Why Do We Need an Agile Workforce?

When a pandemic like COVID-19 can wreak havoc in the market, is your company agile enough to respond quickly and correctly?

In our global society, where the pandemic COVID-19 can suddenly wreak havoc in our marketplace, is your company agile enough to respond quickly and correctly to the disruption?

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” -Bruce Lee

Accelerating Pace of Change

Athletes need agility to master their craft and to respond quickly to the actions of the competition. Winning may be defined as trophies, medals, money, a sense of self achievement or simply bragging rights, but make no mistake-- it is about winning.

Companies need agility in the workforce for the same reason. Whether you strive to be No. 1 in the marketplace, or No. 50, you must be able to react and respond to your marketplace.

Today’s markets are more volatile than ever and a small change in one sector or in one financial market, or an economic policy change in China, can reverberate across the globe. The winds of change in business today can rapidly reach hurricane levels. Think of the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The stock market may be overreacting to the impact, but companies must respond quickly to real business issues. How quickly could your organization shift from an office-based to a remote workforce and still maintain productivity? The agile workforce can respond quickly, and more importantly, correctly, to these intense changes in the global marketplace.

These same winds compound the acceleration of the technology lifecycle and requires the quickness and decisiveness to keep up. Successful companies have the ability to sustain their foundational offerings, exploit new technologies and processes to disrupt the marketplace and grow new markets and revenue streams. Once they stabilize the new markets, they move them into sustenance and start over fresh. Agile workforces challenge the status quo and adapt quickly. That allows them to accelerate the pace of innovation and greatly reduce the time between Sustain, Exploit, Disrupt, Growth and Stabilize. Innovation becomes a daily activity that occurs naturally as the team focuses on the outcomes and not just the tasks.

Increasing Customer Expectations

Customers continue to demand more, quicker, better and cheaper. In the service industry this means we need to have more people who are very good at what they do and able to do it at a lower price point. The problem with that is the people that do the best work get top dollar. As we discussed earlier, one aspect of an agile workforce is the hybrid labor model comprised of W-2 employees, 1099s and strategic partners. You can scale your W-2s to optimize your utilization based on market demographics and demand to help keep prices down. The 1099 component allows you to overlay additional non-core skill sets, or augment core skills for peak demand without the full burden of less than 100% utilized talent. Even if you pay a higher hourly rate for that person, you are not paying for the time they aren’t working, so the effective rate works out in your—and your customers’—benefit.

Being agile enough to meet changing customer needs means you will have a positive impact on your customer and serve as a differentiator from your competition. You move beyond being the potential bottleneck to be the one who gets it done, building trust and confidence along the way. Your ability to meet requirements for new skill sets and product offerings elevates you to be their first call when new opportunities arise.

Changing Nature of the Workforce

Maybe the most important reason we need to be agile is that the workforce demands it. Millennials and Gen Z are attracted to the agile environment. It is more and more common during the interview process to have candidates inquire about flexible hours, the ability to work remote and to have input on assignments and projects. They want the flexibility to work various hours, from various locations, be part of a cross functional team focused on a specific outcome instead of routine tasks. These benefits weigh on how they value the overall compensation of the position.

Collaboration is as important to these generations as well. The ability to contribute and demonstrate what they have accomplished can be more important than the title on a signature line. An agile organization is a flat structure with effective communications and easy access to senior leadership and decision makers. Working in this environment will not only attract team members, it will also increase employee engagement, contributing more to the agility of the organization. There will be a positive impact on employee morale and retention which contributes directly to the bottom line in the form of lower recruiting and training costs.

We can’t ignore the need for agility. The workforce is changing, it is inevitable and unavoidable. True, there is still legislative steps that must occur to truly integrate the hybrid labor model required for agile organizations, but that will come. How can I be so confident? It’s not the businesses nor the legislators that will drive this change in the workforce, it is the workers themselves. History tells us the workers will eventually win the day.

The Game Changer

Agility can be the game changer for your organization and the greatest benefit is the ability to create shareholder value. Agility will improve revenue by allowing us to embrace new opportunities in an expedited manner. Whether it be a slight adjustment to a standard offering or the implementation of an entirely new product line, we can quickly operationalize and monetize the opportunity. An agile workforce will not only open new markets but will lower the cost of entry into these markets. At the same time agility mitigates risk because we don’t have large capital outlays or long-term commitments or liability on the labor model disproportionate to the opportunity.

This is the second of a three-part series examining the benefits of an agile workforce. Read Part 1 here. In the third and final installment of this series we will explore how to start creating an agile workforce and agile leadership skills.

Charles Hughes is the COO at High Wire Networks and a member of CompTIA’s Managed Services Community. Join the community today to get more valuable insight!


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