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4 Ideas to ensure you are ready for the agile workforce

Anja van Beek

Most companies are under pressure to grow their businesses while they try to get a grip on the changing business landscape, technology and also customer behaviour. This means leaders need to become better equipped to lead the organisation’s people through constant and rapid change. They need to build a more agile workforce that is ready to adjust to the evolving needs of the market. I must also add that this goes beyond offering flexible working hours or the ability to work from home.

It is about shifting the organisational culture to one that embraces learning, change and a culture of innovation. It is also about recruiting, developing and retaining people who thrive in a changing world – chameleon workers who can adapt to change, learn new skills in a short space of time and seamlessly move from assignment to assignment.

In the Workforce 2025 survey conducted by Randstad last year, discovered that of those employees that do hold agile jobs:
• 48% said they felt doing so offered them better career growth, and
• 56% said it earned them more money.
• About 38% of those surveyed said that they feel more secure working in an agile capacity.

Here are a few ideas about how you can ensure your company don’t fall behind in the years to come:

1. Develop a learning organisation rather than a ‘training strategy’
One of the major challenges is helping your team to keep up with the rapid pace of change in today’s digital world. With mobile technology, the cloud, analytics, blockchain and the Internet of Things changing the world so rapidly, companies and their workforces need to learn (and adapt) fast.

Leaders need to look beyond rigid learning programmes and more towards creating a culture where continuous learning is valued. This is all about creating opportunities for mentorship, providing on-the-job learning opportunities, and responding quickly when new skills are needed.

2. Accommodate a more fluid workforce
Flexibility (for employees and the company) is becoming the norm - the way that businesses structure their workforces is changing as they begin to source more of their talent through freelancers, and crowdsourcing. What’s more, we can also expect to see a further churn in the workforce as more young professionals join an organisation to take part in a project or achieve a specific career goal – and then leave after two to three years.

Even within the walls of the business, we can expect to see teams become more fluid as people are brought together for specific projects and initiatives, and then disbanded so they can move to other parts of the business. In a sense, many parts of the business will follow the same sort of ‘gig economy’ model as movie studios and agencies, building bespoke and sometimes virtual teams of in-house and external skills for each project.

HR teams will need to facilitate this shift, making it easier for managers to source and develop the talent and skills when they need it and where they need it.

For example, they might build databases of skills that they share with managers and facilitate talent exchange programmes between different business units and departments.

3. Say “YES”! to a happy (and healthy) culture
Leaders play an important role in shaping organisational culture. To support a more agile business, they need to think about:
• how and where they source talent;
• how they reward and incentivise the right behaviour;
• how they support teams and employees through their tools and processes;
• and how they measure performance.

4. Consider and create flexible career options
In an agile workforce, leaders will need to rethink how it develops career paths, salary bands and job descriptions.

HR business partners will need to support managers and their teams as they organically develop their own roles and tasks, often on a project-by-project basis. This will also mean new ways of measuring performance and rewarding employees that meet the needs of a changing workplace.

For example, tech companies like Google allow engineers to spend some of their workday working on passion projects and innovative ideas rather than making them spend all their time on a narrowly defined scope. This has the benefit of creating new ideas for the business and keeping employees engaged – in turn, helping with talent retention.

We operate in a fast-changing world; some calls it the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment.

Leaders need to rethink how their teams can become more agile and how they can support their teams in this ecosystem.

Anja van Beek

• Anja is an independent leadership consultant, talent strategist and coach with over 20 years of HR executive experience in the Africa, Middle East, Asia and Australia region. She has lead multi-national teams through transition and change management.

• She is a champion of leadership development and has interests in corporate culture, employee engagement and mentoring. Her other HR passions are strategic business partnering, succession planning, talent management and reward & recognition.

• Anja is a speaker and facilitator on cultural change, organisational emotional intelligence, and adaptive leadership. Anja consults executives and leaders from small businesses through to large organisations on all people-related aspects with a specific focus on integrating the talent of the business into the overall strategy.

• Over the years she has become an expert in coaching leaders and teams in managing behavioural change in the ever-changing business landscape. Anja also works for various companies as a facilitator in the area of leadership development, mentoring and change management.