How and why an agile workforce works.
The concept of an agile workplace has been growing in popularity for the last decade or so. Spurred on by the growth of younger, nimbler global tech companies, it has come to epitomize the fluid, more dynamic and connected world that we live in. And rightly so. When looking at the workforce of today, it is being noted that traditional methods cannot keep up with the pace of change in the digital age. Furthermore, with the rise of the millennials, work is viewed as an extension of who you are, rather than merely a pay cheque. Thus, forward-thinking businesses are beginning to learn that their workforce strategy has the potential to be a major competitive advantage. In 2015 millennials became the largest share of the workforce and by 2025 that number will be 76 percent globally. With that fact comes the inevitable truth that businesses need to adapt to the changing environments that they find themselves in, to ensure that they survive and thrive.
As workplaces evolve, and the demand for contingent workers rises, we are starting to see a greater variety of workforce staffing solutions that businesses can incorporate into their strategies. Thanks to unprecedented mobility and connectivity in the digital age, workforce dynamics are growing and changing at a rapid pace.
On the one side, companies and leadership are looking at their business and their workforce with an idea to reduce risk and to increase any potential upside. On the other, employees and society are looking to create better lifestyles and work for a purpose. This leads us to a solution of a workforce that is agile, flexible and adaptable.
But what exactly does it mean to be an agile worker?
Agile working supports a collaborative way of doing business and, with the right technology, it gives people the ability to work wherever they happen to be and whenever it suits them to do so. From an employer perspective, an agile workforce allows the creation of a workforce that is flexi and can meet demand while reducing or even eliminating downtime. Not only are there significant cost saving opportunities through a reduction of expenses for office space and equipment, but also through the outsourcing of all the labour involved in recruiting, screening and interviewing candidates. It can be an efficient tool for businesses to screen their employees (“temp to hire”) and choose the best candidate for the given positions. Furthermore, companies can choose from a broad pool of skilled, experienced specialists to maximize project efficiency. In the case of organizations that rely on remote working, this also means the choice to hire from areas where salaries are lower for equally talented candidates. Providing flexibility for employees can also cause a boost in retention rates. Employees who need to take time out of the office or travel for personal reasons do not need to move jobs or terminate their contract. Business carries on as usual from a different location.
From a resource perspective, there are many benefits too. In this type of environment, work becomes an activity rather than a place as, provided you have the right technology and infrastructure supporting you, you can work from anywhere. In a recent survey, 86% of independent contractors, state their level of job satisfaction as being either good or excellent. A big factor in this is the ability to have greater variety in their role as well as greater work life balance. Agile workers are output focussed and the demand for flexible work is on the rise. Interest in flexible working increased by more than 40% in 12 countries across the world, per a 2015 survey. Many qualified potential employees are looking for flexibility – and companies who don’t offer it may be missing out on great talent.
While there are many compelling reasons why companies should adopt an agile mentality, many find it a challenge. Perhaps they have difficulty letting go of control, or maybe they just don’t trust employees to perform when they aren’t being watched. Despite this, any organisation that does set out to create an agile work environment is on track to developing a more responsive, efficient and effective company, which will improve their business performance, employee engagement and increase customer satisfaction. By empowering their employees to work how, where and when they choose, they create a win-win situation all round.
Nikki Benfield is the Global Lead: Business Development for VentureWeb (and part of the agile workforce).