Is your Enterprise Agile Enough for the Future?

The workforce of today should already be poised for what tomorrow may bring.
By: | April 18, 2018 • 3 min read
creating an agile workforce

Though the headline may sound like a Star Trek reference, it isn’t—yes, technology is shaping our world faster than we’re prepared for, but we aren’t quite ready to board the Starship Enterprise. We should, however, be prepared to boldly go where few have gone before and embrace the concept of an agile workforce that the tech transformation has a hand in creating.

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Findings from a new report Reimagining Work 20/20: How Winning Executives are Building an Agile Workforce by Catalant point to the increasing need for organizational agility to address and prepare for the future of work, which refers to the changes in technology from AI to automation.

“For companies, these changes [in technology] signal the dawn of the radically-agile workforce: a talent strategy built on the ability to access the right people—and skills—inside or outside their company, at the right time, without the constraints of job descriptions, office walls or geographic boundaries,” the report states.

Though 63 percent of the report’s 100 senior HR professionals stated that they have a future-of-work plan in place, nearly half of them said they’re “behind or way behind” in developing the processes required to fully implement their plans.

To capitalize on this push for an agile workforce, business leaders need to shed the status quo and fully reimagine work as we know it. This may mean no longer calling a job a job, but rather referring to it by the task at hand, or redefining the meaning of what a worker is within an organization.

According to the report, “outmoded mindsets that believe full-time, internal talent is the best or only approach, a glaring lack of organizational structures to support agile talent solutions and the inability within organizations to leverage the growing supply of digital tools and agile talent” only hinders progression toward future-of-work capabilities.

The pace of change in underlying technology is now so fast that organizations increasingly need to change quicker than people can change, said Benjamin Pring, director of the Center for the Future of Work.

“The only way organizations will be able to change is by changing their people,” Pring said. “Gig-based models are going to be more in vogue, for both employers and employees alike, because this approach to matching supply and demand will be more efficient than traditional [full-time employee] models.”

Based on responses to Catalant’s survey, too many barriers are present that prevent organizations from moving forward toward the future of work—the top three include: not enough training to take “advantage” of the future or work (44 percent), planning and budgeting and an “inability to find the right technology to capitalize on the future of work” (38 percent).

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To help combat the barriers, Catalant detailed five crucial steps companies should take to prepare for transitioning into an agile workforce. These steps include:

  • Align top team and shift mindsets. Buy-in and full, consistent support from the leadership team is crucial for implementing a future-of-work plan. To garner this support, HR leaders should “define what success looks like, create a plan, put structures behind it, share successes and scale what’s working.”
  • Assess strategic talent gaps. To keep pace with change, continual assessment of talent gaps will be required to promptly close the gaps as they arise.
  • Pilot technology tools. Start with low-risk projects and expect mistakes. Learn from them and scale what works into the next endeavor.
  • Launch future-of-work initiative. The report authors recommend launching it using a “start-up mentality” and allow people to try things to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
  • Continuously improve and refine. Don’t shy away from failure—consider it as a means to finding what your organizational needs. The report authors said, “In a world of uncertainty and constant change, this may be the only approach that can deliver success.”
Danielle Westermann King, staff writer for HRE, received her bachelor’s degree in English from Temple University. She has written and edited articles for various print and online healthcare publications and is now setting her sights on human resources. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.

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