Wanted Needed: Greater Workforce Agility
An organization’s ability to move quickly when challenged — without compromising stability —is a key indicator of the organization’s overall health.
There is a lot of talk these days about the increasing pace of work in our global economy. The traditional work week has evolved from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, and the pressure to innovate and be more productive is a daily reality. A common misconception about this trend is that it comprises two forces working in opposition — speed and stability. In other words, if you work too quickly, business stability will be compromised. And, an emphasis on business stability necessitates that work speed will suffer.
As more Millennials enter the workplace and companies are evolving to accommodate the needs of the next-gen workers, companies are disproving previously held “truths”. For example, McKinsey&Company conducted an extensive study, based on feedback of more than two million respondents at more than 1,000 companies, on the impact of a wide range of management practices. The goal of the study was to identify specific organizational and leadership characteristics and their impact on a company’s health.
Within the survey were questions designed to gauge companies’ speed and flexibility, and to see how often leaders and managers moved quickly when challenged and how rapidly organizations adjusted to changes and to new ways of doing things. What the study uncovered was that the vast majority (70%) of companies that displayed high levels of speed and stability (i.e. agility) also were ranked in the top quartile for organizational health.
The study also revealed agile organizations to be powerful machines for innovation and learning, with stand-out performance in top-down innovation, capturing external ideas, and knowledge sharing.
Over the past month, I’ve been talking about the Next Gen Workplace (NGW), a business strategy that promotes an environment that enables agile user experiences by fostering productivity, efficiency and optimal growth potential. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, to optimize this environment, organizations must create an ecosystem founded on flexible policies that embrace new business models, transparency, collaboration and community building, diversity, and the consumerization of technology.
Following are three components of an agile, NGW that I would like to explore more closely:
1. A profile of an NGW worker.
2. How to attract and retain agile workforce talent.
3. The kind of training necessary to grow and sustain an NGW work style.
Who Is The NGW Worker?
To understand the dynamics of today’s workforce, it’s essential to include the growing role of “Millennials,” which have now surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. A study conducted by PwC (PwC’s NextGen: A Global Generational Study), gives insight on a couple of key motivators for these workers:
- Millennials value job flexibility. PwC’s study found that 64% of Millennials would like to occasionally work from home and 66% of Millennials would like to shift their work hours. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the first key component of an NGW environment is enabling a flexible corporate culture.
- Millennials place a high priority on workplace culture and environments that emphasize teamwork and community. In my last blog, I talked about how Next Gen Workplaces enable true collaboration, which aligns with Millennials’ work needs and promotes higher levels of productivity.
Attracting and Promoting Agile Workforce Talent
One of the primary drivers behind the PwC study mentioned earlier was that a decade after the first Millennials started working at PwC, the company saw employee attrition levels climbing at an alarming rate. Additionally, a significant majority of Millennial employees appeared to lack interest in the traditional professional services career path, one that required intense work commitment early in their career in exchange for the chance to make partner later on.
PwC used the study as a tool to assess its attrition challenges and to rethink the way it attracts and retains talent. Through its annual people survey, social media, focus groups and the NextGen study, PwC provided its employees with more opportunities to express their needs and priorities, and it applied what it learned from that feedback to make changes to how it operates its business. Some of the business practices and recommendations PwC makes, based on its research, includes:
- Create a flexible work culture. (See “Next Generation Workplace: Enabling a Flexible Corporate Culture” for more on this topic).
- Fully leverage technology. (See “Technology’s Role in Creating a Viable Next Generation Workplace” for more on this topic).
- Increase transparency around compensation, rewards and career decisions.
- Build a sense of community.
- Consider introducing or accelerating your global mobility program.
- Evaluate the impact Millennials may have on the contingent workforce strategy of your organization.
- Invest time, resources and energy to listen and stay connected with your people.
Make Sure Your Employee Training Strategy Gets a Proper Makeover, Too
As I’ve said throughout this blog series, making the transition to the Next Gen Workplace is not an instantaneous single step; it’s a fluid process driven by education and training. Like other areas within the NGW strategy, companies should incorporate new methods of education into their processes. In the past traditional classroom instruction, manuals, mentoring and conferences were primarily how information was passed on to newer workers. Today, cutting edge companies have embraced progressive methodologies that appeal to millennials and team members, such as virtual classrooms, online quizzes, self-paced courses, discussion forums, blogs, and even video games (i.e. gamification). As PwC has experienced firsthand, making the commitment to embrace a Next Gen Workplace strategy by exploring new policies, procedures and cultural attitudes that reflect today’s workforce is a key requirement to developing a healthier and more profitable business model.