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Earlier this year, HFMtalentindex, HRworks and a group of esteemed research partners set out to discover the Learning Agility of HR.

Why? All employees need to be agile to cope with the ever-increasing demands of change in organisations. For HR, the need to be learning agile is even more important, as they are the people architects of the organisation.

After surveying South African HR professionals from all levels, age ranges, industries and different types of organisations, we can take a view on the Learning Agility of HR - and the profession’s strengths and development areas.

Below we present some of the most insightful findings. You can also download the comprehensive research booklet for the full results of the study.

Is HR learning agile?

The answer to this question is yes! HR professionals are above average on Learning Agility - both overall and on each of the five agility dimensions!

In particular, HR do exceptionally well on Self-awareness. This means that they are likely to display a strong understanding of their own strengths and development areas. The fact that HR professionals are generally self-aware and seek out opportunities for personal development is one of the driving forces behind the higher Learning Agility of the profession.

Interestingly, HR is the least focused on Mental Agility. As a result, HR professionals may generally be more focused on taking an active, practical stance in the face of complex situations, instead of spending time reflecting on and analysing different approaches.

Other notable results

Men are more analytical, women are more introspective

Female HR professionals tend to be more focused on Self-awareness - being open to feedback from others, tracking strengths and development areas, and being excited by the opportunity to develop further. In contrast, men in the HR profession are more likely to spend time on the analysis of complex problems (higher Mental Agility).

Learning Agility increases with job level - but that isn’t the full story

In keeping with the trend observed in other Learning Agility research studies, agility increases along with job level. As a result, we find that HR Directors are more learning agile than HR Managers who, in turn, are more learning agile than HR Administrators. What is very unique, however, is that HR Consultants are the most learning agile of all the groups, and even more agile than HR Directors.

Considering the demands placed on a typical HR consultant, including the need to work across organisations, teams and constantly shifting contexts, this makes sense. HR professionals with higher Learning Agility may be more attracted to the field of consulting, and the demanding environment may serve to develop agility further over time. 

The size and nature of organisations impact on the Learning Agility of HR

The size of an organisation is related to the Learning Agility of its HR team. Contrary to expectation, however, it is not a linear picture.

Large organisations (1,000+ employees) have the most agile HR teams; this could be related to the competitive nature of hiring and development in these contexts. Small businesses (<250 employees) are next in line in terms of Learning Agility, ahead of medium-sized organisations (250-1000 employees) and rely on the Change Agility of HR to maintain their competitiveness in a tough market.

Download the full study booklet for all the results, including the impact of Learning Agility on age, work experience and salary amongst HR.