“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Believing this has probably saved many a company – maybe yours – from endless, unnecessary reorganisations. We think there’s a better way. Let’s rewrite the rules and welcome business agility into our organisational strategy.
Like most SMEs, you love your job and you’re focused on the myriad of urgent tasks needed to keep your business running smoothly. We know it’s not always easy to take time out to think how and which things could change and improve, let alone contemplate a whole new radical transformation.
Yet the world is changing fast and your business needs to keep pace if it’s to continue to succeed. Sometimes it takes an outside event to focus the mind – tougher market conditions and competition, maybe a struggle to recruit and keep the best talent.
We’re not pretending successful change is easy. After all, it’s incredibly tempting to settle into those metaphorical old carpet slippers and simply carry on. But as your business grows it’s important to balance day-to-day management with taking the time to consider innovation and continuous improvement.
Here we’re going to dive down into why it’s important to your business in today’s fast-moving world.
Why is business agility fundamental in the 21st century?
Well, for a start, a report from the World Economic Forum claims that approximately 35% of the skills demanded for jobs will change by 2020. In addition, in the UK we now have record levels of employment, while social attitudes and the balance of gender, age and ethnicity in the workplace have all changed rapidly.
Key drivers for agile working:
There’s no doubt that globalisation has raised the bar in the competitiveness among large international organisations. Then there’s the threat of innovative SMEs like you, who are embracing change, flexible working and using the latest technologies to improve productivity, efficiency and culture.
- for employees; there are more opportunities than ever before
- for customers; who have never had so much choice, winning and keeping customers is key
Agile companies focus on excellence in relationships with employees and customers. We know you’re keen on that too. But could you do even better?
The pace of technological change will not relent any time soon. Rapid advances in artificial intelligence and related autonomous systems, quantum computing, genomics and more will certainly create more change in the next decade than in the last twenty years.
Agile businesses use new technological advances to get ahead. Make sure you do too.
Changing demographics and workforce
Remember those old movies where rows of workers sit silently at their desks or machines, overseen by a stern employer, where a single mistake meant instant dismissal?
Now, empowered by education and technology, anyone can access information including thousands of job opportunities at the touch of a button. And of course, human and workplace rights legislation has shifted the balance of power.
- Once largely manual – mostly in manufacturing – we’re becoming a service-based economy. Professions will account for approximately 83% of all new jobs in Britain in the next decade. Many employees no longer need to work from a set location. Do yours?
- Women have entered in ever-greater numbers. According to the Office for National Statistics for January to March 2019, the estimated UK employment rate for women was 71.8%, the joint-highest since comparable records began in 1971. Many – and increasingly, men too – want a more flexible lifestyle to accommodate a better work-life balance including caring responsibilities.
- Workers are getting older. According to The Centre for Better Ageing, over 50s now make up nearly a third of the UK workforce – around 10 million people and rising. Some may want to ease gradually into retirement or work part-time – so more flexibility would help. Think about whether you could introduce more options.
Could agile working help you with these workforce changes? Agile companies are well-placed to recruit and retain the best. And, of course, exciting new technologies, along with an agile culture, allow for flexible and remote working that can improve your productivity – vital in our increasingly global world.
One of the very biggest developments is in the attitude to work of younger people. People born between around 1980 and 1995 – apparently so hard to manage. But what’s the reality? Of course, just like your employees, millennials are all different, but there are certain attitudes common to many. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials overtook all other generations in 2016 as the largest portion of the workforce.
A PWC’s study into the attitudes of millennials found:
- Work/life balance is one of the biggest drivers of employee retention and a primary reason this generation may choose a non-traditional career
- Flexibility – millennials want more of it, according to the report – and so too do many non-millennials
- Output, not hours – across the generations, today’s workers believe that productivity should be by results, not hours worked
- Teamwork – millennials favour workplace cultures that emphasise teamwork and a sense of community
- Tools – millennials expect to have access to the best tools for collaboration and execution.
These traits all fit well with agile working.
Agile cultures provide a great structure for both individuals and teams to manage and organise themselves. This allows them to work in the best possible way to achieve business objectives.
Collaboration in teams and a focus on continuous improvement is encouraged, using technology to increase flexibility and effectiveness.
Think about how your business could benefit from being agile.
Business agility top tips:
- Allow telecommuting or remote working
- Make teamwork part of your company’s culture
- Accelerate the integration of the best innovative technology
- See failure as learning and build resilience
- Research and invest in training and development
SMEs have unique pressures. We understand. But having the right culture will empower you to embrace and maximise the benefits of inevitable change instead of being engulfed by it. You – and your business – are worth it.