Why “agile” is the buzzword for business in 2022…
Over the last two years, businesses have shapeshifted and adapted to the unavoidable Covid crisis. Physical office spaces closed, zoom meeting rooms materialised, and suddenly, the professional became the personal.
Now that we’re emerging from the peak of the pandemic, businesses are in a new period of contemplation, albeit a less rapid one.
The main question is, how can internal business structures continue to drive growth while still enabling the social freedoms witnessed during the last few years? Many believe the answer to this is by transitioning into an agile organisation.
In this article, we’ll explore exactly what it means to implement agility within a workforce and how top organisations like Google are already piloting ideas for 2022.
What Is an Agile Organisation?
In basic terms, agility means to move quickly and easily.
However, many companies are adopting the term to characterise specific roles too. For instance, agile project management has become widely associated with a more collaborative and innovative approach rather than its former linear style. So, where does this fit into an agile business?
For business, agility often translates to efficient practice powered by flexibility. Rather than one practice, it’s an ethos that can be implemented at various levels within an organisation.
For operations, this could mean embedding new technology that automates customer information. For organisational structure, this could mean allowing people more freedom to choose their workspace.
Five key characteristics of an agile organisation are:
Implement quick and efficient decision-making
Customer-focused, offering variety and customisation
Adapt quickly to unexpected changes within their industry
Encourage collaboration and creativity in the workforce
Employ new technologies
The truth is, there is no “one solution fits all”. As each organisation is unique, it’s important to consider what works best for your internal structures. This is something we specialise in at Freshminds.
However, what’s most apparent, is that agile transformation largely starts with company and personal mindset. For instance, how the workforce interacts on a day-to-day basis, making employees feel valued, and establishing a positive relationship with clients.
So, what exactly can we expect from agile business practice in 2020? Let’s find out.
Building a Balanced Ecosystem Inside and Outside the Office
The physical environment we work in plays a huge role in company practice and customer experience. And it’s an important consideration for an agile business model. Last year, one huge concern about empty offices was that feedback loops would be harder to manage, leading to poor communication and decreasing profit.
Interestingly, data indicates that worker productivity and engagement hasn’t suffered from remote working. Research from Catalyst shows that;
“It’s increased innovation by 63%, work engagement by 75%, organisational commitment by 68%, and decreased work burnout by 23%.”
So instead of spurning flexibility, organisations are learning to embrace it. Common places of work now include;
In other words, an agile work environment has become synonymous with any location offering a decent network connection. This means that virtual communication is more important than ever.
In light of this, tech companies like Google are reviewing how to improve communication, whether remote or otherwise, between different business departments. They recognise that physical walls and floors can impact transparency and collaboration, as much as isolation.
One idea they’ve developed is “campfire rooms”. As the name suggests, these rooms are designed to be semi-circular spaces, where office workers can communicate just as easily with the virtual screens in the circle as those physically in the room. By re-designing their office interiors, they hope to develop modern working environments that truly reflect the future.
The Hub and Spoke Model
Additional ideas that play around with physical space are also in development. Companies have to consider that not every employee wants to work from home full-time or sacrifice their time on a lengthy commute.
One solution in the pipeline is the hub-and-spoke model. This concept decentralises the office; it includes a primary company HQ in a city centre (the hub) and various satellite offices (the spokes), which are located further out, closer to where employees may live.
Could this be an agile operating model for the future?
Adam Segal, CEO of Cove, thinks so. In an interview with Forbes, Segal says;
“We see the future of the office revolving around a hub-and-spoke approach for companies—that is all to say, how do you optimize for in-person interaction at the hub while providing choice, productive options and reduced commutes through spokes?”
For employees, this may bridge the gap between remote and office work. Not only would they receive standard amenities like a dedicated desk, kitchen, etc., but they avoid the monotony of getting to work. For companies, this could widen their talent pool and ensure that workers are well-catered for.
But there are some concerns about the concept. For instance, the technicalities of setting up multiple offices may be complex. What happens when you lose employees in one geographical area, and no one is using the space? Can the system only work in organised, urban areas?
In reality, this model may only work for cities like London and New York, where commutes are long and office real estate is readily available.
One huge advantage of agile working environments is flexible resourcing.
Companies were once limited to a talent pool based on their geographic location, whether that be city, town, or village. Now, talent can be sourced not just nationally but across the globe.
Globalised talent means that businesses can work with a candidate that has a rich caste of knowledge on a particular industry or business process. This can be hugely beneficial for companies going through a period of transformation.
Of course, implementing this is easier said than done. How do companies find the talent?
To avoid the hassle of sourcing and filtering eligible candidates, which can often take weeks to process, companies like Freshminds can bridge the gap.
With a diverse network of professionals, Freshminds works as a liaison between business needs and solutions. We can source expertise within days to consult on a new project, manage a transformation, reorganise an internal structure, and more. In essence, agility is our forte.
“When Freshminds was founded back in 2000, our business of placing on-demand management consultants was something of a niche sport – but in the last couple of years, we feel that it has gone mainstream, and our business has almost doubled in size.”
“Powered by the twin tailwinds of remote work and a wider acceptance of quality assured consultants, clients are tapping into a marketplace of talent that was historically hidden behind the glass doors of the big global professional service firms.”
James Callander, Managing Director at Freshminds
For companies that want to capitalise on interim resources, whether that be individuals or fully managed project teams, this can be a useful solution.
Typically, salary is based on skill-based concepts, such as experience and knowledge. In essence, companies pay what they believe is the value of an employee. On the other hand, location-based pay takes into consideration geographical location.
In 2020, Facebook announced that about 50% of the company’s workforce would be living remotely in 10 years while simultaneously admitting that these salaries would be based on local pay expectations and economies.
At present, the effectiveness of this new model is unclear. However, some companies like Zillow are taking a much more pragmatic approach. Dan Spaulding for Huffington Post comments,
“When you work for Zillow, your long-term earning potential is determined by how you perform and will not be limited by where you live.”
Other company CEO’s, like Ian White from Charthop, have made similar remarks, claiming that value-based pay is “clearer” and “more consistent”.
From a company’s perspective, face-to-face interaction may add to an employees value. Remote workers can’t participate as effectively in working culture, and performance may even suffer from a lack of creative synergy.
Additionally, these businesses may take the view that they are compensating those living in a more expensive area, which is bound to have higher goods and transport costs.
However, does this inspire an agile workforce? It’s difficult for remote workers not to feel disparaged.
Employees could feel like they are being punished for living in a less affluent area, and this may be out of necessity rather than choice. As seen above, some CEOs also appear uncomfortable with policing their employees’ personal lives.
Is Technology the Answer?
If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that technology enables an agile organisation. Without communication platforms like Microsoft Teams and Trello, remote working would have been implausible, and the ripple effect on businesses would have been catastrophic.
This sentiment also rings true for management systems within an organisation, whether for sourcing supply chains, content publishing, or marketing schemes. These processes have enabled businesses from the retail to the banking sector to still drive some profit through a turbulent period.
In 2022, the speed of digitalisation will only increase. Technological advancements are likely to be focused on mass automation; think the Industrial revolution, but instead of smoke and child labour, it’s code error pages and exacerbated IT teams.
Automating processes should make some roles feel less laborious for workers and streamline internal processes for increased efficiency. In turn, this could generate more motivation, leave employees to focus on other aspects of a business that needs some attention and provide more support to remote workers.
Additionally, many companies are turning to digital strategists to kick-start an agile transformation that can not only cope with flexible workforces but thrive with them.
Businesses may also need to think about implementing larger cyber security programs.
The Data Drive
As tech becomes more intelligent, it’s become easier for companies to collect data on specific operations, competitors, and customer habits.
Before, they would have relied on a traditional learning curve, like;
Idea - develop - test - analyse - learn
Now, an agile company will use data from consumers, clients, partners, and employees, to guide their growth. Data can build a fuller and more comprehensive picture of your clients wants and needs, which may generate more sales and reduce future risks.
However, the risk of ‘data overload’ is a concern too. When presented with too much information, companies may begin to lose sight of the forest for the trees. In this way, learning how to use data effectively will become a focus in the new year.
As mentioned above, adaptability is also a key characteristic of agility. Companies shouldn’t fear the unexpected but instead, have a process for dealing with change. In this way, data collection can also be helpful. By monitoring shifts in client and industry behaviour, companies can also adapt their services to current trends.
Building a Dynamic Culture
We’ve seen a dramatic shift in work behaviours throughout the last decade; this has only been amplified throughout the pandemic.
Never before have our work and personal lives overlapped so visibly. And in many cases, this has led to a “softening” of work culture. Rather than tight-lipped ‘hellos’ over coffee and side-eye judgment for leaving the office on time, many companies are embracing open dialogue and considering employees personal responsibilities, such as child care.
By welcoming this change, companies can implement a positive, agile, and dynamic work culture that makes work more enjoyable and actually more productive.
In the new year, it’s likely we’ll see a further championing of traits that were once deemed unneeded in some industries, such as;
Some companies are finding that emotional intelligence is a keen ingredient in building agile infrastructures.
Emeric Kubiak, head of science at Assessfirst adds to this insight. In an article published by DiversityQ he criticises the idea of “good” or “bad personality traits. Instead, he emphasises that traits should that be reflected in how well they can be used to person a job or role.
Therefore, it’s a company’s responsibility to carefully consider how suited a candidate may be for the jobs they’ll be competing on a day-to-day basis.
Watch: Our webinar talks about how promoting diversity and inclusivity in the workplace can encourage productivity.
Final Thoughts on Agile Organisations in 2022
All in all, 2022 will be a dynamic year for business. Many organisations will be implementing more agile and digitalised structures that not only support employees but improve sales and drive customer satisfaction.
For companies that want to grow, thinking about future organisational structures is a must. The good news is that it’s easy to do with a supportive and knowledgeable network. At Freshminds, we have over 20 years of experience in transforming operations, embedding technologies, and innovating for the future.
Get in contact with our team for even more advice on transforming business practices and generating meaningful growth.