Agile awareness factsheet
Find out more about agile working, what it looks like in practice and how it can benefit both employers and employees.
Agile work is an activity, not a place and is another way of working. An organisation can empower its workers to work either when and how they choose and /or with maximum flexibility and/or minimum constraints. This can lead to greater efficiencies of an organisation.
The CIPD (2011) defines agility as the ‘ability to stay open to new directions and be continually proactive, helping to assess the limits or indeed risks of existing approaches and ensuring that leaders and followers have an agile and change-ready mind-set to enable them and ultimately the organisation to keep moving, changing and adapting.’
Why is agile working gaining popularity?
In June 2014, the right to flexible working widened to every employee after 26 weeks employment service and flexible working patterns are becoming increasingly common. The workforce is getting more diverse and working lives are extending with the increase to the state retirement age for women, and future plans to extend this to 67 for men and women between 2026 and 2028.
Agile working also offers greater opportunities to respond to customers’ increasing expectations.
The CIPD state some of the benefits which can be gained from agile working as:
- increased productivity and efficiency
- space savings and reduced property costs
- reduced cost of fuel and parking
- extended business hours
- meeting customer’s expectations
- ability to match workforce to fluctuating demands
- better utilisation of skills
- increased innovation
- reduction in organisational and personal carbon footprint
- improved business continuity
- improved staff performance
- ability to attract and retain high quality talent
- reduced absenteeism and related costs
- reduced staff turnover and associated costs
- reduction in lost knowledge, skills and experience
- increased motivation and engagement of staff
What does this look like in practice?
There are many different ways workers are engaged in the organisation to carry out their work:
- permanent contracts
- fixed term
- zero hours
- flexible working
- work programmes e.g. apprenticeships, industrial placements, work-based degrees, graduate programmes.
Organisations will often operate outside the traditional 9-5 work pattern.
In an agile organisation there are typically a higher proportion of employees who work from home, with an office able to accommodate them when they do attend. Due to less face to face contact between an employee and their line manager this can result in less manager dictation and more empowered employees who place a greater emphasis on team working.
Will it work for my organisation?
In some industries there will not be much, if any flexibility in regards to location which is a key aspect of an agile workforce. For example, retail assistants, waiters and waitresses, teachers and fire-fighters have a clear need to be present at their base. However there are other opportunities to increase agility in the organisation regarding what staff actually do i.e. looking at the job design with a focus on results and performance.
The culture of an organisation is also important. The culture must be one where there are high levels of trust, and where performance is a key driver. It is important that line managers act as role models in this regard, in order to embed these values throughout the organisation.
Barriers and overcoming these
Managing employees in a flexible environment can be a challenge, as their contribution may be less obvious to a line manager who is not present to witness the employee working. Ensuring employees understand what they are expected to do and how work activities will be monitored will result in an open and transparent working relationship. The culture also needs to support and embrace agility; if it does not it is unlikely to work.
How can HR assist?
HR can encourage an organisation to use and develop policies and practices, for example job and organisational design, cultural transformation, learning and development and talent management to facilitate an agile organisation.
Kent HR provides a variety of human resources solutions to help you manage your people. Please contact Veronica Fox on 01622 655294 or Jo Woolerton on 01622 776439 if you would like to discuss how we can assist.
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