How to hire people with high learning capacity

The former global CHRO of Google once said, “We have found that learning ability is the leading predictor of success, even above intelligence and education.”

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We are living in an ever changing world. The continuously evolving technology is changing the landscape of work and business with each passing day. Organisations have to keep adapting to the varying trends and technologies to stay relevant. For any business to be able to adapt, it goes without saying that its employees should also have an attitude of learning continuously and adapting to stay relevant. For that to happen, you need people who come with a high learning capacity.

Human resource professionals tend to get carried away by a candidate’s academic performance. What they fail to realise is that if a person who has performed academically, may not necessarily be a better learner.

Learning has a lot to do with the attitude of the person. It depends on how the person has performed in extracurricular activities and beyond the academic syllabus, in order to learn something new, which can improve the skills at work.

There are different ways to assess the learning ability or capability of a candidate. The method of assessment varies from organisation to organisation.

Ravi Mishra, regional HR head, South Asia and Middle East, told HRKatha that while hiring people for senior level positions, they prefer a psychometric test to understand the learning abilities of the candidate.

Ravi Mishra

“I have observed that candidates are unable to communicate properly during the interview process. We can add people in the interview panel who are good learners themselves and can observe the body language of the candidate to assess their leaning capability”

Apart from that, during the interview process, the hiring managers enquire about the previous stints of the candidate. If the candidate has faced challenges head on and taken the initiative to do something new at work, then it means the person has the ability to learn.

The resume can reveal whether the candidate has worked in different roles in previous organisations. This will also indicate whether the candidate has the ability to learn about other functions and take up challenges.

It is possible that the HR may fail to assess the learning ability of the candidate during the interview process. The candidate may be a good learner but may not be able to express it.

“Sometimes it gets very difficult to understand whether the person is a good learner or not during interviews. I have personally observed that candidates are unable to communicate properly during the interview process. We can add people in the interview panel who are good learners themselves and can observe the body language of the candidate to assess their leaning capability,” says Mishra.

Shashikanth KS, former HR head, Aditya Birla Retail, explains that we can use some of the HR tech tools which are available in the market to gain insights about the candidate. There are AI-powered assessment tools which can provide relevant data to HR.

He also explains that the attitude of the candidates can be evaluated during interviews by presenting them with challenging scenarios and asking them to react to or handle them.

There are many other ways to assess candidates for their learning ability. It can be done even before setting up an interview.

Shashikanth KS

“Learning agility is not the only thing that makes the potential candidate successful in the medium or long term. Success in the long term is a combination of one’s ability to think, relate, act, relearn and repeat the whole process many times and all this with a high level of EQ”

You can study the previous experience of the candidates from their resumes. You can also look for some keywords such as ‘benchmarking’, ‘curiosity’ and ‘passion for learning’ in the resume, especially where the candidates have described themselves.

“People possessing a high learning quotient are good ideators and can make people learn how to execute tasks at work. These people stay relevant and introduce new techniques and innovations to the organisation,” mentions Mishra.

Shashikanth adds, “Though there is a high correlation between high performers and high learning agility, learning agility is not the only thing that makes the potential candidate successful in the medium or long term. Success in the long term is a combination of one’s ability to think, relate, act, relearn and repeat the whole process many times and all this with a high level of EQ.”

Organisations today want great learners in their teams because most of them are now venturing into new businesses and exploring fresh fields. Therefore, they seek people who can learn and are eager to explore and challenge themselves daily.

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