E.U. or not – these are the ins and outs of Agile Working…
7th June 2016
To many business leaders, Flexible Working is perceived as a legislation driven employee benefit offering little upside for the employer and usually adopted as a result of legislative changes imposed by Brussels or Westminster. But on the global stage, progressive businesses from multi-nationals to start-ups are mixing business and customer needs with people resource as part of their overall business strategy, and in doing so have developed the ethos of Agile Working.
How does Agile Working vary from Flexible Working?
Flexible working starts with the business and customers in mind, whilst at the same time incorporating the needs of employees on a legislative and practical basis. It takes agile working from what was frequently seen as an employee benefit to being a strategic benefit, resulting in a positive impact on customer service or the bottom line.
Agile working has four basic principles:
- Time: When do people work? When do customers need our people to do work?
- Location: Where do people work? Fixed / various locations, home etc offering flexibility to workforce, business and customers
- Role: What people do? Is it siloed or are their benefits for multi-skilling?
- Source: Who carries out work? Employees, temporary workforce or third party suppliers?
Many of you reading this will no doubt question what is different. After all we’ve had homeworking, hot-desking and mobile working for some time. In isolation none of this is new and represents “workstyles”.
Agile however, overlays business and customer needs to create a work-force of the right skills in the right place, flexing to customer and market demands – think more along the lines of “smart working”.
As there is no “one size fits all”, Agile can be difficult to define. The Agile Organisation offers an explanation: “Agile working is about bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology, time and place together to find the most appropriate and effective way for working to carry out a particular task. It is working within the guidelines of the task without boundaries”
Agile is straightforward or complex depending on your viewpoint and the organisation involved. However, results cannot be disputed, many organisations have found agile working can drive business benefits in a number of ways.
- Meeting Customer needs more effectively
- Increasing quality of workforce outputs due to initiatives such as multi-skilling
- Increased productivity, innovation, cost reductions
- Talent attraction and retention through increased working choices
Agile in Action – How it Makes a Difference
Research by the AFF identified these examples of how Agile Working made a tangible difference to companies.
- Vodafone made efficiency gains of £11.5M utilising technology and spaces for meetings and in the process shortened decision making times
- Tesco generated value equivalent to 13% of workforce costs through multi-skilling and part time staff utilisation, creating a workforce reflective of customer demands and peaks
- Ford saved 3% of total manufacturing plant costs through multi-skilling
- SME, MTM Products has seen a 10% increase in productivity
- By offering staff the opportunity to reduce their hours on a temporary basis, should the business need them to, KPMG was able to avoid redundancies and saved themselves around £4.7m as a result.
Agile / Smart working is not the preserve of global organisations, moreover it’s the competitive advantage deployed by forward thinking organisations. It is interesting to consider that with its roots in a European initiative of Flexible Working, Agile Working has now developed and grown and is providing tangible economic benefits to many companies.
Maybe we need to make more of what comes out of Europe and look for opportunities as well as threats? Or maybe not. [This was written and published around the time of the EU referendum].