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Learnability: Can you HACK it?

In an interview about talent recruitment in India, Jonas Prising, the global CEO of HR consulting firm Manpower Group, predicts learnability will emerge as one of the most desirable traits among candidates for recruiters. He depicts labour markets dividing into those with the right skills and those without them.

The desire and ability to learn during your career may be the greatest predictor of your employability. Are you more likely to acquire new skills if you are working in my organisation? Then, regardless of gender, you may be a more interesting candidate.

His views find support from Doug Cole, Head of Global Employability at the Higher Education Academy, who is keen to rethink and reframe the language and approach of employability. He sees higher education supporting the development of well-rounded individuals in learning for success.

Employability, when you really break it down, is actually all about learning – but learning in different contexts, developing both knowledge and experience that extends beyong the subject or discipline being studied.

You would think at first glance that the ability to learn is a given for any self-respecting undergraduate. However, the paradigm for success is a continuous process of learning, unlearning, and relearning in the disruptive world of work. Lifelong and lifewide learning in a “permanent state of beta”, as LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman, coins it. Google recruits for learnability.

The Learnability Mindset

I see four core mindsets and attributes underpinning learnability, particularly at an early career stage:

  • Humility – You are going to get things wrong, through trial and error, inexperience, and plain old mistakes. How you respond is key. Inward acceptance, transparency, and persistence become strengths of learnability.
  • Adaptability – How you adapt to uncertainty, new challenges, unexpected obstacles, changing circumstances and new settings. For example, when you start a new job, everything is new and unfamiliar. Learnability involves continuing to be effective as things change.
  • Curiosity – Exploring the status quo by asking questions in a spirit of healthy contention. You notice the way things are done when you are new that your colleagues now take for granted. And you may see alternatives that improve things. Learnability involves not settling with what is and having an eye for what can be. That includes your own potential.
  • Know-how – Observation and analysis will take you so far. Ultimately, learning is about change. Learnability involves developing some level of applied capability that is productive for you and the organisation.

The learnability mindset encompasses a daily commitment to becoming more than you were, letting go of what no longer serves you, and staying up-to-date in a rapidly changing context. Can you HACK it?

David Shindler

David Shindler

David Shindler is founder of the Employability Hub online learning centre, Director of Learning to Leap and widely respected in the industry as an employability expert. David understands the ‘soft’ skills, attitudes and behaviours needed by employers and can help people improve them to get the job they want.

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