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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Is agile working benefiting the employee or the organisation?

AngelaThe late Stephen Hawking’s quote, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change” really resonates with me when thinking about agile working.

We are undoubtedly living through a fundamental transformation in the way we work. Not only are our managers facing the challenges and opportunities that new technology and growing globalisation bring, but ever-increasing numbers of employees are asking to work more flexibly.

In fact, recent data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the number of UK workers who have moved to remote working has increased by nearly a quarter of a million over the last ten years, and this number is only expected to continue its upward trajectory as we move towards 2020, at which point half of the UK workforce is expected to be working remotely.

So, what’s fuelling this growth in agile working?

The benefits are palpable for employers and employees alike. Beyond the obvious business benefit of reduced office costs, research also tells us agile working improves morale, increases staff retention and importantly widens and unlocks a bigger talent pool, wherein a business can recruit talent, regardless of where they live. And for all those parents unable to commit to full-time roles, it has provided a new avenue to access work.

Our experience of developing flexible working practices into a more progressive agile working proposition most definitely supports these research findings. By offering tailor-made work contracts, our recruitment and talent management strategy is competitive and attractive to outsiders - achieving an enviable work-life balance is within reach.

However, some businesses are still wary, concerned that, unwatched, their staff productivity will deteriorate. In fact, the opposite is true - productivity increases exponentially; recent research from Stanford University in the US shows that remote workers are 13% more productive than their office-based counterparts.

What’s missing here of course is trust.

Agile working requires an entirely different outlook in team management and leadership. Poor and unstructured management and communication practices will undoubtedly lead to a breakdown in trust among team members, impacting negatively on engagement.

Instead what’s needed is a strong, structured and systematic approach to managing work, where managers have a clear focus on outcomes rather than inputs or ‘face-time’ as a way of measuring performance.

By setting clear performance outcomes, tracking performance, and having regular individual and team communications, managers will encourage a more empowered team, trusting them to manage their time and workloads independently.

Organisation-wide buy-in and commitment to agile working is also critical. It should pervade all corners of the organisation whereby there is a mutual understanding that home, or mobile working, is ‘the norm’. And leaders may have to reframe the way business values are recognised and culture is created in a team of workers who are not sitting in the same office every day.

Systems and processes should also be in place to enable people to work wherever they may be. Technology can play an important role here, connecting people wherever they are, to collaborate, share knowledge and maintain camaraderie,

Implementing new agile working practices is not easy, but the benefits of a more agile organisation - one that performs better and has a more engaged workforce, thereby benefiting the employee and the organisation - makes this a worthwhile investment.

Article by
Angela Young

HR director for Lucid Group

11th April 2018

From: Marketing

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