How to become an agile workforce: 3 Key steps

Why transitioning to more dynamic ways of working is crucial

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

Agility is not just a buzzword; it’s the differentiator that will determine which companies thrive and which barely survive in the Post-Industrial era of work we’re entering. Amidst ongoing economic uncertainty, shifts in consumer demands, and the rise of AI, no business can afford to stick to the same rigid hierarchies and legacy technology.

Now that leaders are encountering these new forces of change, they must evolve their operating models and business processes to put flexibility and agility at the core of everything they do. Many companies are embracing skills-centric strategies as a means to remove the friction associated with breaking work down into jobs and in turn accelerate their response times.

Although most organizations have been striving to be more dynamic for several years now, very few can truly be considered agile workforces. Fortunately, there are several best practices that can help every enterprise turn agility into its next competitive advantage.

What does it mean to be an agile workforce?

Organizations can only be considered agile when their entire workforce has embraced more dynamic and fluid ways of working. Leaders must empower their people to develop multiple skillsets, take on new challenges, and continuously experiment and innovate.

To achieve workforce agility, employees must be able to move freely into new positions as challenges emerge and priorities change. This kind of free-flowing exchange of talent requires workforce planning, as leaders must anticipate future skill needs and lay the groundwork for ongoing upskilling and reskilling.

Why is workforce agility so important right now?

A decade ago, workforce agility wasn’t on most leaders’ radars. Enterprises were vying for stability and competing on the basis of scalable efficiency. The working world was much more predictable, so being able to respond to disruption was an afterthought, not a priority.

The need for agility is only going to continue in the new world of work because the pace of change will keep accelerating. Ongoing volatility and a lack of predictability mean agility is the best strategy to survive and thrive in our next chapter.


What benefits do agile workforces reap?

Businesses that go the extra mile and transform into agile workforces benefit from a few decisive advantages, including

Faster response times

Agile workforces minimize organizational silos and rigid hierarchies, the top two culprits for delayed response times. Instead, full skills visibility and networked teams make it easy to efficiently redeploy talent as new priorities emerge. As a result, it’s easy to shift resources and adapt strategies, allowing businesses to respond on the fly.

Improved engagement and retention

Internal mobility is a common denominator amongst agile workforces. Employees are empowered to take on new projects and pitch in when business needs change. In addition to accelerating response times, internal mobility also keeps employees engaged. Our own research shows that two in three workers want to be considered for new opportunities within their organization, which means that internal mobility needs to be a priority to keep engagement and morale high.

Greater innovation

Agile workforces empower employees to share their ideas, build new skills, and tackle projects. These organizations minimize hierarchies and move away from top-down cultures, in turn encouraging people from across the organization to voice new suggestions and bring ideas to bear faster.

Increased flexibility

Rather than being confined to a set of responsibilities outlined in a job description, employees at agile organizations are encouraged to put their skills to use throughout the enterprise. Talent is continuously reallocated based on the challenges an organization faces and the people who possess the skills needed to overcome them. This increased flexibility removes many of the hurdles that typically delay projects and ensures that the most qualified talent is working on high-priority projects at any given time.

Better talent acquisition

Talent acquisition trends are rapidly transforming. While recruiting external candidates was once the dominant strategy, leaders are now looking within their organizations and empowering their people to develop the expertise needed to step into new roles. Agile workforces that encourage their employees to continuously build new skills will be in the best position to develop and acquire the capabilities their workforce needs on an expedited timeline—all while keeping recruiting and sourcing costs low.

3 steps to become a more agile workforce

If you’re looking to reap the benefits that only agile workforces can tap into, here are a few steps your business can take to embrace more dynamic ways of working:

#1. Embrace a culture of talent sharing

In agile workforces, talent flows freely. This can only happen when your workplace culture values talent sharing, rather than talent hoarding. Making the shift to talent sharing can be scary, especially for managers who might fear that they’re losing the all-star employees they rely on. That’s why emerging tools like talent marketplaces are such a game-changer. The two-sided platforms match employees to projects, gigs, and full-time roles across the organization, ensuring managers always have talent pools to tap into.

This is about speed and agility. And tapping into skills you don’t know about. This tool screams the opportunity to be agile and to achieve speed.

Laurel Catlett-King, VP Talent, Nestlé

#2. Prioritize skills-based strategies

Skills are fuel for agile workforces. Skills-based organizations are inherently agile because these businesses break down work into tasks, rather than jobs, enabling talent to flow freely across the enterprise.

To become a skills-based organization, leaders need full visibility into their workforce’s capabilities and knowledge base. Traditionally, this bird’s eye view has been hard to come by because skills information is typically siloed into a few different HR systems. Most taxonomies are also out of date, leading to skill-building strategies that may not address the actual needs of the organization.

Rather than settling for a subpar understanding of workforce skills, companies are harnessing AI-powered tools like Gloat’s Skills Foundation to gain visibility into their peoples’ capabilities. These systems are updated in real-time and pull from an employee’s LinekdIn profile or CV, in turn capturing the full range of knowledge and experience they’re bringing to the table.

#3. Democratize access to career development opportunities

All employees need access to the same breadth of skill-building activities and developmental opportunities. Unfortunately, traditional workplaces rarely create a level playing field for all of their employees, since access to opportunities is typically influenced by who employees know and their networks. Yet, talent marketplaces can take bias out of the equation, providing full visibility so that everyone in your organization gets a fair shot at learning experiences like projects, gigs, and mentorships.

We’re moving into more flexible, dynamic, agile ways of working. We see Gloat as an opportunity to accelerate that.

Watson Stewart, Head of Talent Solutions, Standard Chartered Bank

There’s no doubt that every leading enterprise in the new world of work will be powered by an agile workforce. If you’re looking to learn more about how talent marketplaces can maximize workforce agility, check out our Talent marketplaces 101 guide.

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