Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Businesses face two-year race to create a fully agile workforce

New research shows organisations are under pressure to increase workforce agility to stay competitive

The majority (86%) of UK businesses believe they need to develop a fully agile workforce* within two years in order to stay competitive in the marketplace according to a new white paper, The Race to an Agile Workforce, by Capita Resourcing.

More than two thirds (70%) of HR leaders regard improving workforce agility within their organisation’s as an extremely important priority. They believe that agility will be the most important characteristic in a workforce, having more impact on an organisation’s success over the next five years than stability (24%), productivity (21%), innovation (8%), size of a workforce (3%) and being customer-focused (5%). Most HR leaders say that skills shortages (93%) or difficulties recruiting permanent staff (91%) are driving them to develop a more agile workforce.

Without an established agile workforce within the next two years, nearly half (46%) of HR leaders believe customer experience will suffer, a similar number (43%) think they will face more difficulty recruiting and attracting high-quality talent into the organisation, and three in 10 (31%) fear they will lose business to competitors and suffer financially.

Geoff Smith, Executive Director at Capita Resourcing, said: “Workforce agility has been on the agenda for a number of years, but this research shows that the time for talking is over. Organisations are recognising the need for bold thinking and fresh approaches to create a workforce that will enable them to compete in the coming years. Business leaders and HR departments need to develop a clear vision of the type of workforce that best meets the needs of the organisation now and in the future, and then create a robust strategy to get them there as soon as possible. There has to be a holistic approach - it’s simply not enough to skirt around the fringes with tactical measures such as flexible working policies or one-off investments in technology.”

“Not only do HR leaders need to completely re-think the way they bring skills into the organisation, but also how they then retain and develop talent. That means breaking down the barriers between permanent and contingent recruitment, using real-time data and insight to inform decisions and deliver alignment between recruitment and business objectives and providing continuous learning and development to close skill-gaps and future-proof the organisation. Organisations need to move to an outcome-based model, where their talent strategies are directly linked to overall commercial objectives.”

Some efforts to increase workforce agility are already being hampered by difficulties in finding and recruiting the right skills into the organisation (27%), a lack of investment in Learning and Development (24%), and a lack of support from senior leadership (16%).

Many HR leaders feel that incremental change won’t deliver the required level of transformation and as such, are willing to rip out their existing processes and structures and start again from scratch. Three quarters (73%) of HR leaders said their organisation would

be better off if it completely reset its recruitment policy in order to drive greater workforce agility.

The full research findings can be found in the Race to an Agile Workforce white paper, which is available here.

*An agile workforce was defined as ‘a highly-skilled, highly flexible workforce that can work across the organisation and swiftly adapt to the changing needs of customers, employees and the marketplace’.