You’ve probably heard the word “agile” thrown around in meetings or general discussions about workforce productivity, leadership responsibilities, and project management. Agility has become all the rage in the last couple of years, but with pandemic and volatile work environments, it is now crucial for any industry leader—executive, founder, entrepreneur, or manager—to understand and integrate the true meaning of this mindset into the professional workforce.
If you’re just getting started, we’re here to lend a helping hand because this is the future, and it’s here. It’s time you learn how to react to changing mindsets, evolving environments, faster innovation, disruptive trends, and advancing technology without falling behind.
Setting Up the Rules of an Agile Workforce
Transforming from a traditional setup to an agile one can be overwhelming for any settled business – but, especially for big corporations with compartmentalized departments and little to no engagement among teams. Working cross-functionally is becoming an inevitable part of every career, and shifting toward agility provides the proper structure to achieve that.
Organizations operating inside previously dominant paradigms, as well as just setting up businesses, need to embrace this change if they want to keep thriving in a fast-changing landscape.
A fundamental aspect of an agile workforce is a diverse employee and talent pool comprising full-time and part-time staff, consultants, freelancers, contractors, and interim team members. This diversity creates a space receptive to expertise, skill, innovation, young talent, learners, and radical ideas alike.
An agile workforce doesn’t focus on only the experienced industry professionals but reimagines the meaning of an indispensable team. Rather than focusing on the number of years a potential employee has on their resume, it focuses on adding value to the team.
Agility provides a framework that simultaneously gratifies client and customer-centricity, revenue building, workforce productivity, and core business competencies.
CEOs, founders, business owners, and entrepreneurs need to consider these five fundamental aspects of agility when building an agile workforce.
1. Stability vs. Dynamism
Innovative business models are already moving toward building dynamic work environments that look past the bureaucracy. Agility companies invest in technology, people, and strategies that work in a collaborative environment to achieve common goals.
There are no office politics, tall stack of files waiting for one person’s approval, or bonus points for putting in the hours without accomplishing anything. Rather, there are stable working conditions where employees are empowered to learn, evolve and adapt while staying focused on finding the right solutions without the fear of red tape.
With an agile mindset, founders create a framework within which the company can both exist and expand within the previously set up business model and respond to new challenges and opportunities. A balance of stability and dynamism lays out the perfect pathway for working conditions that give each employee a unique and equally valuable role to retain performance.
With this balance, founders and executives also shed the rules of traditional planning, reviewing, evaluations, budgeting, and implement rolling budgets and OKR (objectives and key results) management system to track performance and progress, encourage engagement, and create alignments between teams.
With the objectives and key results management system, agile companies can achieve ambitious goals with trackable analytics and measurable results.
2. Flexibility vs. Discipline
A radical rethinking to agility requires reimagining orthodox organizational models, technologies, and productivity benchmarks.
Agile companies manage to think beyond the widely accepted 9-5 routine and emphasize creating products, services, and solutions that can meet changing customer needs and market conditions. This transformation doesn’t happen at the cost of employees’ freedom or affects coordination between stakeholders but rather amplifies it.
The true meaning of an agile workforce lies in shedding hierarchical structures and creating a scalable network of teams allowed to work flexibly from anywhere in the world. The key is to find the balance between collaboration and coordination, and individual independence. An agile leader who wants a progressive company culture understands business and social networks and creates harmony to foster a sustainable growth policy.
In agile teams, every member has a clear understanding of their responsibilities and can make decisions —within working guidelines —to support the delivery of exceptional results. There are no strict rules and directions provided by the top management and teams are trusted to adapt and implement changes as they see fit.
3. Acquiring Talent vs. Hiring Employees
It’s about empowering organizations and their workforce to manage and respond to short-term changes and quickly developing trends that may die before you fully understand and capitalize on them. While technological innovations and behavioral transformations may give you time to catch up with changing customer desires, market volatility and changes in demand or supply require an immediate intervention—a gap that can only be filled by agility in HR functions.
The primary difference between agile talent acquisition and traditional hiring is the proactive vs. reactive approach. To build a truly agile workforce, founders review their long-term goals, build a “pipeline model”, and network extensively among professional and social structures to create a pool of talent that’s ready to lend their services on-demand.
Not only does this fast track and eliminate the redundancies of the hiring process, but it also allows companies to test and learn new approaches in conducive environments. A mixture of a full-time and contingent team creates opportunities for employees to gain valuable experience outside of their traditionally allotted roles.
Millennials and Generation Z are significantly impacting the recruitment world. The idea of working in one organization for 30 years and retiring with pension benefits isn’t alluring anymore. So, executives need to introduce shorter recruitment cycles that focus on candidate’s value and merits and offer quick feedback to save time and build a responsive employer branding in the market.
Additionally, internal talent mobility also creates a strong and agile workforce giving a competitive advantage to full-time employees and creating channels for employee engagement. Leveraging existing talent rather than hiring new candidates to fill positions builds resilience and productivity while saving time, money, and critical resources —all crucial indicators of agile workforces.
4. Competing vs. Value Creation
By building a dynamic environment receptive to new ideas, innovations, and pro-risk strategies, an agile workforce recognizes the abundance of challenges and opportunities in the market and strives to create value with and for customers and stakeholders. The goal is to stay customer-centric and provide inventive solutions.
The focus of agility is recognizing the significance of a strategy, not merely measure success. The yardstick isn’t your biggest rival but your own personal and organizational goals that redefine what value and success mean to your business.
Additionally, agile organizations also redefine the meaning of leadership and replace directors and executives with visionaries and coaches who all come together to collaborate and deliver results.
Team members empower each other by learning from each other, not by quashing the competition.
5. Accountability vs. Self-Management
An agile ecosystem creates a goal-driven environment that wants to develop a culture of trust and focus on what is right, not who is right.
Teams are empowered to make decisions within their performance criteria and are free to implement out-the-box strategies by collaborating with other departments. This cuts down the need to wait for managerial approvals and expedites decision-making.
Employees are encouraged to take on multiple roles and work cross-functionally to expand on their knowledge and skills without the fear of failure or judgment. The self-management approach empowers each member to assume a leadership role—when required—based on their skill and competence rather than position. This creates a sense of accomplishment and ownership that translates to higher levels of self-accountability and productiveness.
Agile methods also accelerate feedback by providing employees the tools to measure and analyze their success. Teams are only accountable for the end-to-end results of their performance and not every step of the process.
Agile workforces emerge from a radical mindset shift in a company’s leadership and founding roles. Without fully realizing the true essence of the agility paradigm, startups and entrepreneurs can’t leave a mark in rapidly changing market dynamics, regardless of the industry. New trends require accepting behavioral shifts, and customer learning and cultivating agility can help break from the traditional business models.
As a founder, your aim should be to become a listener who can also switch roles to become a collaborator, communicator, and learner as required. If you’re willing to experiment and aren’t afraid to change course, you’ve already entered the agility framework.
Welcome to the future!