5 Reasons to Adopt an Agile Workforce

Sean Doughtery
December 9, 2020

What Is An Agile Workforce?

In order to compete in today’s marketplace, companies need to find new ways to stay at the cutting edge of innovation. To achieve that, an increasing number of the world’s top employers are adopting agile workforce strategies and utilizing on-demand staffing from contingent labor pools more frequently. 

At its core, an “agile workforce” breaks down traditional complex organizational hierarchies and transforms talent into a flexible resource pool. Full-time employees jump between different products and projects depending on the businesses needs and their own skill set. An organization, then, fills any remaining skill gaps with contingent labor through on-demand staffing with professionals such as freelancers and consultants. 

This new model of thinking has the power to completely change the way a company approaches its business.

Why Go with an Agile Workforce? 

While this on-demand staffing model can benefit different organizations in different ways, there are five core benefits that are realized by nearly every firm employing an agile workforce. 

1. Flexibility

Modern companies know that flexibility is essential to survival and success — especially in an era marked by a global pandemic. By going agile, organizations can distribute talent across departments which need employees and geographic location — thus removing potential roadblocks to success and lowering risk. 

Plus, in agile workforces, talent isn’t locked into one single role or job description for years as is the case in traditional employment structures. Rather, a designer or finance person (for example) may be hired into more of a generalist role. They are then tasked with implementing their expertise to a rotating set of projects that require their skills. When new goals arise, an organization can quickly take stock of their current talent resources, and shift allocations as needed without initiating long and expensive recruitment cycles. 

When skill gaps do arise within the internal talent pool, managers can tap into the vast expertise of the white collar gig economy. As we covered before, the white collar gig economy is rapidly growing and ready to meet the needs of any agile workforce. 

2. Technology Driven

In order to accommodate a cohort of agile employees who may not be in the same physical location, agile organizations must adopt modern technology workflow stacks. This includes web-based teleconferencing tools, cloud-based documentation, virtual private networks, digital project management suites and other analytical software. The good news is that these tools have positive knock-on effects. 

A 2017 report by the McKinsey Institute found that employees are beginning to change the way they communicate with their teams when an organization deploys modern message-based platforms. They are communicating across roles and levels to find solutions and achieve results. The tools empowering this change include team-collaboration platforms like Slack, collaborative document editing like Google Docs and online video conferencing like Zoom. 

Employees at these organizations also reported spending less time communicating through traditional communication technologies like email or phone calls. And, a world with less email is a world we can all get behind. 

3. Economic Advantages

It is important to remember that, while an agile in-house talent pool can greatly increase an organization’s flexibility, there will inevitably be situations where organizations find a skills gap. Enter: the contingent labor pool. 

By bringing on independent contractors, consultants and freelancers through the white collar gig economy, organizations can supplement their talent without the longer-term costs associated with full-time employees. As the HR consultancy Vertical Bridge points out, organizations can reduce costs for onboarding and training, payroll taxes, benefits and sick pay. 

Additionally, with an agile and flexible approach to where the workforce physically sits, traditional office overhead costs can be greatly reduced as well. 

4. Open Mindset

By utilizing on-demand workers, full-time employees are introduced to new ideas and ways of working. Additionally, through new communication tools, we know that employees are communicating more openly across all team members and hierarchy levels. This fosters the fourth core advantage of an agile workforce: a creative and open mindset. 

According to industry experts SHRM, employees with an open mindset seek out the truth, even if it shows that they’re wrong in their currently held opinions. They seek out what’s right and what makes a difference. They become more comfortable with ambiguity as they look for new perspectives that challenge them. They see disagreements as opportunities to improve their thinking. 

5. Dynamic and Change Oriented

One of the greatest realizations for executives who need employees employing agile workforces and maintaining a contingent labor pool, is that the very nature of being agile allows you to be more dynamic and react positively to change. These organizations are faster to market, have a more engaged workforce and have greater organizational health. As a result, they see higher revenue growth with lower costs. 

In a 2018 report, McKinsey looked out how the emergence of digital and agile work environments are revolutionizing firms. For example, one global bank was able to reduce costs by 30 percent while greatly improving customer satisfaction and employee engagement. Additionally, of the 2,500 business leaders to take part in the McKinsey study, about 75 percent said that organizational agility was a top-three priority. 

It should be noted that the shift to an agile workforce is not easy. Each organization will run into its own unique set of challenges. However, the core benefits can mean the difference when competing in a modern marketplace where the battle over recruiting and retaining talent has never been tougher. 

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