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Korn Ferry research finds companies with highly agile executives have 25% higher profit margins

The first study found that companies with the greatest rates of highly learning agile executives produced 25 percent higher profit margins compared with peer companies. The second study found that highly agile people are promoted twice as quickly as those with low learning agility.

Korn Ferry defines highly agile learners as those who learn from past experiences and then apply those learnings to new situations, continually acquire new skills, face new challenges, and perform well under changing conditions and ambiguity.

“People who are learning agile more readily absorb new skills, behaviors, and insights—and then carry those forward to perform successfully, especially in unfamiliar situations,” said Vicki Swisher, Korn Ferry senior director of Intellectual Property Development and author of Becoming an Agile Leader. “The agile learner enjoys and deals well with ambiguity and complexity and doesn’t accept the status quo. These are attributes needed in virtually every 21st century organization.”

Academic and business leaders point to the highly volatile business climate of recent years as one of the main reasons agility has an edge in driving growth.

“The pressure on any company’s competitive advantage intensifies with each passing day. External forces such as globalization, economic uncertainty, disruptive technologies and demographic shifts threaten sustained success, if not outright survival,” said Stuart Crandell, senior vice president of Global Solutions and the Korn Ferry Institute. “It’s those organizations that are nimble enough to exploit the opportunities within this volatility that come out ahead.”

Korn Ferry measures learning agility through an assessment tool called viaEDGE&trade. This assessment measures five areas of agility: self-awareness, mental, people, change, and results. While all facets of learning agility are critical especially for those in senior leadership roles, through its research, Korn Ferry has found that different business strategies call for different mixes in the types of agility needed in the broader workforce in order to succeed.

For example, the research finds that companies focusing on innovation need a greater percentage of the workforce with mental agility – the ability to work with new concepts and ideas. On the other hand, organizations that are going through a merger or acquisition will best execute with talent who possess strong people agility – working with and relating to a wide array of people.

To help clients address this, Korn Ferry today unveiled the Korn Ferry Enterprise Agility Solution. It analyzes learning agility among a company’s existing workforce and then provides insights on whether the organization has the right mix of agility types given its strategy and where there are gaps. It then puts together a clear roadmap to achieve the right agile talent mix.

“To succeed, companies need to closely align their strategic business priorities with their people strategy. To deliver results, it’s critical to find leaders who thrive on new and challenging situations, said Crandell. “Our Enterprise Agility offering is a practical, pragmatic consulting solution that prioritizes actions to help clients achieve the right agility, in the right places, at the right time. This science-based approach allows us to assess organizations’ latent ability to adapt, change, and win in a competitive market.”

Underpinning all our services is Korn Ferry’s Four Dimensions of Leadership and Talent, a proprietary framework and methodology developed through 45 years of research, experience, and analytics that helps establish a language of talent in an enterprise.

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