23 Oct 2017

The future of work…

We’ve been talking about it forever it seems. Actually we really are talking about it forever. When going through our old notes on innovation in HR, we bumped into this executive briefing on workforce agility quoting CK Prahalad (1941-2010) “volatily is here to stay, the winners won’t stop focusing on quality, cost and efficiency, but they’ll be paying a lot more attention to agility too!” This article was published in February 2012 (!)

Today, we all know that workforce agility is key for companies to thrive and survive in #TheFutureOfWork because agile employees enable organizations to innovate, create new markets and even lay the foundation for the day after tomorrow.

So what exactly is agility, why does it matter, what can organizations do and whose job is it to foster workforce agility?

Read on this weekly #ConnectWithContent to find out!

Company agility

Agility was used in the field of air combat to describe the aircraft’s ability to change manoeuver state and was considered more important than power or speed. Later on, agility became a popular concept in manufacturing to outperform overseas competition. Nowadays we use agility to refer to a company’s ability to take advantage of opportunities while countering competitive threats that arise from unpredictable changes.

A truly agile company is capable of not only responding,
but also creating change

What about workforce and people agility?

Workforce agility is defined as the ability of people working in the company to respond strategically to uncertainty which is key for organizations if they want to be agile. Needless to say that you need an agile workforce if you want an agile organization…

Agility is not the same as resiliency

For companies to thrive in uncertainty, it is not only critical to become agile and to develop an agile workforce. Also resiliency is critical.

Agility is the capacity for moving quickly to spot and exploit opportunities
in fast changing environments. Resiliency is the capacity for resisting,
absorbing and responding to unexpected or even disruptive change.


Why does agility matter?

Turbulent and hypercompetitive environments can destroy organizations that are less agile and resilient as where companies that are agile and resilient show these benefits:

  • higher revenues,
  • greater customer satisfaction,
  • greater organizational efficiency,
  • increased market share,
  • more innovation
  • and great employee satisfaction.


Whose job is it to foster workforce agility?

Achieving workforce agility requires (1) motivated, cooperative people who can change their skillset and (2) leaders who are able to motivate and help develop them to master this.

The truth is...

that companies don’t seem to succeed in fully utilizing the talent of their workforce and people are shifted dynamically instead of strategically to where they are needed when they are needed.

In this article, the authors state that HR en CFO’s should take on an organization-wide role in improving workforce agility.

Flash forward to 2017: towards a new HR stack!

In our opinion HR will definitely have to work together and should take the lead and become the chief adaptability officer! Progressive HR practitioners have to learn to develop a new HR stack that includes design thinking, behavioural economics, analytics and… agile management.

That’s why at HRbuilders we challenge business rebels and progressive HR leaders to join our #HRBootcamp (November 20-22) reaching out to help them implement #TheFutureOfWork and to make their workforce and their organization more agile.

We started this blogpost with a quote from Prahalad and would like to end it with another quote of him with which however we tend to disagree. Prahalad states that companies should strive to become VELCRO organizations in which the workforce can quickly be reconfigured in creative ways, think about velcro strips of shoes that can easily be adjusted.

As we were writing this blog, our colleague was talking about how she remembered when her daughter wanted her to learn her how to tie her own shoes. In stead she bought her sneakers with velcro strips and saved herself a lot of time. Until her daughter learned how to do it the right way... thanks to a friend of hers. Her daughter who is now almost 12 years old still knows that her friend learned her to ty her shoes, not her mom...

The best way to learn a kid to tie a shoe is with shoelaces, not with velcro.
So, mister Prahalad, we say goodbye to VELCRO organizations, it may have served them right just as velcro served our colleague right, but we do believe it is time for our children and our workforce to grow up so they are fully prepared for #TheFutureOfWork

#SeeYouNextWeek for another #ConnectWithContent

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Written by

Lesley Arens

HR Matchmaker & Public Relations at HRbuilders

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