Category: Industry News, Lloyds Banking Group, Professional Services, Finance, agile working
Work models currently in use around the world are largely relics of a bygone era, and they need to be radically transformed in the interests of productivity, and meeting customer and employee needs. The right management and technology can make a huge difference.
The nine-hour workday and five-day working week emerged as the norm in the 19th century but are still with us today in an age where instant international connectivity is taken for granted. This situation has to change and businesses must become more flexible and agile in the way they work if they are to catch up and keep pace with the ways in which the world is changing.
The Agile Future Forum - founding members of which include Lloyds Banking Group and many other organisations including EY and Eversheds, - aims to help businesses make this shift, by sharing expertise and ideas.
Young people today have grown up with digital technologies and internet connectivity playing a fundamental role in their lives and these men and women are already feeding into the workforces of the world. Start-up operators tend to have an instinctive understanding of how agile working can be an advantage to them but larger, more established businesses need to catch on quickly if they aren't to start looking strikingly set in their ways.
Economic and customer needs
Contrary to what tends to be a widely held view, agile and flexible working isn't all about meeting the demands of employees or offering incentives to members of an enterprise workforce. That is all certainly an important dynamic but there are very significant cost savings to be made as well.
One recent example saw KMPG able to save £4.7 million by allowing much more agile and flexible working, with some reduced hours, in a way that allowed it to minimise the risk of future redundancies.
Agile working isn't all about saving money either though, and it is crucial for companies in any sector to understand that the habits and the demands of their customers are and have been shifting dramatically. These shifts simply cannot be ignored by businesses that want to compete for the custom of people who demand instant access to services around the clock.
At Lloyds Banking Group it's become imperative for us to be a 24-hour, seven days a week business and agile working has gone a long way towards making that possible
In order for Lloyds or any other business to deliver services around the clock, there is an unavoidable need for reliance on technology - at Lloyds for example, we're investing £1 billion over the next three years to develop our digital offering. Therefore, there is a clear imperative for the future to ensure that businesses have a strong technology infrastructure in order for agile working to be routinely enabled and for seamless services to be delivered to customers.
More significant though perhaps is the need for a cultural shift and changes to infrastructure within organisations themselves with regard to agile working. CEOs need to take a lead and the benefits ought to be understood not as a cost liability or a problem to be dealt with but rather as a potential competitive advantage and an important way of generating value for both the employer and employee.
There are more subtle and structural ways in which contemporary technologies can make businesses and their workforces more agile but certainly the most obvious and immediate relates to geography. When employees aren't obliged to travel because they can use videoconferencing or they can work from home or a more local office, they save their employers money and these savings quickly add up.
Eversheds, law firm, for example, saw an increase in productivity in one of their offices as a result of allowing employees to try out different types of agile working, with 14 per cent of staff in that office reporting an increase in their chargeable hours.
No one-size-fits-all approach
Businesses are waking up to the need to think again about the way they operate and their workforces perform their roles and meet customer demand. Much has changed and been achieved over the past 10 years in this context but there is a great deal more still to be done if businesses are to maximise the flexible working potential that new technologies allow.
It is particularly imperative that a one-size-fits-all approach is not adopted to the issue and that company executives (not just HR bosses) understand the need for agile working to be introduced at the level of infrastructural adjustments.
The needs of different workforces, different organisations and different business units can be very distinct and each instance must be properly assessed on a case-by-case basis if the real potential of agile working is to be unlocked.
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