Blog Post

Cartoon coffee break: Building talent agility across an organization

Cornerstone Editors

Outside of work, we think of agility in terms of being swift, flexible and graceful — like a soccer player stopping the ball on a dime to change directions or a gymnast twisting into position for a flip.

The same traits are needed for workers and organizations to pivot when required. While employees might not need to turn a handspring, they must be able to swiftly react, adapt to changes and remain cool under pressure when faced with new challenges. Successful organizations are figuring out how to maximize agility to confront new challenges while supporting employees and their growth and development along the way.

Three Cornerstone Resource Corner authors and thought leaders shared recent recommendations to improve adaptability and build more agile and flexible teams.

Cartoon by Terry LaBan, cartoonist and illustrator.

Understand the roles of specialists and generalists

Agile workers shouldn't be expected to do every possible task that might fall on their plate — agile workers need to be able to adapt when circumstances change, writes HR expert Suzanne Lucas. Your organization likely needs a mix of people with specialized and general skill sets. And most importantly, your organization needs people willing to grow and gain new skills.

“No matter the size of your organization, your broadest, most advanced generalist may not necessarily be an agile worker while someone in a hyper-specialized role may be willing to learn and do new things,” she adds.

Lean into a growth mindset

We’ve all been through a lot of changes recently. But periods of uncertainty can actually be seen as opportunities for organizations to thrive, especially by focusing on different dimensions that define our ability to adapt to new circumstances. HR thought leader Ira Wolfe writes that having a growth mindset, or believing that your most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work, can help bring more agile workers into the recruiting process.

“Recruiting with a growth mindset is key to identifying the people who are most willing to learn, take on more challenges and adapt to new circumstances,” he explains.

Encourage risk-taking to promote an adaptable work culture

For too long, employees have viewed taking risks (even calculated ones) and making mistakes as failures, instead of opportunities to improve themselves and learn what might work and what might not. Employers should look to improve adaptability by investing in employee learning and encouraging risk-taking writes Cornerstone’s, Mike Bollinger.

“Employees who regularly push themselves outside their comfort zone through learning and developing new skills, or working on stretch projects, are more likely to cope with uncertain situations,” shares Bollinger. “When learning and curiosity are rewarded in a workplace, employees feel more encouraged to keep up with new trends, skills and processes.”

Racing toward more agile teams

Organizations with agile workforces will be better equipped to respond to disruption or transformation with customers or the marketplace — as well as provide their people with new, rewarding experiences. And by investing resources directly into employee learning and training, organizations can engage employees to help them build new skills to meet today’s evolving workplace demands.

Editor's Note: This post is part of our “Cartoon Coffee Break” series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back regularly for a new cartoon.

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