Use learning agility to screen graduates for future potential

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Graduate programmes may vary from organisation to organisation, but the ultimate purpose is to recruit the most talented individuals for your business. The goal is often to provide entry-level jobs and valuable experience to the graduates themselves. However, the business also needs to receive a ROI in the form of performance and growth, with the eventual aim of retaining the most talented employees once the programme has ended. 

Assessing graduates - current needs vs future requirements

With the above in mind, a question that often arises amongst HR is whether to assess for the requirements of the graduate programme in the here and now, or the requirements of a role the graduate is likely to fill in the future. After all, selecting graduates who have the right talent to fill key strategic roles in time would provide the most cost savings and ROI for the company.

Traditional graduate assessment centres sometimes include simulation exercises, and often include psychometric tests of cognitive ability and behaviour. These all look at the current picture of potential to determine if the candidate meets the immediate selection requirements. However, do any of these results address the question of the candidate’s forward-looking potential over the next five years?

Enter Learning Agility

Assessing Learning Agility allows you to select candidates who can easily adjust to future demands, even if these are not yet defined. 

Learning Agility is all about the candidate’s future potential, in other words his or her stretchability to absorb new demands and grow within the business. It can be defined as the ability to develop new, effective behaviour based on new experiences. While these behaviours and habits may not be currently relevant, they become important for the individual’s future success in the organisation. People with high Learning Agility can pick things up quickly in a variety of new situations; they have an attitude of self-awareness and interest in constantly exploring and learning new things. Candidates with high levels of Learning Agility will make the difference for those organisations with rapidly changing landscapes.

Companies who recruit for Learning Agility at the graduate level are future-proofing their business from the ground up. 

Exploring an example of Learning Agility

Two candidates are assessed against the current demands of the graduate programme or graduate-level roles.

Graduate 1 has higher scores on the competencies required to perform in the here and now (current potential), and has a slightly lower Learning Agility score of 4 (future potential). Graduate 2 scores slightly lower on the competencies expected now (current potential) and has a higher Learning Agility score of 7 (future potential).

The results initially seem obvious. Graduate 1 scores higher than Graduate 2, so Graduate 1 is likely the best choice for the role. In most graduate programmes, only current potential would have been assessed, and Graduate 1 would have been selected. 

But take note: current performance does not guarantee performance in the future, because the organisation is changing quickly. There are likely to be different job requirements, as well as different jobs and roles in the near future. And we all know that hiring and then retaining the most talented staff at the graduate level and up can have a huge impact on the organisation’s bottom line. With this in mind, the job requirements will not remain constant (see dotted line in figure 1), but will change over time.

Figure 2 shows how the different role expectations are likely to increase over time. Because Graduate 1 has a lower Learning Agility score, it will cost him more effort to meet these new requirements. Of course he will learn, but likely more slowly than Graduate 2, who has a higher Learning Agility score. In figure 2, there is a point in time where Graduate 2’s development surpasses Graduate 1, and the former becomes the better candidate for the future of the organisation

Assessing Learning Agility in graduate programmes

The above figures clearly illustrate (albeit in an exaggerated fashion) the effect of current needs vs. future needs. These are both crucial to consider when designing a graduate assessment battery and hiring new employees. In this example, an organisation which is invested in future growth would be better off hiring Graduate 2.

While Graduate 1 may be more effective in the short-term, in the long term Graduate 2 will be much more useful, even in subsequent projects that might require different qualities and skills.

Why? Because of the higher Learning Agility score – showing that Graduate 2 is more able to be a flexible employee within a flexible, constantly changing organisation.

Streamlining your Graduate process, improving selection results and reducing the cost of the process is the ultimate business goal. HFMtalentindex can help you to accurately assess the Learning Agility of your graduates, while ensuring superior results, rapid implementation, instant results and big-picture analytics.



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