The Agile Employee - Exploring What Agility Looks Like In a Potential Hire

Carolyn Gill, AVP, Talent Acquisition and People Services, MD Financial Management

Agility seems to be the new buzzword. Whether referring to a personal attribute, a business concept or a development methodology, agility seems to be top of mind for everyone.

So what does it mean to hire someone who is agile? When I look for agility in a potential hire, I’m doing my due diligence throughout the hiring process to ensure they possess the 7 C’s:

Commitment to lifelong learning

The ability and desire to learn is said to be the number 1 predictor of an individual’s future success. Learners tend to embrace all opportunities to acquire new knowledge, skills and experience and then try to determine how best to apply this information to identifying opportunities and solving work-related problems. They love adding new knowledge and skills to their personal ‘toolkits’ and thrive in an environment of like-minded individuals.

Curious – Enjoys exploring new concepts

Curious employees are never satisfied with the status quo – they’re always thinking about how to simplify, automate and enhance value. The curious employees I know are keen to better understand how ‘best in class’ become best and will use their curious nature to readily bring forward new ideas, recommended avenues for exploration and often, a perspective that borders on the ‘wow’.

Collaborative – Energized by the team experience and thinking holistically

There’s nothing better than a group of individuals who are genuinely enthusiastic and motivated team members. You know the ones I mean, team members who make each other better by listening intently and purposefully, respecting differences, creating a safety net where innovation is born, and genuinely understanding how important everyone’s success is to the greater good. These collaborative individuals realize that their potential as a team is ten-fold that of the individual alone.

Communicative – Offers and solicits ideas and opinions

The biggest challenges I’ve seen in the workplace are usually always due to expectations not being articulated clearly, or sometimes not at all by the key participants. Assumptions are made, guards go up, and the ability to achieve, let alone get work done, drops exponentially. Individuals who understand the importance of seeking clarity, offering opinions, and communicating vs. assuming can make the difference between a good team and a great one.

"Understanding of some of the characteristics that define and enable agility in employees will help potential candidates understand how important these attributes are to their personal success"

Critical Thinker – Ability to dissect situations and statements to get to the ‘why’

For many years the thought of challenging the ‘why’ of a request mandated by a superior was almost unheard of. Whether or not we agreed with the direction given, we simply did what we were asked to do. Today, individuals who are thoughtfully willing to question the ask are in an excellent position to not only enhance their understanding of the task at hand, but also to help identify potential risks (and benefits) by putting forth those probing questions. “How will the business benefit from this program?” “What are the risks if we cancel this initiative?” “How will this change make us more competitive?” The critical thinker is often the one that will help you identify the land mine before you inadvertently step on it.

Change ‘hardy’ – High tolerance for ambiguity and complexity

There’s no doubt about it, our world is changing rapidly and will certainly continue to do so given ongoing advances in technology. Those who are change ‘hardy’ tend to welcome disruption vs. fearing it. These are the individuals who can help their peers navigate the seas of uncertainty by leading by example. Rather than falling back to the tried, true and familiar, those who are change hardy clearly understand that the only way to stay ahead of the curve is to embrace it, not resist it

Can Do Attitude — Willingness to try something that has never been done before and not be afraid of failure

I’ve always believed that attitude is everything. Individuals who bring a willingness to try (and an understanding that failure may result) rate very highly in my book. While I don’t expect these attitudinally positive individuals to passively agree to do everything asked of them, I do expect a willingness to try and an ability to adjust their sails when and if the ship somehow goes off course.

While I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect every new hire to possess all 7C’s at the ‘best in class’ level, I’m confident that an understanding of some of the characteristics that define and enable agility in employees will help potential candidates understand just how important these attributes are to their personal success and job satisfaction. I challenge you to self-reflect and see what you can do to unleash your 7C’s!.

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