Building a More Agile Workforce

Workforce agility relates to an organization’s ability to switch gears, change directions, take on new projects, and pursue opportunities quickly and succinctly. Some argue that having an agile workforce is more important than ever, citing increased competition, new technologies, and a rapidly changing look to how and where people work.

While the idea of having an agile workforce seems like something just about everyone can get behind, what does it mean for your organization?

Defining Workforce Agility

No two workforces are alike. One company’s definition of agility might look like absolute chaos at the business just across the street. 

Taken from this standpoint, agility will mean something different everywhere, depending on a number of things, including:

  • Your industry and market
  • The technology and systems you use
  • Customer expectations
  • Training and capabilities of your workers
  • Hiring goals

Therefore, before you can create a more agile workforce, you first must translate the meaning of what a more agile workforce would mean for your organization.

  • Does it mean expanding your hiring practice, and/or adding remote workers to your employee population?
  • Do you want to break down silos in your workplace culture, and create a more collaborative dynamic across workgroups and departments?
  • Would utilizing independent contractors, help you leverage talent without having to take on costs involved in hiring, onboarding, and employee benefits?

Below, we’ll explore insights in greater detail, and offer key questions to ask as you review your existing workforce dynamics.

Workforce agility isn’t just about adopting a new mindset. It also includes incorporating tools, practices, and organizational policies that help enlist employee buy-in. Read our recent report, “The Employee Experience,” and gain insight into ways you can inspire new levels of engagement and excitement among employees.

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Agility and Your Workforce

To define what workforce agility means to your organization, begin by addressing two critical questions related to projects and people:

  • What is the structure by which workers at all levels complete tasks and projects?
  • What motivates your people to grow their skillsets and capabilities?

Reviewing things through these two lenses—how work gets done, and what drives your people—can be the key to arriving at defining your organization’s version of an agile workforce. Once there, you can:

  • Focus on potential areas of growth and change.
  • Examine gaps, and solve inefficiencies.
  • Lay out a plan for what your workforce will look like in the next 12 – 18 months.

Let’s dig a little deeper into these two key questions :

1. What is the structure by which workers at all levels complete tasks and projects?

Think of a startup. Typically, they’re made up of a handful of workers who get things done when and how they need to. They might have investors behind the scenes. but it’s also possible that the founders are putting in hours of sweat equity to make things work.

Because of the nature of a startup, or a small business still finding its footing, agility is essentially baked into the work day. As an organization grows, however, along come new systems, processes, methods, and managerial levels. If agility exists anywhere, it’s usually at the department or workgroup level. Organizationally speaking, the business that used to zip around like a speed boat now moves like a cargo tanker. Change is slow-to-nonexistent.

Still, workers are required to complete tasks. What structure do they follow to do so? More to the point: how much ownership do they have over the tasks they complete?

As you review your processes, consider the following in relation to the way that certain processes impact your workers:

  • Would you say your organization is entrepreneurially minded? Do managers tend to trust workers, and offer up a good deal of ownership on each project?
  • Do workers know and follow the chain of command when they need to hunt down answers? Are they equipped to deal with uncertainties, customer complaints, and/or constructive feedback from peers or managers? 
  • Do things like your onboarding program, mentoring, and performance management lay out a long-term vision for employee success?

2. What motivates your people to grow their skillsets and capabilities?

Today’s workforce is more diverse than at any time in history. Geographically, workers in all industries commute from greater distances than ever, and regularly clock in to work from across time zones. Generationally speaking, members of four, or even five generations, work side-by-side in some workplaces.

In addition, with the growing emphasis on personalization and the employee experience, more and more workplaces are encouraging workers to be themselves in the workplace, while job seekers are actively looking for employment that will allow them to do this very thing.

As organizations continue to encourage as diverse a workforce as possible, it’s important to identify the things that motivate workers at all levels to engage with work, expand their skills, seek training, and take ownership.

As you consider your people, here are some questions to explore:

  • How would you describe your current model of collaboration? Does your existing culture encourage, or even require, collaboration? Or, have you been operating in a fairly siloed environment?
  • Skill-building can be a key link to greater employee engagement. It can also help your organization become more agile. Are your workers aware of, and interested in training, job shadowing, or job rotations in your workplace? What other opportunities can motivate workers to expand key skills?
  • How well do independent contractors blend into your workflow? Is this an avenue through which you can potentially expand certain services, without taking on too many new overhead costs?

At the end of the day, any path that leads toward creating a more agile workforce will include your hiring, onboarding, and training practices. As you build a strategy to become more agile, start by exploring your current workforce dynamic, including your operations, and the things that motivate the employees you count on every day.

Is your organization ready to embrace the challenges of building a more agile workforce?Getting the most out of your employees starts with things like onboarding, mentoring, and workforce planning. myStaffingPro’s applicant tracking software helps you hire with an eye toward immediate needs, and long-term workforce goals. Contact a representative today.

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