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Agile Working – Are you a leader or a laggard?

By Ellie Rich-Poole. Published on 9 December 2015

The challenges and benefits of adopting a more agile working environment were under the spotlight when executive search and interim management firm Eton Bridge Partners hosted a business breakfast for senior professionals. Chaired by the former FT journalist and co-author of Future Work, Alison Maitland, the event included practical initiatives and valuable first-hand advice from an expert panel, all of whom had successfully persuaded their organisations to adopt agile working in one form, or another.

Featuring contributions from Clare Dyer (HR Director at BBC Television), Ben Dowd (Business Director at Telefonica O2 UK),
Claire Fox (Global HR Director and Child Safeguarding at Save the Children International) and Adrian Dyer (“City Dad” blogger and International Shipping Trade Manager), the event attracted nearly 70 business professionals to debate the pros and cons of agile working.

As Alison Maitland said in her introduction, agile working “goes
 far beyond traditional flexible working arrangements, it is about a wholesale shift in work and management culture.”

The rich debate and inspiring examples helped us develop four key observations about successful agile working:

1) Agile working comes in many forms

No consensus of what constitutes agile working emerged. For Clare Dyer, the agile methodology in software development required people to be in the same place, at the same time, for key scrum meetings, but gives people autonomy in how they work and spend discretionary time on projects of personal interest. For others, agile working comes from giving people more control over when and where they work.

2) Three levels of benefits

When agile working is implemented well it can produce benefits for the working environment, for individuals, and other measurable benefits for business too. Claire Fox and Adrian Dyer shared their personal and inspiring experiences of flexible working. Claire was keen to emphasise this did not mean she was any less committed to her career, stating, “I want to drive my career forward AND spend plenty
 of time with my family”.

Ben Dowd described some of the benefits O2 has seen from agile working, citing a survey in which 70 per cent of employees said it had made them more productive. Claire Dyer described the impressive impact agile working has had on employee retention.

3) Agile working requires a cultural shift

True agile working is about autonomy for all and a shift of cultures. Business leaders need to lead by example, to embed the move from a culture of “presenteeism” 
to one of agile working; from a preoccupation with hours worked to results achieved.

4) It’s not always easy but it is inevitable

Agile working is easier to embed in some environments than in others. O2, for example, found it easier to introduce agile working for office-based staff than those working in call centres or retail stores. All our speakers, however, agreed that firms will need to find ways of introducing elements of agile working for all staff. As Claire Fox put 
it, “agile working is not just a nice thing for employers to offer, it’s the critical next step to maximising the potential of a workforce”.

Key questions to ask about your organisation

  • Are you clear about the benefits you want to achieve and how you will measure them?
  • Does your organisation cultivate a culture of mutual trust in which people feel they can work autonomously?
  • Are your organisation’s leaders championing agile working?
  • Is your business embracing widespread agile working as an inevitable cultural shift in the way people work?
  • Is agile working available to everyone?
  • Do you confidently talk about your company’s policy on agile working as a way to attract talent?

Eton Bridge Partners can help you attract the talent that will thrive in an agile working culture and connect you with people who are already making it happen. For further information, please contact 
Ellie Rich-Poole  on 01753 303 600 or email: ellie.richpoole@etonbridgepartners.com

Click here for a detailed summary of the agile working event including quotes from our panelists.

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