The CIPD, in collaboration with the Agile Future Forum (AFF) produced a report on agile working towards the end of 2014. With growing economic uncertainty, the theme of the times in which we now live, has the imperative for organisations to become more agile increased in urgency?
Becoming Pro-actively Agile
There are various responses businesses have to uncertainty and the threat of a downturn. One is to cut back on recruitment or the numbers of permanent staff on the payroll. Another is to rein in marketing and publicity-related spending and activity. Both of these risk generating a negative, downward spiral as business continues to contract along with the company’s ability to bring in, serve, and retain new customers.
Organisational agility should be less about being reactive and more about a pro-active approach to agile working. This would take into account the increased diversity of the working population and would look at discovering ways of how best to integrate the actual circumstances and working needs of people into the requirements of an organisation or business.
This means that while there is some emphasis on the flexibility of resources – employees – there is also a need for more flexible management practices and overall structures.
Supporting Workplace Agility
Zero hours contracts have many negative connotations, but there are other ways for the workforce to work differently, as part of a more agile, responsive and dynamic workplace culture.
Variable work patterns, from start and finish times to hours and days worked are top preferences of employees wishing to change their working arrangements. There is evidence that such changes are mutually beneficial for employees and employers with a resulting rise in productivity.
There are also changes to where people work, with many employees now working from multiple sites, or from home. The adoption of mobile technology in particular, such as cloud-based systems, enables more efficient remote working.
These sorts of changes have to have a strategic underpinning in order to be effective. Similarly, improved knowledge-sharing and succession-planning are key elements in an agile working strategy.
Ultimately, agile working has long-term advantages to do with improved work-life balance and job satisfaction for employees. And improved productivity for businesses.
Agile working can work if pro-actively pursued and engaged, but it is not simply about cutting labour costs.