What is workforce agility and where are companies now?

Workforce agility allows an organisation to establish the optimal workforce to support an organisation's objectives. We define agile working practices along four dimensions:

  • Time: when do they work? (e.g. part-time working; staged retirement).
  • Location: where do they work? (e.g. people working across multiple sites).
  • Role: what do they do? (e.g. multi-skilling).
  • Source: who is employed? (e.g. using contractors or temps).

Workplace flexibility has traditionally been defined somewhat narrowly: usually as a benefit for employees and a cost to employers. We believe that agile practices can be configured to generate value for both the employer and the employee.

According to the CBI's 2011 Employment Trends Survey of businesses, 96% of UK companies offered at least one type of flexible working practices and many companies offered several. However, since flexible practices have been developed with an employee, rather than business focus, companies are often wary of extending them further, perceiving a risk to the business. For example, around a third of UK companies are reluctant to extend the right to request flexible working arrangements to all employees: 32% of companies surveyed suggested that doing so would have a negative impact on productivity, while 38% said it would increase labour costs.

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What do you think the benefits of workforce agility are? Share your ideas using the comments section below.

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