The COVID-19 crisis in Europe is now reaching a new critical phase, where governments are acting decisively to control a rapid spread of the virus. Numerous European countries are going into Lockdown, and taking measures to limit physical contact between people.

This crisis offers for Talent management also an opportunity. The focus of Talent management is not focused in what people, but on how they are doing it. The best indication of a manager’s future capabilities are those behaviors and traits that they show during times of crisis. Especially during times of deep crisis we are able to gain insights into the capabilities of our leaders. In this article it is explained how the theory behind Learning agility can support Talent managers with a thought framework to assess people in their organisation. In this articles we will first Agility in general and then focus on the five aspects of Learning agility.


The definition for agility is: “Agility is a distinct quality that allows individuals, teams & organizations to respond rapidly to changes in the internal and external environment, without losing momentum and whilst holding true to your purpose, values and vision.”

Looking at definition of agility we can make a distinction between 3 levels:

  1. For leading self, Learning agility which is the ability to rapidly develop new effective behavior, based on new experiences.
  2. For leading other, Agile leadership in which leaders are inclusive, democratic, and exhibit a greater openness to ideas and innovations. With a passion for learning, a focus on developing people, and a strong ability to define and communicate a desired vision, they possess all of the tools necessary to successfully inspire others and become an agent for change within any organization.
  3. For Leading an organization, Strategic agility which is the ability of an organization to change it’s strategic direction fast and effective, anticipating and reacting on opportunities and threats in their environment.

Learning Agility

One of the assessment tools we advise our clients to use as a tool for assessing talent is Learning agility. From experience we know that this tool is very useful for predicting the potential people have. As defined above Learning agility is the ability to rapidly develop new effective behavior based on new experiences, which in the current environment is quite often the key for success. We think that in a crisis situation the five key elements provide a good framework for assessing the potential of (future-) leaders of an organisation. The five key elements of learning agility are:

  1. Change Agility: A constant curiosity, that is fueled by new unknown things. Interest in experimenting, trying new things, and a passion for new experiences. They are able to learn best from their experiences.
  2. Mental Agility: Enjoy using new ideas to create new insights when things are complex or unclear. They like to analyze and are often able to get to the bottom of things in new ways, by thinking outside the box.
  3. People Agility: Are open to people with different backgrounds and opinions. A need to properly understand what others mean and take others opinions seriously. Succeed better in learning from the input of others.
  4. Result Agility: Desire to be successful and always look for the best way to achieve results. Better able to set goals and retaining focus in new and unfamiliar situations.
  5. Self-awareness: Knowing their own strengths and weaknesses. Critical of their own performance and actions. Keen to know how they can do things better and willingness to learn.