Identifying the characteristics of an agile mindset in employees

March 28th, 2023
The HireVue Team
Recruiting Teams

These days, having an agile mindset in employees and teams is paramount. However, identifying the characteristics of an agile mindset in both current employees and potential candidates is challenging.

In today’s hiring landscape, hiring professionals often still rely  on resumes and applications to make hiring decisions. It’s almost impossible to predict a candidate’s true potential (or shortcomings) based upon what they’ve done in the past versus what they can do for your company in the future.

Identifying an agile mindset in your current employees or their ability to develop an agile mindset is equally difficult but of no less importance.

What if you could predict their willingness to learn? What about adaptability, flexibility, openness, drive, and eagerness to take the initiative?

These are some of the qualities of an agile mindset. Identifying and encouraging an agile mindset in both new hires and your existing employees allows you to build a team with the right skills for today, know they can adapt to future changes, and deliver successful results for your clients and company.

Below describes what an agile mindset is and its characteristics. You’ll also learn how to identify and foster these traits within the work environment to create a more agile workforce. Most importantly, you’ll discover an amazing assessment tool to help predict whether your new candidate possesses an agile mindset and whether it exists in your existing employees.

What is an agile mindset?

An agile mindset is a combination of characteristics, actions and behaviors that allows individuals, teams, and organizations to perform and excel at the highest level. While the agile mindset is made up of a multitude of attributes, at its core are flexibility, adaptability, iteration, and collaboration.


The agile mind responds well to change and finds multiple paths to solve problems that are often immediate and situational. Often flexibility requires a willingness to accommodate others.  


You’ve heard the phrase “to a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” Adaptability is the opposite.  An agile mind can adapt to overcoming challenges with multiple solutions and solving problems regardless of the hurdles.


The embodiment of trial and error, iteration is creating better ways of doing things by  learning from the outcomes of previous iterations. Iteration is about experimentation, learning, and continuous improvement.


The agile mind thrives in a collaborative environment in which individuals come together as a team to achieve a united goal. Collaboration is about communication and being open-minded, supportive and transparent.

These four characteristics are just the foundation of a myriad of attributes, skills, and disciplines that define an agile mindset. The next step is being able to identify them within your prospective and current employees.

Identifying characteristics of an agile mindset

Identifying an agile mindset in your employees requires you to understand and be able to recognize the characteristics of an agile mindset. Look for the following intertwined traits in your workforce and determine if they’re being used in your organization. If not, this is what you can strive to achieve with your team. 

  • Willingness to learn
  • Problem solving
  • Drive for results and initiative
  • Leading and motivating others
  • Cognitive ability
  • Agreeableness
  • Extraversion
  • Emotional stability
  • Openness

Willingness to learn

Learning is one thing, but having the willingness to learn differentiates the agile mindset as truly engaged in the learning process and understands that knowledge must be employed rather than retained. This learning applies directly to iteration.

Problem solving

Being flexible and adaptable effectively results in the ability to solve problems, to understand why that solution works, and apply it in other ways.

Drive for results and initiative

An individual with an agile mindset requires results, ideally successful, and if not, has the initiative to learn from mistakes and try again.

Leading and motivating others

A positive work environment needs leadership that empowers the team to utilize their abilities, develop their skills and grow within the organization. Recognizing each other for a job well done motivates them to do more. This is key to collaboration and communication.

Cognitive ability

When you’re asked to “think outside the box”, this is what they mean. Cognitive ability is thinking in the abstract, being able to understand complex, multifaceted concepts, and applying it to the task at hand.


Embracing a team environment and thriving within it requires a heightened sense of the needs of others. This is more than being friendly. Individuals with an agile mindset have compassion and empathy for others and is willing to put their needs ahead of their own.


Without being over the top, extraversion is a trait that is at the heart of being social and friendly. People with an agile mindset often show enthusiasm and retain a “glass half full” attitude.

Emotional stability

Staying cool under pressure and balancing emotions is a requirement in a collaborative work environment. That’s not to say emotions are unprofessional and unwanted. Positive emotions are at the core of many agile mindset attributes. It’s the instability that fosters unproductive, negative outcomes.


An agile mindset can’t help but be open. Being open to new ideas, people, experiences, and processes instills trust and accountability.

Ideally, you will see many of these characteristics in many individuals on your team, even the occasional unicorn who possesses them all. But what about your overall workforce? Here are five attributes that exemplify an agile workforce and map directly to what defines an agile mindset.   

  1. Customer Focus: An agile workforce values customer value satisfaction as the primary goal and puts the needs of the customer first. This means that teams should always strive to meet customer expectations, drive results, and deliver value through their work.
  2. Collaboration: We’ve talked about “collaboration” extensively, and that’s because it is tantamount to your organization’s success. Agile teams are highly collaborative and work together to achieve a common goal. All team members must be active contributors, and all ideas should be heard and discussed. Collaboration also encourages creativity, problem-solving, and knowledge sharing. Teams are better able to work together to identify solutions, create innovative ideas, and develop new products or services.
  1. Adaptability: An agile workforce must adapt quickly to changing circumstances and customer needs. Teams must be flexible and open to new ideas or approaches to stay ahead of the competition. Agile teams view change as an opportunity to improve their processes or products rather than a disruption to their workflow.
  2. Transparency: Agile employees must be transparent in their communication and decision-making processes. All key personnel should be aware of the current state of the project and how they are making decisions.  Leaders should strive to create an environment where everyone is comfortable sharing their thoughts, ideas, and opinions without fear of judgment or criticism.Transparency also helps build relationships and trust between coworkers, leading to better communication, improved morale, and a more productive workplace.
  1. Continuous Improvement through iteration: Agile teams strive for continuous improvement by constantly looking for ways to make their processes more efficient, their products better, and their customer experience more enjoyable. Everyone involved must continuously evaluate their work and make changes as needed. The result is a better product or service while increasing your brand’s competitiveness.

An agile workforce encourages collaboration, experimentation, and continuous improvement. It creates an iterative approach that allows businesses to respond quickly to feedback and continually evolve their products and services. Finally, it promotes an open and transparent environment where everyone is accountable for their contributions and decisions.

Possessing an agile workforce allows businesses to continually refine their products or services to meet customer needs more efficiently.

Why does an agile mindset matter?

Teams that possess agile mindsets are more productive, respond well to change, and strive for continuous improvement.  Agile teams also emphasize customer satisfaction, which they achieve by delivering on promises quickly and frequently, while still allowing customers to give feedback and make necessary changes.

Agile teams combine to form an agile workforce, which can create positive transformation in every level of an organization. The key benefits of an agile workforce are a combination of the core attributes of the agile mindset and include:

  • Self-organizing teams
  • Team collaboration
  • Respect
  • Consistent iterative and incremental development

Self-organizing teams

Self-organization among team members is a hallmark of the agile workforce. It promotes creativity and collaboration within the team environment. They take ownership of their work and share ideas to achieve optimal results.

Team collaboration

Collaboration between customers, developers, and other stakeholders is essential. It ensures more transparency and that all parties are working together toward a common goal. A collaborative strategy includes face-to-face communication, regular meetings (in-person and video meetings) and touchpoints with stakeholders and key decision makers throughout the project timeline.


Effective collaboration cannot exist without respect among the team members. This includes being supportive, helpful, and providing constructive feedback. It also involves successful conflict resolution with positive outcomes.

Consistent iterative and incremental development

While iterative and incremental development harkens back to “agile scrums” in software development, it now applies to an agile work environment across all industries. Work processes are iterative, with the assumption that future iterations will be educated from previous iterations and improved upon. And it must be consistent, or you risk teams and processes becoming complacent.

These key characteristics are necessary for an agile workforce to thrive. But how do you identify key attributes of an agile mindset in your team members?

How to encourage an agile mindset in employees

It’s clear that an agile mindset in your employees is tantamount to developing an agile workplace culture, which in turn can transform your organization. Here are some tips to help you encourage and develop an agile mindset in your teams.

  1. Lead by example: Demonstrate agile thinking yourself and encourage employees to follow your lead.
  2. Provide training: Offer training courses or workshops that strengthen agile competencies.
  3. Promote collaboration: Foster collaboration between teams and departments to encourage agile thinking and problem-solving. Foster a culture of collaboration, trust, and transparency by encouraging employees to communicate openly and work together to solve problems.
  4. Encourage experimentation: Allow employees to experiment with new ideas and approaches and give them the freedom to fail to learn from their mistakes. Create an environment that encourages risk-taking and experimentation while exploring different problem-solving techniques.
  5. Embrace change: Create a culture that embraces change, encourages learning, and rewards innovation. Encourage employees to embrace change and seek new ideas and solutions to problems.
  6. Celebrate successes: Recognize employees who have achieved success with agile competencies, and encourage others to follow their lead.
  7. Recognize failure: Acknowledge that failure is part of the learning process, and celebrate efforts even when they don’t result in success.
  8. Set clear goals: Set clear goals for each project or initiative, so everyone is aware of what they need to accomplish for it to be successful.
  9. Provide resources: Give employees the resources required to complete their tasks or projects with an agile mindset.
  10. Measure progress: Track progress regularly using metrics such as sprints or velocity charts so that everyone can track progress against goals over time and adjust as needed.

It’s also important that the new hires you bring onboard possess an agile mindset. How do you predict if it exists in the candidates you’re considering?

How to assess if you have an agile workforce

How do you determine whether an employee or candidates you’re considering to hire exhibit important agile characteristics? HireVue’s Agile Mindset Assessment can help you measure the various competencies that are part of an agile mindset based on these guiding principles.

  1. People agility: These candidates know themselves well and learn from their experiences. They also treat others respectfully and remain calm under pressure.
  2. Results agility: These people are often goal-oriented and are willing to do what’s necessary to achieve results, especially in new situations. They constantly inspire others and move quickly up the ladder to leadership positions.
  3. Mental agility: Workers who display mental agility often enjoy tackling complex situations. They think before they act, make fresh connections and are usually good at explaining their point of view.
  4. Change ability: Those adaptable to change are a rare commodity in the workforce. They don’t mind deviating from everyday routines and usually have a passion for experimentation.

HireVue’s agile mindset assessment tools are rooted in a science-based approach that helps you identify agile characteristics in your current team and in potential candidates. The assessment tools mitigate bias and are regularly adjusted to provide a fair and objective interview experience. And it’s fast – the engaging, video and game-based experience requires about 30 minutes.

The benefits of having an agile workforce can be transformational to your business. It starts with your new hires and a thoughtful integration of an agile mindset within your teams and throughout your organization. 

To learn more about HireVue’s innovative Agile Workforce Assessment and how it can help your business, request a demo. Also, be sure to check out our On-Demand Webinar: Agile Mindset Assessment.