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Every so often the business world latches on to a trend tipped to revolutionise everything as we know it. Sometimes these trends sink from our memories as quickly as they appear, but sometimes these predictions are correct – the rise of social media in marketing is a case in point.

Another example that is rapidly gaining traction is the idea of organisational agility or, the name you may be more familiar with, agile working.

So what is organisational agility?

According to the Agile Future Forum (AFF), agile working is a means of establishing the optimal workforce to support organisational objectives. Flexible working – offering employees options for a better work/life balance – has been commonplace for some time, but many businesses still question the viability of these employee-centric practices. Organisational agility seeks to make the business case for change, as well as the HR case.

This shift away from the traditional working model is about more about than just remote working and flexible hours though, a truly agile workforce takes four main factors into consideration:

  • Employee working hours
  • Where and how employees work
  • The scope to multi-task employees to cover a range of roles
  • Employment options – full-time, freelancers and contractors

Organisational agility considers each of these four factors, to establish business operations that improve performance, staff satisfaction and offer financial benefits.

Enabling agility
So, if organisational agility has so much potential, how do business make it work for them? Technology is crucial.  Unpredictable though it may be, it’s no secret that the future of business is going to be driven by technology. In fact, 80% of business leaders agree, expecting advances on technology to have the greatest impact on work by 2020.

But business leaders aren’t making baseless predictions. Since 2010 we’ve seen forward thinking organisations take steps to create workplaces that are well aligned with advances in technology. These organisations are challenging the idea of the traditional office with the advance of the agile workplace.

Whether through flexible working hours, home working or part-time working hours, the benefits agile workplaces offer employees are clear. What is less clear, is exactly how the agile workplace supports the organisation itself. So let’s explore the business case.

The Financial Benefits
According to research from the Agile Future Forum (AFF), adopting innovative agile working practices can generate a “further value of 3-7% of workforce cost and sales uplift of up to 11%” . This makes for a strong financial argument.

But the financial argument extends beyond a leaner workforce and increased sales. An agile workplace can mean significant savings on key overheads for office buildings, amenities and resources – elements that can often leave sizeable dents in profits.

The agile workplace often creates added value, most often by way of productivity. Agile workplaces allow businesses to optimise the workforce so that it is always well placed to meet fluctuating workload demands while ensuring they never operate over capacity during low-demand periods. AFF’s research pilot found that when legal firm Eversheds gave employees the freedom to choose their preferred model of working, 28% of its staff reported increased productivity, with 14% seeing an increase in chargeable hours.

Output and Knowledge
There’s also the output and knowledge argument. Multi-skilling, the act of training staff in multiple skill-sets, is a fundamental component of the agile workforce. It allows employees to become more flexible in their approaches to work and it allows teams to become more effective as a wider unit.

But what about from a business perspective?

Multi-skilled employees allow businesses to benefit from higher quality output, more stringent quality control, and a more varied and in-depth product or service knowledge base across the business.

As well as facilitating a better service provision, this diverse skillset and knowledge base allows workforces to become less reliant on the expertise or skills of specific individuals, effectively acting as contingency for businesses in periods of extremely high demand. The agile workplace stretches to flexibility of individual roles and remits to pursue the good of the organisation as opposed to the individual or department. We also need to consider the effect agile workplaces have on employees and their morale. After all, employees have long been calling for the level of flexibility we’re heading towards. Offering increased freedom, flexibility and a more healthy work/life balance means an agile workplace is a happy workplace.

And this attracts talent.

As we move ever closer to the flexible, connected and data driven workplace, those willing to shift from more rigid and traditional work models stand the best chance at attracting and retaining the high-performers. This shouldn’t be surprising though. Agile working paves the way for businesses to be lean and reactive, and to innovate – something often viewed as important to ambitious professionals.

This shift from the traditional model isn’t happening slowly either, just take a look at the stats.

By 2020:

  • 89% of businesses will offer a ‘mobile workstyle’ to support remote working
  • Hot desking will become the norm, the number of desks per every 10 employees reducing from 8 to 7
  • The average number of (BYOD) devices connected to the corporate network will increase from 4 to 7
  • 20% more businesses will use hosted or cloud-based services
  • 39% of businesses expect video conferencing rooms to be widespread

With technology clearly playing a pivotal role in the future of the workplace, reaping the business benefits of the agile workplace means you must follow in the footsteps of the smart organisations who are already aligning their organisations with agile workforces.

This can be a challenge, but it doesn’t need to be.

We’ve prepared a report that reviews the latest thinking and research on the concept to summarise exactly what organisational agility means, the full range of benefits it can offer your business, and what you need to do to begin embracing it.

To take the first steps to becoming an agile, more profitable business, simply download the report by clicking HERE.

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