Cultivating Learning Agility in the Selection Process

29 March, 2021

By Eli Grilo, Development Systems (Brazil)


Our client is a leading global insurance provider. The challenge in the insurance business is to develop new products that fulfill customer demands, but that are also viable in terms of risk and rentability. To achieve this, our customer decided to start a program to improve its technical positions and share best practices at the global level.

The Challenge:

This assignment presented numerous challenges, but key among them was the challenge to create the best competency profile that could define well the experience the client was looking for across all international locations. It was not only a matter of placing employees according to the local culture and level of inhouse expertise, but also to find the right balance between the employee’s and company’s needs for mutual knowledge exchange. With all these facts laid on the table, it was highly challenging to come up with the key competencies for the role.

Managing the Task:

Based on these challenges, to begin we framed some strategic questions to help us guide the selection process:

  • How is the technical position international program connected to the company’s future vision strategy?
  • What is the main objective behind the program? How is it tied to the customer centricity philosophy?
  • What about digital evolution: how is it going to fulfill the stakeholders demands in the future?

Just jotting these simple questions on paper turned out to be very powerful in helping us design the profile required — not only that, these questions were a constant reminder of what we were trying to accomplish throughout the search process and beyond.

Suitable Profile: Willingness to Nurture Learning Agility

At the end, we figured that the ideal candidate was not only technically suitable for the position with the required international skillset but was also someone willing to nurture learning agility. “I’d argue that learning agility is one of the most exciting, game-changing concepts in the field of talent management today,” according to David Hoff, author of Learning Agility: The Key to Leader Potential. “Those of us who want to stretch ourselves at work can examine our strengths and take concrete action to develop our weaker skills. By doing so, we can reach our untapped potential.” According to Burke’s Learning Agility Inventory, we could be confident that the ideal person for this mission would represent the following 9 characteristics:

  • Flexibility
  • Speed
  • Experimental
  • Performance Risk Taking
  • Interpersonal Risk Taking
  • Collaborating
  • Information Gathering
  • Feedback Seeking
  • Reflecting


In times of change, leaders must be more agile than ever, according to Professor Burke: “Adapting to new business strategies, working across cultures, dealing with temporary virtual teams and taking on new, unfamiliar assignments all demand that leaders be flexible and learning agile.”

Through this assignment we’ve learned that strategic questions and identifying the right personality types are the core elements for identifying the most suitable candidates.

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