Agile is one of hottest buzzwords in business but do firms properly understand how to work in this fashionable manner…
There have been undeniable changes to modern working patterns and environments. These days, it is no longer just the trendiest start-ups who boast on-site bars, meditation sanctuaries and truly flexible working in efforts to attract, retain and engage staff. This is where agile working environments come in. It is a phrase that has continually cropped up in the HR space as employers try their hand at engaging and retaining top talent in a market which increasingly demands flexible work solutions – but what exactly does agile working mean?
According to iOfficeCorp, an agile working environment is based on a set of principles and values that allow employees to work where, when and how they choose in order to unlock optimum performance and output. It is work that isn’t defined by a fixed location or schedule. Yet, while the notion may seem simple, Fujistu’s HR Director UK&I, Jason Fowler, tells HR Grapevine that as a lot of organisations use the term agile there are a broad range of definitions that apply.
For some, agile working environments might mean breakout spaces and quiet zones but to others the term may refer to the agile methodologies adopted whereby solutions are derived through the collaborative effort of cross-functional teams. “The term [agile] can be used quite liberally. In a true agile environment, what we have experienced is that, if you bring together cross-functional teams who are able to concentrate on what they’re trying to deliver as a whole rather than the independent segmented parts, then [employees] are able to get a sense of what their part in the delivery of it is,” says Fowler.
Can you make your revenue agile?
Aside from keeping staff happy and engaged, agile does positively influence the bottom line too. 2019 research sponsored by CA Technologies found that those business leaders who had been able to leverage agile working practices throughout their company reported 60% revenue and profit growth than the rest of the organisations surveyed.
As a result, Fowler adds that the multinational firm is implementing some agile methodology but isn’t ‘defaulting’ to ‘agile’ because the methods don’t suit aspects of the company's work. “In terms of the positives, where we have deployed it in a sharp way and for the right types of work, we have seen a big up-tick in the level of engagement that we get from those teams because it allows those team members to feel as though they are genuinely co-owners of the outcome, rather than responsible simply for their part in the change,” he says. In fact, employees like agile so much that separate research found over a third would prefer an agile working environment over a pay rise.
Yet HR shouldn’t see agile as a silver bullet. Fowler explains that agile working environments do come with a caveat. He says: “The misuse or misunderstanding of the term and being too liberal with it can start to create confusion. I think because it is a relatively new concept, organisations are still getting sharp on what their definition is.” Fowler adds that employers should also be clear on what the term means, or else confusion could translate into disengagement. “You [can] erode the benefits and perhaps that’s where you can see that some organisations have done an agile wash – everybody gets put through some sort of online training and that’s great to initiate awareness but it doesn’t instigate change,” he concludes.