Strategy & LeadershipIs agile working still the best choice for your business?

Is agile working still the best choice for your business?

Agile working has been popular for a good while now. There are many benefits for organisations that choose to adopt this working style, but, with so many businesses having adopted agile, we have to ask – is it still as relevant and effective as once thought? With insights from People Leaders from Vodafone and Sky Betting Gaming, HRD Connect takes a look at the value of agile today.

Rapid changes to workplaces have resulted in established companies often struggling to adapt. Becoming agile in the new age of work could be the key to succeeding in a complex and fast-paced working world.

A company settled in this agile working world is Vodafone. The successful mobile network organisation has 500 employees working under an agile system. In the past two years, they set up agile teams working in their digital areas of web, app development, and marketing.

“We’ve successfully changed from being a traditional telecommunications company, into a much more digitally advanced business,” said Jamie Tait, Head of HR, Vodafone.

“The introduction of agile working has inspired our teams to think differently and embrace new ways of working.”

Agile working is becoming more of a trend in business. Studies by Jobsite found that 73% of businesses are aware of what agile working is, while 47% have experienced placing candidates in agile careers.

“Agile is no longer a novelty: a lot of established companies have been using it for years, and have tweaked the structure of the business to match the new working style,” said Paul Allsopp, Managing Director, The Agile Organisation.

“It’s about finding the ability to constantly change and discover new ways to meet business requirements.”

Adopting this working style could force many businesses to stray away from the conventional 9-5 working style. Doing so could heavily benefit an entire workforce.

There are many challenges in putting an agile working strategy together. Jamie explained that the HR team at Vodafone put its existing staff through extensive training, and improved its employee branding to attract the right talent.

“We had to change the mindset of working amongst our workforce through line management and budgeting,” said Jamie.

“Furthermore, it was important to address performance management. Finding ways to manage performance when people are working in various groups remotely was crucial.”

“Without traditional management in place, it becomes strenuous to adapt to a new working system.”

Agile working is difficult to foster because it’s not prescriptive – there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

“Each business is different and needs to figure out how, what, where and when it works for them.” continued Paul.

Many new policies such as strictly aligning teams, having an organised backlog of activities, and continually improving flexible methods are vital to make a swift shift to agile working.

“The benefits of agile working are clear. It leads to greater speed and gives businesses the adaptability to change,” continued Jamie

“It can additionally enable technology and product development to be delivered in a much shorter space of time.”

Companies that support agile working must utilise technology to guarantee that the transition is a smooth process. 58% of candidates that Jobsite surveyed believed that getting technology right was more important than offering better benefits, higher wages, and shorter hours.

Agile working can improve employee wellbeing, reduce operation costs, decrease staff turnover, and provide flexibility to meet customer demands.

Despite the benefits, Jobsite discovered many disadvantages in agile working, such as management difficulties, less collaboration, and poor company culture. Therefore, if companies choose to restructure their business around agile working, there must be a clear and concise relationship between teams, and the workforce must be ready for upcoming changes.

“Get the mindset change embedded in your team first so they understand the ‘why’,” said Joanna Edwards, Head of People Operations, Sky Betting & Gaming.

“Agile ways of working are the approach but not the destination. Teams need to make agile working suit them and find their blueprint.”

Another potential problem in agile working is a lack of organisational structure. If a company is agile and flexible, a workforce may struggle with knowing the structure of processes internally, leading to reduced productivity.

“Hierarchy and agility aren’t incompatible. While some see it as chaos, there is a level of stability in agile working that is unseen to the naked eye,” continued Paul.

“It’s important for any business to understand the boundaries associated with agile working. After all, more autonomy equals more responsibility, and this can only be a good thing.”

Many organisations have already decided to follow an agile working route and have experienced numerous benefits. Although many perks come with adopting an agile working policy, it’s vital for managers to first understand why they want to introduce agile working, and how it can positively impact their business desires.

The same Jobsite survey asked candidates whether agile working could eventually replace the traditional office environment – 43% said yes, and 39% said they weren’t sure. As time moves on and more businesses experiment with agile, the working landscape could continue to see drastic changes and gradually drift away from conventional working styles.

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