

In The War for Talent studies (Michaels, et al., 2001), only seven percent of respondents agreed their companies had enough talented managers, and only three percent agreed with the statement: "We develop people effectively." Other studies show first-time top-executive failure rates to be anywhere from 33 percent to 75 percent (Sessa & Campbell, 1997). During the last decade, one-third of the CEOs in the Fortune 500 have been replaced (Bennis & O'Toole, 2000; Charan & Colvin, 1999). Although the preceding results have many causes, one implication is that organizations have great difficulty in spotting and nurturing talent that has staying power once in key positions.

Previously (Lombardo & Eichinger, 2000), we demonstrated that a measure of learning agility (CHOICES[R]) was related to both current performance and longer-term potential. Our essential argument was that learning new job and technical knowledge is different from learning new personal behavior or ways of viewing events and problems. If people learn, grow, and change across time (and consequently develop new skills, not just enhancing what they already have), then comparing the competencies of a promising 25-year old to the competencies (success profile) of successful 50-year olds will not be totally informative. Promising 25-years olds are not just miniature versions of successful 50-year olds.

Selection, staffing, and succession planning should be a combination of looking at those characteristics that do not change much over time and can be detected early (such as intelligence) and those that flower across time as the person learns to deal with fresh situations.

For a summary of this initial research study, see the Appendix at the end of this writing.

After the initial validation of our instrument as a measure of personal adaptability, we turned to longer-term questions:

1. Would learning-agility scores predict later promotion?

2. Would people with higher scores perform better once promoted?

3. If so, whose ratings would most likely relate to this higher performance?

4. Would there be a difference in the type of promotion that high-learning-agile people received?

5. Is learning agility something unique or is it basically a variation of intelligence or personality variables?

Selection, staffing, and succession planning should be a combination of looking at those characteristics that do not change much over time and can be detected early (such as intelligence) and those that flower across time as the person learns to deal with fresh situations.

To examine the first four questions, we used a sample of 313 managers and individual contributors from three firms (two in insurance and one in electronics). Fifty percent (155) of these men and women were promoted during the one- to two-year period from collection of CHOICES[R] data until they had been in their new jobs long enough to receive a formal performance rating. Learning-agility ratings were not used as a factor in promotion, at least in any formal sense, although we cannot say no one involved in the promotion decision did not know of or consider the scores.

For data on the fifth question we are indebted to Connolly and Viswesvaran (2002), who compared CHOICES[R] to an IQ and a Big Five personality measure.

Learning Agility and Promotion

We hypothesized that learning-agility scores probably would not predict promotion. Many reasons for promotion have nothing to do with learning agility: doing more of the same kinds of jobs, few candidates available, candidates with high-learning-agility scores turn it down, a high-performer in a specific knowledge or technology area is promoted instead of a high potential, politics, managerial cloning, seniority, or just bad calls on talent. In a recent study (Sessa, et al., 1998), only 15 percent of executives were selected from the formal succession plan. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.