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Author's profile photo Sabine Benz

How can you stay agile at work? It starts with learning (not the company gym)

Lately, it seems the topic of business agility has been crossing my screen with more frequency. We live in a rushed, always-on, mobile world, and being agile has become, out of necessity, a key chapter in the playbook of success. Both in the way we work and the way we live. (Not to mention in the solutions that support us.) Being agile means being insightful, adaptable, flexible, responsive. The importance of business agility in face of today’s work climate of accelerated change, increased mobility in the workforce, and continued economic pressures, to name just a few factors, is not a new concept. But it’s one I felt needed further consideration.

/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/learn2_300624.jpgWhen I decided to investigate this topic a little further, my research led me to an interesting keynote by Josh Bersin, President and CEO of Bersin & Associates, given at last year’s IMPACT conference. I was particularly struck by stats he presented from an Economist Intelligence Unit survey of top CEOs. The survey asked nearly 350 CEOs to identify the critical traits of an agile business. The top responses were rapid decision-making and execution, a high-performance culture, and the ability to access the right information at the right time.

Perhaps there is no better way to be agile in business than to have workers who are not only skilled in their roles, but who can respond to changes quickly and easily. According to a recent Bersin & Associates report, an organization can really contribute to its agility by creating a learning culture, one that is fueled by continuous learning*. Learning enables individuals to anticipate changes as a result of constantly enhancing their understanding of the organization, its challenges and opportunities – if that learning can occur in the moment and in response to specific needs. It’s not necessarily about being an expert all the time, but being an expert in the crucial moment of executing a business process and learning from the information being supplied at that moment of need.

Accessing on-demand learning resources is one way for learners to get answers in the moment of need. Learning content can include standalone e-learning, videos, podcasts, ebooks and the like, or be embedded into a solution like SAP Workforce Performance Builder, where the learning content is accessed through push/pull for “just-in-time” learning. This is really a more formalized use of on-demand learning, and doesn’t leave the learner wasting time searching for answers.

Learners have come to expect the same level of ease and 24/7 access in their work-related learning as they do in their personal lives.

Workers are also increasingly mobile and they expect their learning tools to be available when they are. So the platform they use for their self-directed, continuous learning activities, whether on-demand learning or social learning, needs to be highly accessible, like SAP Learning Hub, a cloud-based offering that delivers the largest available learning content library covering SAP solutions. This is consistent with the 70/20/10 model that my colleague discussed in a recent blog post on the SAP Education space in SCN, where he notes that the majority of learning efforts should be informal and self-directed.

With a continuous learning approach, organizations can be continually evolving along with the rate of change. And in a world of unpredictability where the only constant is change itself, it’s important to have the right learning tools to cope and excel with that change. Then you can “treat” yourself to that workout in the company gym – it’s good to stay agile in case you need to race through the airport to catch that flight to your next business meeting.

*Bersin & Associates, Creating the Agile Organization: The Role of Learning and Performance Management, Stacia Garr, September 24, 2013.

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