Creating an Agile Workforce: The Need for Speed

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Today’s business success hinges on strategic agility and the ability to execute in a timely manner. In a continually evolving global business environment, opportunities for growth are juxtaposed against a shrinking pool of high-performing talent that can quickly seize those opportunities.

The ability to anticipate talent needs, optimize a talented workforce, and keep retention rates high, despite constant change is the key to a company’s sustainable competitive advantage. According to the Pricewaterhouse Coopers 11th Annual Global CEO Survey access to talent remains a major issue. Less than half of all CEOs agreed that their HR teams were equipped to handle the change required to compete for talent.

What is Agility?
“Agility” is the ability to change the body’s position efficiently, and requires the integration of isolated movement skills using a combination of balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength, endurance and stamina. Sheppard and Young (2006) define agility as “a rapid whole body movement with change of velocity or direction in response to a stimulus.” In Business, agility means the capability of rapidly and cost efficiently adapting to organisational changes in context of changing business environments. Agility is therefore, the ability of an organization to adapt to change and also to seize opportunities that become available due to change. While there has been much work and discussion of what agility is and how firms can become agile there is little work at measuring the agility of a firm.
An Agile workforce can be defined as a culture or organization with the knowledge based diverse workforce that can adapt to a changing business environment. To accomplish this human resources must build a work force that is flexible, must have a diverse business and technically knowledgeable in all areas of business, be able to trouble shoot day to day, be cost effective and completive. HR need to assess and analyze their current corporate culture and employees, and establish practices and strategies to develop and facilitate an agile workforce through empowering employees.

The main motives for pursuing workforce agility and agile employees, can be classified as improved efficiency, enhanced flexibility, increased quality, and improved work culture (Hopp, Tekin and Van Oyen, 2002).

The following are some strategies to support and encourage an agile workforce

1. Assess a current baseline of how agile your employees currently are. This will establish gaps in agility and change readiness and what is required in anticipation of changes when they do happen.
2. Talent management is another important priority which includes, recruitment, reward and retention of agile employees who have natural strengths in their ability to think creatively and adapt and problem solve amidst change.
3. Market focus and position is another building block of high performance and how the organization understands and responds to its markets. Critical elements include management of the business portfolios and market insight, with the ability to sense market trends and changes and respond to them proactively.
4. Fostering leadership in managers and team leads and qualities such as adaptability, creativity and innovation, assertiveness and risk taking.
5. Adopting and promoting a work culture and mindset of continuous renewal, an organization helps to create a culture that supports and motivates the kinds of behaviors required to be more agile.


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