Much of the conversation around business agility centers on the ability of employees to quickly and effectively address challenges. This concept is closely tied to employee empowerment, decentralised decision-making, and streamlined processes. In today’s business environment, organisations must also consider the adoption of new technologies that can boost productivity, to increase speed and efficiency.
While speed is crucial for success, leaders must also be mindful of the potential trade-offs between speed and quality. They should strive for a balance that prioritises both speed and quality in their processes, to ensure that their organisation can achieve both short-term results and long-term success.
Leaders should make a conscious effort to integrate expectations for quality into their company culture, and to consistently reinforce these expectations through their performance development systems and regular interactions between managers and employees.
Similarly, employees should be made aware that with the privilege of having more autonomy in making decisions that impact customers comes the responsibility of maintaining and upholding the business’s standards of quality. In an agile workplace, employees are accountable for ensuring that the products or services they deliver meet all required quality standards. In this way, the organisation can ensure that both speed and quality are prioritised and that the end results are of the highest standard. To do this, ensure all employees are equipped with the latest tools, knowledge and skills that support an agile workforce.
Here are ten ways to increase agility in your workplace.
1. Enhance speed and efficiency
Agility in the workplace is closely tied to the speed at which employees are able to take action and address issues.
Do this: Implement an efficient decision-making process and empower employees to act. Keep in mind the potential trade-offs with quality.
- Establish quality expectations.
- Make it clear to employees that taking on more decision-making responsibilities also means being accountable for upholding the company’s standards of quality.
- Design a balance between speed and quality to help to ensure that high standards that meet customer requirements are maintained.
- Implement regular check-ins where employees can give on-the-ground feedback.
2. Encourage experimentation and learning through failure
A Gallup study found that only one in five employees strongly agree that their company fosters an environment that allows them to try, fail, and learn from their mistakes. However, creating a culture where employees feel safe to experiment and fail is crucial for building agility in the workplace. When individuals are afraid to fail, they may be hesitant to share new ideas or try new approaches.
Do this: Implement agile training and then give your employees a safe space to experiment and innovate, with feedback sessions where learnings are shared.
- Ensure organizational procedures and rules are in place to support employees
- Reduce complexity where possible
- Promote learning and growth – failures are great if they lead to better systems, processes and workflows
- Don’t ignore failures – learn from them.
3. Foster employee innovation
Agile organisations recognise the value of utilising the creativity and problem-solving abilities of their employees to generate new and innovative ideas.
Do this: Provide employees with the autonomy and resources to experiment without fear of negative consequences in an agile environment, and they will feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas.
- Actively encourage employees to share and discuss new ideas
- Create an environment that empowers them to put those ideas into action
- Leaders must understand that experimentation should not be limited to R&D teams, and should be encouraged across all areas of the organisation.
4. Prioritise employee feedback
For an agile workplace, it’s essential to establish open lines of communication with employees and to prioritise their feedback.
Do this: Instead of relying on annual employee feedback surveys, create a management culture that promotes regular, small interactions with staff, where the focus is on the organisation’s immediate needs, and feedback is received in real-time.
- Keep it short. Longer feedback surveys can be less useful since the information may not be timely enough to be actionable.
- It’s not enough to just listen to feedback, it’s essential to act on it.
- If feedback does not lead to meaningful change, it is wasted.
- Strive to not only gather employee feedback but also act on it to continuously improve processes and culture.
5. Encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing
While some companies may already foster a collaborative environment that supports agility, many do not. However, agility relies heavily on the ability of teams to collaborate and share information about customer needs.
Do this: Build a collaborative culture through feedback loops and quick solutions to improve any situation.
- If team members feel hesitant to present ideas in a brainstorming session, implement an online engagement tool to efficiently and effectively collect feedback on prominent issues.
- Use well-formulated open-ended questions to create a platform where employees, whether working remotely or in the office, can provide feedback and collaborate on decision-making.
- Demonstrate respect and interest in employees’ thoughts and ideas.
- Most importantly, implement ideas to encourage future engagement.
6. I’m Enhance employee engagement
Leaders who can effectively connect employee engagement, performance, and learning are well-positioned to develop agile and people-centric strategies that maximise the potential of their workforce. Engaged employees tend to be more open to new ideas and more adaptable to change.
Do this: Research by Harvard Business Review has found that organisations with high levels of employee engagement are more successful than those with lower engagement levels.
- Engaged employees tend to work harder, be more motivated, and deliver higher quality work than disengaged employees.
- Focus on fostering engagement to achieve better performance and results.
7. Promote group decision-making
Collective decision-making, also referred as group decision-making or collaborative decision-making, is the process of making decisions by a group, where no individual is held solely accountable for the outcome.
Do this: Implement this effective approach to help generate buy-in from stakeholders, build consensus, and foster creativity and innovation in the workplace.
- Bring diverse perspective together.
- Open the platform for more effective and efficient decisions.
- Give everyone an opportunity to share their ideas.
8. Ensure the right talent is in place
Agility is a crucial skill for professional success, but it’s often misunderstood. Some managers may misinterpret agility for a generalist approach and prioritise general skills over specialised skills during the hiring process. However, true agility doesn’t mean an employee is capable of handling all tasks.
Do this: For optimal performance, it’s important to have a balance of both generalists and specialists on a team.
- Don’t focus solely on general skills or specific expertise.
- Consider whether a candidate is open to embracing an agile mindset. This means they should be willing to learn, adapt, and grow in response to changes in the organisation or market.
- Invest in training that promotes agile mindsets, skill sets and upskills employees in new ways of working and technology platforms.
9. Foster a culture of humble leadership
Effective leaders possess the confidence to navigate challenges and uncertainty, while also having the humility to admit when they are wrong. For some leaders, it can be difficult to embrace uncertainty and relinquish a sense of control.
Do this: In agile organisations, it’s crucial for leaders to have a mindset that is open to new perspectives.
- Leaders should have the tools to recognise the limitations of their own knowledge.
- Encourage leaders to tap into the collaborative ideas of employees outlined throughout this article – this will help them build humility, which will in turn promote collective intelligence and engaging teams for a more holistic view of the business.
10. Adopt a test-and-learn approach
Digital transformation and agility are closely linked, with agile businesses being better equipped to adopt new digital technologies. When it comes to transformation, it’s essential to adopt an agile approach by setting goals and testing and learning along the way.
Do this: Break workflows down into smaller ‘sprints’ or phases, each with its specific objectives.
- Make regular adjustments, based on feedback and results, to achieve the desired impact.
- Test and learn at each phase, to make data-driven decisions, improve efficiency, and increase the chances of success.
Pulling it all together
Ultimately, agility means being able to adapt to the changing needs of the organisation or industry.
Adopting an agile approach to work requires a comprehensive alignment of people, digital transformation, and business goals. It involves making changes to processes, technology, department structures, and culture to foster a more nimble and responsive work environment. This process can be time-consuming, but involving employees in the change can accelerate success.
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