Gravett Logo 9


If you would like to receive monthly newsletter articles on current trends in the Human Resources and Organizational Development fields, please click here to sign up.  You can click here to unsubscribe at any time.

Article No.: 18-3, March 1, 2018

Article Title: Learning Agile Employees and Adaptability to Change

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, CEQC

If you’re a team leader at any level, you’ve probably observed that some of your team members aren’t excited about any kind of change.  Of course not.  As humans, we like our routine because that brings a sense of comfort.  Yet, in order for our organizations to be innovative andLinda Gravett photo competitive, employees must thrive during times of change.  These are employees with learning agility, and as a leader part of your role is to foster learning agility in individuals across the organization.

Asking the right questions at the right time – and listening intently to the answers – is an excellent way to encourage learning agility.  One way to do this is by setting the expectation that your leaders will continuously ask what I call quality dialogue questions (QDQs), so that you build a culture that promotes healthy debate and inquiry.  The employee can initiate his and her own QDQs, as well.

Here are some examples of those QDQs:

  1. I’ve always wondered why we . . .
  2. I don’t think we spend enough time . . .
  3. I think we should focus on . . . 
  4. Our success lies in . . . 
  5. We are missing a business opportunity with . . . 
  6.  Everyone knows that ____________ but is afraid to say it. 
  7. I’d like to see more______________ around here. 
  8. Our customers would be happier if we . . .  
  9. I  would like to be able to . . .  
  10. Our meetings would be more effective if . . . 
  11. I’ve noticed that . . . 

When employees surface concerns or problems by filling in the blanks in these questions, as a leader you allow creativity and new learning by providing time to study problems deeply.

Another method for fostering learning agility is through what I call directed assignments.  These are opportunities for employees to learn from doing and observing others within and outside your company.  The directed assignments can be tied directly to your core competencies required for organizational success.  This means that employees win and your organization wins.

As an example, I developed this set of directed assignments for a client company:

Competency: Objective Setting and Results Orientation
Assignments: Benchmark and Analyze Strategic Planning Methods of 3 - 5 Global Organizations; Present Results to Colleagues. 
Facilitate the Strategic Planning Session of Another Division within the Organization.
Indentify the Processes and Activities that Provide Commpetitors with a Competitive Advantage; Present Results to Colleagues.
Competency: Communication Skills
Assignments: Develop a Communications Plan to Advise Emloyees of a Change in Product, Procedures or Processes.
Facilitate Employee Meetings to Solcicit Process Improvement Ideas.
Develop and Deliver a Training Session on the Organization's Core Values.
Write a Column in the In-House Newsletter or an Industry Newsletter.
Develop and Deliver Industry Presentations.
Shadow Someone in the Customer Services and Public Relations Department for a Week.
Reading List: The Psychology of the Growth Mindset
Influence Without Authority
Isomg your Emotional Intelligence to Develop Others
Competency: Leading Through Change
Assignments: Develop and Implement a Communications Plan to Advise of a Change in Product, Procedures or Processes.
Assess Imcoming Customer Surveys to Ascertain Why People Buy from a) Our Organization and b) From Competitors—Decide What Changes the Company Must Make to Stay Ahead.
Facilitate Round Tables with Each Business Unit and Help Identify their Competitive Differentiators to Build and Ehance.
Create a Symbol or Rallying Cry for Needed Change.
Manage an Ad Hoc Team in a Rapidly Expanding Unit.
Reading List: Fast Company
Wall Street Journal
Harvard Business Review
Riding the Waves of Change, by Gareth Morgan

Linda is the Senior Partner of Gravett and Associates in Cincinnati.  For questions or comments, you can email her at or follow her on Twitter @GravettLinda.