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4 steps to achieve workforce agility.


Meredith Stack


In the workplace of the future, having an agile workforce is key. More than 80 percent of executives in a recent study said workforce agility was “the most important characteristic of a successful organization.” Yet barely one-in-six employees feel their companies have the mindset, tools, and processes in place to respond quickly to business needs.

If execs know agility is so important, why are they having such a hard time?

They are struggling to make this transition because there are no easy answers. Creating a more agile workforce is about more than hiring for a new set of skills or adopting agile practices. It’s about changing the way work gets done.

To be successful in the future, companies need to rapidly identify and adapt to shifting market trends at the pace of change. To do that, they need employees who have the skills, attributes, and authority to tackle new demands, solve complex problems, and respond to changes with confidence.

That kind of agility is tough to achieve. Business leaders can’t just tell people to be ready to change roles at a moment’s notice or to take on new leadership positions on an ad hoc basis. To manage the future of work, today’s leaders need to rethink their workforce culture, including how roles are defined, how talent is assessed, and how performance is judged.

There is no silver bullet for this transformation, but there are a few strategies that business leaders can use to begin the process today.

  1. Rethink roles. The future of work will be defined by projects, not positions, which requires a more fluid workplace dynamic. Instead of setting rigid job descriptions and requirements for every position, companies need to identify a core set of skills and traits that will be needed across the company (i.e. leadership, logical reasoning, empathy, creativity). Areas of expertise in hiring can then bolster these core skills. This will result in a more agile workforce and provide recruiters with a framework to assess all new candidates via pre-employment assessments.
  2. Rethink the workforce. In this project-based future, companies will need flexible teams and access to experts who can address temporary but critical needs. This is an opportunity for businesses to establish a lean full-time staff that they can supplement with contingent labor when needs arise. This will lower their overhead cost, enable them to work with higher-cost experts on an as-needed basis, and free them to pivot their talent in response to changing market needs.
  3. Rethink training. Even if a new hire comes to the workplace with the exact hard and soft skills needed to do a specific job (and most don’t), chances are those skills will be obsolete within a year or two. To stay relevant, companies need to treat workforce training as a constant process to provide new important skills to valued team members and ensure workers can adapt to whatever project comes next.
  4. Rethink performance reviews. Employees will take your cues on how to behave in the workplace. If you want them to embrace a more agile corporate culture, reward them for the right behaviors. A good performance review process will help employees set the right goals – be adaptive, support the team, embrace stretch assignments – then celebrate their successes when they follow through.

Changing the way you operate as a company will take time, and there is little time to spare. The future of work is fast approaching. Skill gaps abound, workers are embracing contingent lifestyles, and companies are warring for talent. Making the changes cited above can help you address many of these current talent obstacles while laying the foundation for a more agile and adaptable future.

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