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Keeping it Personal – The Human side of Digital Agility

Keeping it Personal – The Human side of Digital Agility

Agility isn’t only applicable to insurance – it’s cross industry and in our industry etc etc… job search on the go, flexible working, tailor made careers …

It’s not only Insurance that needs to limber up! Our world has changed – we are digital. We expect digital. The world is at our fingertips and we can’t see why everything shouldn’t be done on the move.

Gone are the days of plain old library books – even the task of choosing a real physical book is now something that requires an online presence.

We don’t do waiting. We do google.

And recruitment is one of those areas that agility is crucial in. The downtime during the daily commute = job searching.  Scrolling through a FB feed = personalised Ads.   Flexible working patterns can relate anywhere as the City truly needs never to sleep now the online world is global. The old rules need not apply anymore – jobs can be truly mobile and work can be done anytime, any place, anywhere..

Recruiters need to harness this mobile world and use it to bring a truly agile service to the industries they serve.

Luckily – Recruitment lends itself to digital agility easily. A strong online and mobile presence , the ability to search and be searched for from all devices, a social media savvy frontage are all the precursors to providing a personalised recruitment offering.

Networking sites, job boards and online applicant systems are all ways that technology has revolutionized recruitment; radically changing how employers and recruiters find potential candidates. Applicant tracking systems and new AI software can help HR departments manage the massive influx of resumes that online digitally agile job hunting leads to.

AI-powered systems can do a great job sorting through candidates, but the risk is that non-traditional candidates or candidates with unusual experience that could offer an alternative perspective on a role could fall through the rules-based system, even such a one that can”learn” and therefore improve with ‘experience’,

Applicant tracking systems might be the most noticeable way technology has impacted recruitment ,however behind the scenes there are more changes afoot. Technology has changed recruitment forever, and how the industry has had to adapt – and become agile , just like the candidates it is trying to recruit!!

Data Data

Big Data is certainly a useful tool in the world of recruitment and many other businesses can’t get enough of it. The old adage of “knowledge is power” certainly seems to be being applied to the collection of data. But what good is that knowledge is it is applied incorrectly, or worse, not applied at all?

More data can mean more confusion, allowing tiny details to “skew process and drive people to take action on things that don’t matter, while ignoring the real underlying problems with the recruiting function.”

Analytics and AI are becoming increasingly sophisticated and “intelligent” – with some able to sort CVs at a thousand paces. But with Big Data comes big responsibility – which is where the human touch still maintains a critical role.

Bias

Going Digital can also help businesses not only remove unconscious bias by removing anything from a resume that might identify gender or race. However it can also help bring a specific positive bias into the recruitment process; for example, if a company looks at their workforce and realizes they have predominantly male developers, they can use technology to target female developers in the recruitment process. This can be as straightforward as helping companies to rewrite their job specs to remove any biases in the phrasing. Studies have shown that even unconscious gendered wording can bring about a hiring bias.

AI based systems(assuming the algorithims are correct!) don’t have any selection biases involved!

Global Search Capacity

Geography is no longer the boundary it once was. Global job boards and online application have made job search a truly global affair.

Telecommuting and true agile working mean that recruiters can draw from a candidate pool they may have previously had to overlook. A more diverse talent pool enables recruiters to find professionals with far more specific skill sets than ever before. This talent diversity and ability to provide agile working environments helps drive competition which in turn raises the innovation and service that a company provides.

Flexibilty vs Control

Companies don’t relinquish control easily – and it is probably this aspect of agile working that has been found the most difficult by many! However a company that is prepared to truly embrace a more flexible approach to the traditional world of work is likely to reap the rewards. If we are prepared to accept a 24 hour society in other aspects of our lives then it stands to reason that the world of a basic 9-5 may well have seen its heyday.

Allowing employees the freedom to work however and wherever they work best – whether from home, in an office or from a coffee shop – creates a paradigm shift where employees work from a position of “desired duty” instead of “required duty.”

This mindset shift creates an overall sense of ownership; employees feel like they own their own career pathways. Technology presents endless tools and resources for agile working and the best way to utilise them is to start with a scientific approach : Observe, question, hypothesize, experiment and analyze. Look at new sourcing channels, try new regions, or leveraging social media to build mindset and trust. If employees can (and should!) work in new ways then change your recruitment approach to match!

The new rule is that there are no rules…

Agile is now!

Agile is now!
The Insurance Industry needs to play catch up.
Considering the size of the sector – the fact that Insurance regularly falls behind other big players such as banking and retail shows a degree of stagnation.
The digital revolution has truly placed the customer experience and satisfaction to the fore. Yet the insurance industry still reports relatively low levels of customer satisfaction, despite the technology existing to rectify this situation. And the desire to utilise these digital communication channels is high – particularly amongst the Y generation. Big Tech such as Google and Amazon are waiting in the wings ready to vie for a place in the insurance market – and many consumers are so used to the offerings of these global giants – that they would now consider an insurance purchase through them.
The time for change is now – and the benefits are multifold.
Business longevity for the insurers will require a degree of agility and responsiveness like never before. Consumers are increasingly knowledgeable, demanding, tech savvy, and time strapped. They are inclined to receive proactive, personalised insurance offerings and these proactive service were found to strongly correlate to positive customer experience. Self service through the internet is widespread and almost imperative in our society.
But it isn’t all about the customer experience; there is also the bottom line to consider. Improvements in digital agility and maturity will mean that insurers morph almost into becoming “risk preventers”; able to provide a highly personalised offering that enhances experiences as well as improving operational efficiencies.
The ability to use real-time data analytics to predict and respond to customers needs and market opportunites will provide greater access to customers – more “touchpoints”. And these touchpoints give an opportunity for value-added services – which leads to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty. A so called digital Eco-system enabling a digitally agile company to have a seamless flow of information, partnerships and services.
In the days of internet shopping – customer loyalty is hard to retain.
The time is now to change how insurance is perceived – and change from the days of the Insurance guy knocking on the door to a slick, agile operation that offers insurance and services to Me! And only me..
Agile – is now.

AI in 2018

AI in 2018
So AI was big news in recruitment last year… it seemed to be the future , the way forward, a threat, a challenge… the new (exciting?)unknown quantity… a way of removing the intangible elements of personnel recruiting by applying algorithms that had no “human” bias..
 
But fast forward almost to March 2018 and has much actually changed?
The short answer is No.
 
AI is still a hugely hot potato – sparking lots of debate around uses and gains. But like all new technologies there is an uptake period.
Most of us can remember the days of 80s shoulder pads and brick sized mobile phones. Back then the thought of a paperless office would have sent us running for the carbon copy sheets in fear of our lives.. but here we are in 2018 and most of us run of lives through our “bricks”.
What started out as a cumbersome device – and tied in nicely with a personal organiser (gotta love a rolladex!) – is now – our comms, diary and camera are all neatly packaged into a smartphone that even pre-empts what we need and want practically before we know it ourselves.
So the change can – and does – happen.
 
Using AI in recruitment would seem to be merely the next logical step on from this. But its a biggie and quite frankly to a lot of us – its still a mystery.
I can think back to a previous career where we finally moved to a digital CRM system – depsite the fact that we now avoided the post office queues on a Saturday morning – most of us found cause to complain about the new computer and how tricky it was to manipulate. Humans are habit based creatures – and we find it tricky to embrace change – especially when the change is a “robot” trying to take your job. There is more “fear”in recruitment than a lot of other industries – as whilst an algorithmic approach makes practical sense – it threatens the “nouse” of a good recruiter – who doesn’t always apply the rules, yet frequently can search out candidates using plain old fashioned experience.
Its also expensive. Smaller companies who have the ability to implement change faster don’t have the budget – and larger companies who do have the budget are still struggling to move the cultural shift fast enough. A lot of these have AI technologies in place already, yet are barely scratching the surface of its functionality. If your employees have “rage against the machine” for potentially taking their jobs – its difficult to encourage them to take the time to fully explore how the  use of AI could infact improve performance. And so a vicious cycle starts..
 
The use of AI in recruitment is going to become mainstream– but just quite yet. It has huge potential to reduce bias and improve both the candidate and the recruiter experiences. But as an industry we aren’t quite ready for the rise of the machine.
 
So where WILL we go in 2018?
 
Well try 2 other words:  Blockchain and Growth Hacking.
 
Blockchain technology promises a more secure and verifiable method of “screening” candidates.. this should in theory speed up recruiting / validating / onboarding – and take a lot of the “human gut feel element” away.. a move towards fully embracing the world of AI that is to come?
The idea of “growth hacking” in the meantime also is step towards moving the human side of the business forward. Using marketing to look at clever hacks to utilise creativity , analytics and social metrics to move the business on. This does still tie into moving to an AI world as the growth hacks that include more data driven recruitment ties in very nicely to what the AI technologies can offer.
Recruiters are increasingly under pressure to find the best possible candidate within the shortest possible time. Recruitment growth hacking can simply be utilising technology, shortcuts and new ideas to save time by removing or automating low-value actions so you can focus on the high-value returns that help you find and hire the right people for your business.
Growth hacking is cheap – its quick. No extra budget is required. It streamlines your work place and helps your employees feel value as they are directly involved in upskilling themselves. It will improve recruiters skills which will knock onto an improved candidate experience.
Add that to more use of blockchain technology and we will all become more ready and comfortable to move to a more data driven validated recruitment experience.
So that when AI becomes mainstream – it will no longer be the threat to job security that it still can be seen as – and more an extension and support of existing organisations.
 
AI? The future of Recruitment?  Maybe next year!

The War for Talent – Are you part of the problem or the solution?

The War for Talent – Are you part of the problem or the solution?

We are in a race for talent and the winners will be the organisations who recognise that it is a war, and who can design, implement and execute a talent attraction and retention strategy that is fit for purpose – it has to be a competitive advantage!

In Europe:

  • There are more retirees than youth – more 80 year olds than 5 year olds.
  • 50 Years ago – there were 2 workers for every non worker.
  • In 15 years time – the prediction is 1 worker for every 2 non workers.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that the number of UK job vacancies in this period last year was the highest on record since 2001; at 777 000!

(low point of 432 000 in May 2009 and an average of 603 000 from 2001-2017)

In August 2017 the ONS showed the UK employment rate as 75.1% (the proportion of people in work aged 16-65) – the highest since comparable records began in 1971.

Every sector and Geographic location is experiencing growth – whilst skills are in decline.

For example- there is a shortfall of c30 000 engineers in the UK alone.

The government short skills register has grown from 30 skills to 73 in the last year.

Total fertility rates, which can be defined as the average number of children born to a woman who survives her reproductive years (aged 15-49), have decreased by approximately half since the 1960s.

Europe is ageing. On average, each woman has 1.58 children. This is substantially below the 2.1 children needed to sustain the current population (and therefore workforce) level.

Brexodus:

The number of foreign tech job applications are down 50% since the EU referendum vote.

The number of foreign recruits in the UK candidate pool has halved since Brexit – a worrying trend in a country where 10% of workers, including a third of those in the all-important tech industry, are international

The latest net migration figure of 246 000 was 81 000 lower than the 327 000 recorded in March 2016 (ONS).

By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce.

Nearly 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first 6 months on the job. Among Millennials this percentage is even higher – and it happens earlier!

Only 32% of talent leaders considered retention as a top priority (LinkedIn recruitment trends)

Analysis of salaries of 42 500 entry level jobs from more than 770 organisations across the Uk show that entry level STEM roles within the software development or engineering could see an increase of wage by 19% to £30 973 and 17% to £30 37 respectively, making these the highest paid entry level roles in the country (Korn Ferry 2016)

Approximately only 1% of candidates / applicants are hired – Lever 2017 (Inside the recruiting Funnel: Essential Metrics for StartUps and SMBs 2017)

We are heading into the “Perfect Storm” – where supply and demand are heavily biased towards the candidate – why should they choose to work for you?

You can no longer buy talent; you can only sell to them – the candidates are your customer. Are they always right? Are you catering for their needs?

  • Company Culture
  • Is talent a cost or an investment?
  • Is talent a HR problem or a business problem?
  • Is your talent strategy aligned with your business strategy?
  • Are your line managers adequately trained?
  • Is your interview process fit for purpose?
  • Is your social media strategy fit for purpose?
  • How effective is your retention strategy?

If we accept that talent is the principle differentiator for a company’s success in a global, complex, extremely competitive and dynamic environment, then you have to ask the following question.

What are you doing to ensure that you have access to that talent?

  • Are you asking that question?
  • What are you doing about it?
  • Ignoring it is not a solution!

 

Start at the very beginning….

Start at the very beginning….

It’s a very good place to start ..

So – Yes – the festive season has led to an overdose of family friendly sing-a-long movies. And the family VonTrapp has really struck a chord.

The culture of a company, a family, a club – all comes from the top down. The members take their cues from the leadership and this is how a culture disseminates.

Captain Von Trapp ran his family like he ran his ship.. watertight. No room for discussion – and know your place to the whistle. Dictatorial.

The interesting thing about the Von Trapp family is how it did work. The Captain wasn’t a cruel dictator – and things ticked along relatively well. But then along came Maria… with a new way of thinking and doing.. and all kinds of dissension broke out in the ranks.

This family wasn’t a toxic culture though – but what the delights of a Christmas musical can show us – is that there are often other ways – and it takes a strong leader to allow others ideas to be fully heard – especially when the new way is the total opposite of the old.

So why am I rambling on about Julie Andrews… well – this got me to thinking about toxicity in the workplace.

A new year frequently engenders much reflection – and a promise to do things differently. And our work is such a major part of our life that often a new year spells great change , and much to do in the world of recruitment.

So with a view to starting at the beginning – it stands to reason that the place to evaluate a company’s culture is with the leadership.

Toxic cultures destroy the bottom line – they increase employee turnover and decrease engagement. The leadership is the public face of the organisation –having a bad boss is the number one reason why employees leave……cultural disconnect is not far behind.

Leaders must set the tone and be as concerned about the culture as they are about strategy. This culture first approach has a cascade effect – rippling down through the organisation.

Leaders set the tone and mobilise the workforce. They communicate the reality of the business and its impact.

In financial terms – getting rid of a toxic culture (or employees!) can have a profound effect on the bottom line. A “superstar” hire can only bring in so much if the culture is a drain on productivity. Take a look at the Harvard Business Review for thoughts on Toxic Culture and “Business Drain”!

And in our line of work – we are constantly being asked to provide that next high flier.. But I would say wake up C-Suite.

Cultural Change is not a buzz word or just a new year’s resolution. Its perhaps the most important thing you can re-evaluate in 2018. Get the engagement right and the rest will follow.

In the end, if you do not care why should the employees?

And if your culture doesn’t work – it doesn’t matter how good the new hire is… eventually “shit sticks”.

December is the month of Preparation

December is the month of Preparation

Its hard to believe the end of 2017 is racing towards us.

December – Advent Calendar time. And it’s the concept of preparation that strikes me today.

It seems as though a lot of changed during 2017 and that the pace of this change is getting ever faster. Yet some of the key issues we faced in 2017 haven’t actually gone away.

Finding and retaining good quality talent is just as relevant in the final few weeks of the year as it was at the beginning. In fact – if anything its more critical. The skills gap and shortage of tech talent is still there – It is time to listen to the rhetoric. In turbulent political and economic times it is challenging to find a way to plug the leak that is the high attrition rate amongst good staff. And yet when we break down what actually makes an employee stay – it would seem that Christmas is an excellent time to make a start on doing just that. Money is less important than you might think, (which is good in today’s climate!) and in the season of goodwill – it is easier to focus on giving – which for the most part is what contrbutes to an employee’s feelings of satisfaction at work.

So for today – in this festive season – let’s take a moment to review – to prepare – to make sure that 2018 truly does become the year that good people feel valued and appreciated at work.

 

Some key facts to consider:

IT professionals get twice as many recruitment mails than other professionals!

Contributing factors to employees leaving range from lack of career advancement to culture to lack of recognition. Money is a factor – but get the career aspiration loop right and recompense becomes a much smaller problem than you may think.

It costs your business about half an annual salary to find a replacement employee.

And those new employees are far less engaged and therefore more likely to move on faster which creates cultural uncertainty and higher stress in those remaining employees.

The bottom line is that there is very little point in having an excellent hiring strategy if you then forget all about the employee the minute they sign on the dotted line. Recruitment needs to come hand in hand with retention. And that strategy needs to fit your unique company culture. We know the talent is out there – but the competition is fierce. If your organisation won’t look after its key assets – someone else will!!

 

Top Tips:

Communicate

Have an optimal onboarding process

Promote your company culture

Develop Effective Leaders

Recognise and Reward

Train and Develop

Provide Challenges

Offer Flexibility

Pay attention to top performers

Offer an attractive compensation package (think past purely salary here!)

Work – Life balance

Be fair

Be honest about change

Foster good teamwork

Why do we need diversity in HR? Does diversity breed creativity and productivity?

Why do we need diversity in HR? Does diversity breed creativity and productivity?

How can the least diverse sector be the lead in changing the diversity paradigm?

Diversity (or lack of) is one of our key focus areas. Saxus is strongly committed to building a diverse future – with particular focus on cognitive diversity rather than the broad-brush gender /race / sexuality diversity of yesterday. A diversity based on true self rather than extrinsic factors…

This search for greater creativity and spark has led me through many thought processes and one in particularly is this:

HR is, quite possibly, one of the least diverse sectors in business. It is the one area of the C suite where women outnumber men. The majority of HR graduates are women…

Is this a case of women rising – or is this in fact a lack of diversity issue that we seem comfortable to ignore?

HR has historically been a “people-focussed” side of the business with a strong leaning towards administrations. Historically women have been the mainstay of secretarial functions and so the move to a career in HR has been an easy one. In fact, for many women the move to HR was clearly a step in the right direction – the pay was better, the career opportunities better and perhaps more importantly – the dinosaur (male) bosses of the 1970s were comfortable with women in this so called more “caring” profession. Today 73% of HR Managers are women. (source: 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics)

So – the real question here is… Is this a problem? The rise of women in the workforce is a good thing, the inclusion of greater numbers of women in the C suite can only be beneficial – and – let’s face it – historical work patterns do lead towards a gender bias in other professions (think nursing and teaching!). But if we have realised the need for less gender bias in these professions – then why are we still so secure with the world of HR being a female only zone?

HR is the gatekeeper to our organisations. If diversity breeds more creativity and productivity – then why wouldn’t your Human Resources department be the first place you look to change the status quo? Talk of diversity is cheap when the first people you interact with are not showing the way as role models themselves.

So, do we need to change?

Well I would argue that this is a resounding YES. Diversity is an all-encompassing factor in the way we improve all aspects of our world of work. A greater diversity in HR will filter through to the rest of organisation.

As with most things – the path to change starts with enlightenment – it’s about changing education and perceptions. A male nurse 20 years ago would have been a standout feature of medical care – now it’s just a healthcare professional.

Graduate programmes need to actively encourage men to consider a career in HR –and job descriptions need to show less gender bias. HR is not purely an admin role. It is strategic and critical to business success. After all, if we all agree that our people are critical to our organisation – then surely the department geared towards those people is an integral part of corporate success?

First impressions matter.

If diversity matters – then perhaps it’s time to change the face of HR?

The Alexa Factor

The Alexa Factor

There are 2 predominant schools of thought around the advent of AI – the positive value added approach: Humans X Process X Data = Increased Business Value

Vs The Chicken Licken thought process of “AI is stealing my job, AI is stealing my job”

Not forgetting those Ostriches amongst us who somehow believe that the advances in AI will have little to no impact on current jobs.

One way or another the landscape is changing. How well your company responds to that is very much down to how much agility is valued as a core skill set.

3 years ago Alexa was just a choice of baby name. In the coming years – naming your baby Alexa may not be so popular a choice – as Alexa is now in over 3 million homes, organising babysitters, booking holidays – and in many cases – being a “person” to chat to. Echo AI technology has improved user experiences – and is earning Amazon big bucks in the process. The Key in this is the fact that Alexa responds almost like a person. Alexa applies machine learning and algorithms to run queries through huge data sets almost instantaneously. Spotify applies the same logic – curating your very own DJ set based on previous choices.

Extrapolating that speed for business will surely guide towards better and more objective business outcomes.

Recent surveys by Accenture have highlighted the need for change in our own approaches with 85% of executives surveyed claiming to be investing in AI over the coming 5 years

So there is no doubt that the rise of AI will change the shape of the job market – especially for the lower skilled workforce. In order to safeguard against rising labor costs – automation becomes critical. Yet higher up the salary scale there are predictions of significant human skills shortages in the very area of robotics that is driving the change agenda. So it would seem that the key to AI success is not how to remove humans from the chain altogether, but how to embed them more effectively to participate in human-critical automation of the business, and in the search for novel business methods and models.

Perhaps the most urgent question we must answer is not one of the role of AI in our 21st century workforce but rather one of integration – and whether economics is purely driven by productivity and speed alone?

Used effectively AI has the potential to alter careers to fit a far more personal model. A more agile workforce – a more diverse workforce. But this requires a collaberation with machine learning to improve the human capability

Change is difficult at the best of times – but when the future is moving faster than we can predict it becomes an increasing challenge.

Maybe we should ask Alexa what to do next?

https://www.accenture.com/t20170125T084846__w__/us-en/_acnmedia/Accenture/next-gen-4/tech-vision-2017/pdf/Accenture-TV17-Trend-1.pdf

Cognitive Diversity

Cognitive Diversity

“If you’re constrained by classical, conventional wisdom on appointments in recruitment you’re never going to optimise the situation. You need people to bring different thought processes and challenge the system, you need a cognitive diversity”

Dave Brailsford

Far too often , in work , and in life – we seek out people that validate ourselves. We look for the familiar, the mirror image. We cultivate (very often unconsciously!) a culture of “groupthink”. Corporations have bought into the commercial proposition that a diversity of gender, race, ethnicity and sexuality improves our workforce. Yet all to often we overlook the diversity of thought that could truly innovate within our workplaces.

Cognitive diversity means breaking away from the perceived norm of thought process; defined as differences in perspective or information processing styles.

Cognitively diverse organisations are more genuinely inclusive and collaborative places to work.

Tech is a classic example; when looking at the companies who are now positively recruiting individuals with Aspergers or on the Autistic Spectrum. These are companies who have recognised the power of “difference” – and are using these differently wired brains to enhance performance and innovation.

We do tend to recruit in our own image – its human nature to want to fit in. But this functional bias slows the process of innovation and performance down. In a time of huge disruption – agility is critical to staying ahead. If all our talent is only able to think in one way – we reach an impasse. Teams of cognitively similar teams may be great while situations are stable – but our digital world isn’t waiting.

A First rate Madness by S. Nasser Ghaemi explores the differences further still – looking at Politcal leaders with a history of mental illness. So called “healthy” leaders such as Tony Blair operated well during politically stable times – but compare that with Churchill and the crisis after crisis that required a mind more able to change on a sixpence.

Tips for better Cognitive Diversity

Change your recruitment process:

If we always do what we always did… then we always get what we always got. A cliché – but valid. Cognitive diversity is a far less obvious recruitment challenge. Many people do not come into an interview situation expecting to show how different they are to the organisation they want to work for – so searching out cognitive diversity is an obstacle in itself. Corporations and recruiters must work together to ensure that job descriptions and interview processes seek out competencies of those who are willing and able to challenge groupthink. Seek out talent from different pools, look for the curious, the open minded, the insightful. Don’t look for the mirror image of the rest of the team!

Perhaps consider using a recruitment algorithm to help reduce some of the natural human bias – use a diverse group of people to interview

Be Yourself:

Management needs to change to show that authenicity is welcome here. Generate an inclusive culture that empowers learning from everyone. Debate welcome here – challenge welcome here. Status quo no longer relevant. A manager that can enable employees to truly express themselves will encourage cognitively diverse and collaborative teams

Active Promotion:

Organisations must actively practice what they preach and positively promote differences in thinking styles across the corporation. This needs to be factored into career development and progression to back up the culture of true human diversity in real terms. Reward innovators and encourage disruptive thinking

For further reading take a look here:

https://hbr.org/2017/03/teams-solve-problems-faster-when-theyre-more-cognitively-diverse

Teams Solve Problems Faster When They’re More Cognitively …

hbr.org

The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies – Scott Page

http://nonprofitprofessionals.com/2014/01/from-rhetoric-to-practice-recruiting-strategies-to-make-diversity-more-meaningful-in-your-organization/

Corporate Yoga

Corporate Yoga

Historically, “Flexible Working” has been seen of the domain of the working mother. Trying to return to a previous career – juggling work demands and the school run. It conjures up images of telephones in one hand and a screaming baby in the other. Harried women trying to “have it all”

Outdated?

Absolutely.

Agility is a not a modern phenomenon – there has Always been the need to be able to do things differently – to maximise the opportunities that all elements of the workforce are able to offer, in a way and time that suits life. But more often than not, the stuffed shirts of the boardroom decided that change was not in fact a good thing, That innovation , god forbid, may actually increase productivity and perhaps mean change for themselves. And so we carried on doing what we always did.. and guess what…

The outbreak of the 2nd world war truly started a work revolt. Women were managing traditionally male dominated jobs and the home – and guess what – necessity truly was the mother of invention and this proved that looking at things differently still got the job done.

Back in those days the game of Women’s Football had a greater following than the mens…

But back then there were not the opportunities to practice genuine agility in the workplace. The modern technologies that we take for granted as a means to stay connected just didn’t exist. There was a genuine need to be always physically present at work.

But today we don’t have those restrictions. Technologies have moved on so much that there is a strong case for advocating more , not less, agile working. And before I become accused of too much femininism – there is no reason that this need to have a role that fits around the school run / life should continue to be the mainstay of women.

Surely the holy grail of work should be the ability to get the job done – in way that is most productive to the business whilst still allowing a high quality of life. A balance that leaves the employee empowered and ready to work during those “agile” hours?

So what does Agile Working mean?

Its an incredibly difficult definition to make – perhaps because quite simply there isn’t just one definer.

The RICS highlighted the fact that work is an activity, not a place – and that points us towards remote working – but it again it cant just be as simple as that. Some jobs do require you to be in a certain location..

So I would argue that Agile working isn’t just about time and space, its also about doing work differently, being more effective. Being outcome focussed rather than hours driven.

The Agile Future Forum whose aim is to provide leadership and practical support to disseminate agile working practices, considers these practices across the 4 dimensions of: time (when do people work?), location (where do people work?), role (what do people do?) and source (who carries out work?).

But however you choose to define it – the aim of agile working must surely be to ensure that you capture the most effective talent – utilising the right people, process, technology to ensure the most effective outcomes of a task.

Task Driven working – without restrictions as to how and where that is carried out.

It sounds amazing – and something we should all aspire to. Yet the concept of allowing more people to work in this more innovative way has been a slow burner. There is a reluctance to relinquish direct control over staff members – a fear that performance will drop without big brother peering through the office window. A reluctance to give up that concept of office “facetime” – the more hours I am here the better I must be.

This is an antiquated old school tie attitude – and one that needs vast readjustment. But like all leaps of faith – they require a degree of trust. Trust in your staff (which brings us back to the need to hire well!), trust in your technologies and trust in yourself.

By all accounts BT is trying to adopt a truly agile approach – they are using it in call centers – allowing carers to come back to work – in a virtual call center – sometimes even in shifts as short as 30 minutes. And they are finding it pays dividends. Ironically staff are now “working” longer hours – the need for “facetime” gone – and commuting down means that employees are actually able to devote more at work time.. to work. KPI performance has increased and employees are happier.

Plot this against the national return to work rate for mothers which sits at approximately 40%.. at BT that figure is over 90% – directly reported as being due to the adoption of agile working practices.

Sickness rates are down and the ability to employ a more diverse workforce is up. Stress related illness alone is reporting a 35% decrease. Cognitive diversity breeds innovation – and the ability to become a more socially inclusive employer brings business benefits and personal ones.

A side effect of this agility is also an improved carbon footprint. Sustainibility is high on the government agenda and BT has witnessed agility bring improve its sustainability.

But agility can’t happen all by itself. A company must have a cultural mindset that welcomes innovation and strong trust in its people. Cost per head – technology is cheaper than space – so business wise it makes financial sense to consider a different approach. Diversity improves innovation and empowered and engaged employees deliver far more when they are genuinely trusted to get on with task focused work.

And so on that note – I will stop working for my agile employers on a Tuesday night and sign off happily… (as Tuesday nights when the kids are in bed is a time and a place that works for me… Task completed, no boundaries!!)

http://fmlink.com/articles/british-telecom-moves-one-step-beyond-flexible-working-to-agile-working-2/

https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/blog/9-companies-really-flexible/

 

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