Learnability: Fostering an Organisational Learning Mindset


Learnability is an indispensable capability for employees the modern business world. It is an aspiration and capacity to improve new in-demand skills quickly to meet the needs of a constantly shifting employability marketplace. Over the last decade, learnability has become one of the most important soft skills required to stay relevant in organisational environments. The advent of the internet, subsequent globalisation and technological innovation has profoundly changed the professional landscape we operate in. The increased pace of change associated with these factors has highlighted learnability as an indispensable trait that employers need to search for during the recruitment / selection and employee development processes.


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Take the Psych Press Learning Mindset Quiz to find out. 


Why is Learnability Important?
Continuous professional development is critical for employees wanting to remain attractive to employers. In fact, the critical employee success factors of efficiency, agility, job satisfaction and performance are determined by an ability to learn and adapt to change in the workplace. This ability is a major determinant of promotion and career advancement. Learnability is also critical from a management perspective. A workforce that can adapt to new technologies and industry standards is more likely to remain significant in their market.
HR managers that emphasise learnability are putting their organisations into a win-win situation, with the benefits of recruiting employees who possess learnability being two-fold. For the employee, a learning mindset promotes new skills and experience that can further their career. For the employer, the organisation benefits from increased employee knowledge, experience and engagement which increases productivity, profit and industry relevance.
So, what should you consider when implementing a learnability mindset in your organisation?
1. Prioritise learnability as an employee trait in the recruitment process
Eager employees that want to learn are more engaged, satisfied and productive in the workplace. This has a flow on effect which is evident in reduced staff turnover. Some of the personality traits that have been most associated with learnability are personal development, innovativeness, openness to change, ambition and divergent thinking.
Personality questionnaires like the Business Personality Reflections possess the ability to assess these key competencies early in the recruitment cycle. These attributes make certain individuals easier to train and should be considered when hiring new staff. In the recruitment process, the use of reliable psychometric assessments and behavioural interview questions can ensure employers fill available positions with personnel that have a high aptitude for learning.
2. Encourage the desire to learn
Organisations should set aside time for employees to develop skills and learn new things through attending seminars and professional development. This behaviour must also be modelled by managers if learnability is to be normalised as a central part of the workplace culture. Information about rival industries, areas of the workplace outside one’s specialty field or challenging one’s routine can all be areas where investigating new ideas or alternative ways of doing things is an opportunity to learn.
Creating an ethos within the organisation that embraces new knowledge can have a positive effect on motivation, productivity and morale. It also provides an opportunity to bring new ideas into the workplace and serves as an avenue for employees to question ‘why’. The freedom for employees to question and be involved in developing new ideas and procedures demonstrates that their opinions are a valued within the organisation. This is central to increasing employee retention and job satisfaction.
3. Reward employees that display the ability to learn
In order to build an organisation with a learning mindset, it is important to reward employees that do so. This is a way of reinforcing learning behaviors and setting an example to other workers that are reluctant to take on professional development opportunities. Good managers are not only responsible for their own self-development, but the development of their employees. Rewarding modern professional learning behaviours is fundamental to streamlining work processes and increasing productivity because it creates a culture where improvement is part of the everyday organisational routine.
These three points highlight that it is the responsibility of management to provide a framework that promotes an innovative culture as the norm. Moreover, a top-down system of rewarding employees that embraces service, routine or product development with learnability as a focus is crucial. This does not happen quickly or by accident. The process of ensuring an open learning environment is the product of planning, reflecting and gathering feedback over a sustained period of time in all areas of the company. The use of periodic organisational self-assessment tools is a way of creating a positive feedback loop that can drive the strategic planning of the business.
Unfortunately, despite research touting the benefits of learnability, many organisations still over-emphasise hard skills and qualifications in recruitment. This is a common mistake as academic results do not ensure a graduate employee is equipped with the skills required in today’s business market.
The ability to learn has been identified as one of the top predictors of high job performance and success over the course of one’s career.
Conscientiousness, interpersonal skills and adaptability are also important as they are linked learning. Furthermore, the priority placed on convergent thinking at university indicates whether a graduate is fit for work on paper but gives no indication of whether they are fit to learn. This disconnect is illustrated in the ‘real business world’ where learning is less structured than in university institutions. In the workplace, divergent thinking is required and employees must manage short-term job goals as well as long-term goals for career progression.
Employees will always show individual variation in their curiosity, drive and desire to learn. It is the responsibility of management to prioritise learning as a trait in recruitment and training
Managers should provide an environment that encourages and rewards learning in the organisation. If executed correctly, an ethos that promotes learnability provides a win-win proposition for organisations. It allows a business to build a more productive, talented workforce while providing individuals with professional development that gives them skills to advance their careers.
To assist management in the recruitment and development of an organisational learning mindset, many organisations are utilising bespoke personality questionnaires like the Business Personality Reflections®. Developed by Psych Press, this assessment contains 70 personality scales that can be tailored to any organisation’s needs. This includes scales related to learnability like the Divergent Thinking scale, which evaluates an individual's tendency to consider innovative approaches to work problems.
Divergent Thinking
Divergent thinking can be briefly understood as the ability to push boundaries of established thoughts. Research suggests1 that divergent thinking tests can predict an individual’s creative achievement significantly better than IQ. Individual divergent thinking skills include openness and potential to generate new ideas, ability to move efficiently from divergent to convergent thinking; and a passion for cognitive challenges2. It is a useful personality trait for learning-orientated employees working in a business environment that is innovative, fast paced, and requires thinking outside the box.


"Working life is impermanent and unpredictable, and will only become more so. That is daunting, but it is also liberating. We are increasingly willing to take control."
Attitude towards divergent thinking and openness to experience is positively associated with employees’ creative performance. It was also found that attitude towards divergent thinking is likely to be influenced by the amount of structure that supervisors initiate for their subordinates3. Organisation-level antecedents of divergent thinking include an innovative culture that encourages idea freedom and diversity2. Additionally, divergent thinking across middle and senior managers increases with experience4.
A sample item that might be seen on one of our tests is:
“Describe a time you had a big decision to make. Did you ask for/consider other people's suggestions or decide independently?”.
A high score on this scale reflects an individual who is more likely to be very open minded in their thoughts and ideas. The individual is likely to be good at examining problems from all angles and considers others’ ideas along with their own but may often becoming bored if methods of thought are stagnant or routine. They can value alternate modes of thinking and will often use techniques such as brainstorming to generate new ideas. They are often more innovative, resourceful, and inventive.
Organisations that prioritise divergent thinking in their employees can benefit from the range of possible solutions generated in a short amount of time. Instead of relying solely on existing knowledge base for a solution, unexpected connections could be drawn to propose a solution that works best. Employees displaying divergent thinking can influence others in the work environment to exert more cognitive effort through increased engagement in divergent thinking and develop more original products and qualitatively better decision5. Firms reap the benefits of confident, innovative, and efficient workers.
You should consider using divergent thinking scales in your recruiting and development processes if your business operates in an environment that is:
  • Innovative
  • Fast paced
  • Creative
  • Requires strategic thinking
  • Highly-efficient
Organisations that prioritise divergent thinking in their employees are reaping the benefits of confident, innovative, and efficient workers. Stay ahead of the game by acting on improving your recruitment and development processes today!
Do you have a learning mindset? Take the Psych Press Growth Mindset Quiz now to find out!

Questions about our Divergent Thinking Scale?
Contact us to find out how we can make it work for you and your business.