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The world of work has transformed over the last couple of years. Remote work, flexible hours, employee well-being, and an erratic market have made workplace agility an increasingly interesting concept to businesses looking to stand out and gain a competitive edge.

What is Workplace Agility?

Workplace agility is a company’s ability to adapt swiftly and cohesively to the changing needs of the market. Agility can be adopted at scale or on the team level. The former is the preferred agility approach as explained here by a recent McKinsey report:

This means reimagining the entire organization as a network of high-performing teams, each going after clear, end-to-end business-oriented outcomes, and possessing all of the skills needed to deliver, such as a bank boosting the performance of customer journeys; a retailer analyzing turns and earns of product categories; a mining company reviewing production- and safety-process steps; an oil and gas company planning wells; a machinery player undertaking full product management, from R&D to go-to-market; or a teleoperator simplifying products. The teams are essentially interconnected mini businesses, obsessed with creating value rather than just delivering functional tasks.”

Overall, the goal of workplace agility is increased productivity and engagement levels, which are attained through quick adaptation in scale, technology, people, and mission. As McKinsey reports, successful agile transformations delivered around 30% gains in efficiency, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and operational performance.

What are some examples of workplace agility in action?

Hiring contingent workers is an excellent example of workplace agility. No matter the position, when you engage with a contingent workforce, you are able to scale efficiently and cost-effectively. When facing volatile operational and supply chain demands the ability to deploy talent quickly and at scale is key to agility. Additionally, permanent employees will appreciate the support and the ability to flex to meet current demands.

Remote work and flexible schedules are other examples of workplace agility. With these policies, it isn’t about traditional hours or offices but about letting your team produce on their schedule.

Workplace agility also means empowering employees with the ability to engage across higher levels of the business - flattening the org chart.

When seen as a whole, these examples illustrate how workplace agility contributes to the diversity at a company. Whether for contingent or permanent roles, the ability to hire the person with the right skills to work when it is best for them opens up a much wider and more diverse talent pool.

How can you improve your workplace agility?

  • Leaders take action. Trust and a collaborative spirit must be displayed from the top down. By empowering employees to make decisions on the fly and removing the temptation to micromanage, you create the room to innovate.

  • Encourage creativity. Matt Ridley once said, “Innovation is the child of freedom and the parent of prosperity.” Encourage innovation by providing the freedom and resources your employees need to experiment and even fail.

  • Speed up decision-making. Don’t create a bureaucracy where every little change requires a form in triplicate. True empowerment means employees can swiftly assess a situation and make appropriate decisions then and there.

  • Ensure agile staffing. Consider how your teams are structured. Perhaps a contingent workforce where you bring on only the people with the skills you need when you need them could help with agility.

  • Encourage collaboration. Leverage the latest technology and hold team-building activities to ensure collaboration across all departments. The days of siloed companies are over and those holding to this traditional structure are stifling agility.

The Opportunity for Transformation

This Forbes article advises that companies view unanticipated change as an opportunity for transformation; and that, in a nutshell, is workplace agility. By following the steps laid out above, you will be able to proactively address changes in your business, talent market, industry, or economy, anticipated or not, with agility. This agility will not only keep your business afloat but allow you to ditch entrenched practices and innovate your way to success.

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