The UK economy is facing a chronic skills shortage. Much like the rest of the Western World, businesses in the UK are falling victim to a demographic timebomb; as the boomer generation settles into retirement and Generation X drift towards the end of their careers, two far smaller generations – in Millennials and Gen Z – are replacing them.
For employers, this means greater competition than ever before to attract stellar candidates and makes existing staff all the more precious. Could agile work environments hold the key to wooing and retaining employees?
Company-Employee Relationships Have Changed
It’s no exaggeration to say that the modern dynamic between employers and their staff is barely recognisable from even three decades ago. The number of businesses competing for the same talent has placed the ball firmly in employees’ courts, meaning that flexible working, people-centric offices, and agile work environments are no longer nice-to-haves, they’re expected.
For example, a recent survey from IWG revealed that 80% of workers in the UK would choose a job which offered flexible working over one that didn’t. What’s more, a survey conducted by PageGroup found that millennials – due to make up 50% of the workforce by 2020 – expect flexible working to be offered as a standard and not as an additional benefit. As an approach that promotes flexibility above all else, agile working has a huge role to play in the new business-worker paradigm: partly in attracting talent but also in holding onto it.
As thinkers like David Pink have long posited, salary isn’t necessarily the greatest motivator for applicants when choosing a job anymore. The days when outstanding candidates could be lured by a generous pay package and stock options alone appear to be receding. Instead, job-seekers are increasingly prioritising work-life balance over financial considerations – for example, searches for ‘flexible’ jobs on Indeed hit a 3-year-high in 2018.
If you want to attract the best to your business, you need a workplace environment that caters to the things they value. Agile working is perfectly suited to this end. Agile focuses on promoting flexibility and autonomy, giving staff the power to work in the ways that best suit them.
It could be the use of separate spaces for different tasks – for example, pods and quiet areas for focused work. It could be the use of furniture that is designed to promote employee health and wellbeing. It could even be the décor, with the use of biophilic design and colours that cater to creativity. How you adopt agile will largely depend upon your workplace, but what matters is that staff wellbeing and job satisfaction are placed front and centre.
Moreover, there’s a growing body of evidence that this works as a talent acquisition strategy. A 2017 study from talent management firm, BPS World, found that of businesses who’d adopted an agile environment, 84% said it was much easier to hire skilled staff.
Your environment isn’t just vital to attracting new staff, it also has a big influence on your ability to retain those you already have. According to Aviva’s 2017 Working Lives report, 63% of employees said they were more likely to stay with an employer who offered flexible working. Additionally, more than half (51%) of businesses reported that flexible working increased productivity and more than two-thirds (68%) believed it made employees happier.
When asked which flexible benefits they wanted to see offered in the next five years, responders to a recent PageGroup study answered with flexi-time (67%), followed by ‘flexi-place’ (57%), and compressed work weeks (54%). Obviously, flexible working means different things to different people, and the individual desires of your staff should be afforded as much weight as the views of the majority, but this example is illustrative of the ‘sort’ of things your staff are likely to want from a workplace.
How can agile help?
Well, just like appealing to potential employees, agile is the ideal vessel for delivering the flexible working that will help you keep existing staff. So, your people would like the ability to work in a variety of spaces around the business? Agile can help you cater to it with hot-desking and task-based areas. Or perhaps your staff would like more opportunities for collaborative work? Again, this is the perfect scenario for agile as the methodology has fostering collaboration at its core.
Maybe your staff simply want the opportunity to be in the office less. An agile work environment can even help facilitate that, removing set desks in favour of flexible workstations that can be used as and when employees are in – saving you real estate costs as an added bonus.
Whether you’re focused on luring the best people in your industry, hanging onto indispensable staff with itchy feet, or both, embracing agile working is the most effective approach. It puts people and their needs top of the pile and provides the flexible, collaborative, and stimulating working environment modern employees demand. After all, in the words of author, Simon Sinek, customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.
To learn more about making the leap to an agile working environment and how it could benefit your business, download our agile special report.