Agile Working – Is it the new bartering tool?
Posted by Richard Grove
Every candidate has different motivations as to why they search for a new role but gone are the days where money and career progression are the key drivers. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is still looking for a pay rise and thinking about the bigger picture but a vast amount of the candidates that we work with will ask on the first call; “Is there a chance to work from home?” Agile working is a great attraction tool as candidates will always be driven by what’s personal to them. If they truly value working from home one or two days per week, this could be the difference of them accepting or rejecting an offer, without even taking money or progression into account. Whilst many employers are now promoting flexible working and believe it has increased productivity, there are still many out there that still believe that it can promote laziness and would rather employees be visible in the office. I asked a few of my contacts what their views were of agile working and this was the feedback: Head of Recruitment What is your definition of agile working? To me, agile working is about ensuring that the work is completed to specified deadlines but that it is down to the individual as to how, where and when that work is completed. Do you think everyone should be entitled to it? It depends on the individual. I have team members I would completely trust with agile working, whereas others would take the mick and the work would not get done. I think everyone should be able to have flexible working and flexi-time but not necessarily the full agile working piece. Do you think it promotes a sense of empowerment and better results? Not necessarily. It depends on the individual. For some, it will, for others it will be a frightening concept. Have you noticed a shift from new recruits wanting more agile working as opposed to higher salaries? and on that note, do you believe this is a millennial mindset? I don’t think this is a millennial mindset, I have noticed it at all ends of the spectrum. As roles become less reliable (many more redundancies, no concept of a job for life any more), people are realising that working long hours will not give them job security, so having a life outside work is much more important. If all companies are paying similar salaries, agile working or flexible working/flexible time (which are part of, but not all, flexible working), become key benefits of choice when choosing a future employer). What are the cons of agile working? The cons include managers having to pay much closer attention to the work that is being done and what is being achieved. Whilst lots of people like the idea of agile working and being able to choose how and when they work, it will not work in all environments (call centres etc) and not everyone will bother to do any work if they are not in the office environment. Finally, there are health and safety issues and issues around the employer’s responsibility to ensure that staff have a safe working environment, which makes agile working difficult and expensive. Again, on the cost side, ensuring that staff have all the necessary equipment for agile working (mobile phone, laptop, dongle (to ensure Wi-Fi connections) can be very costly and not every company can afford this. HR Director What is your definition of agile working? A combination of policy and mindset; policy provides the articulation of what is aspired (e.g. flexible working/ home working/ compressed hours, etc - all pretty standard) - but the real difference comes from mindset; it is the trust and confidence present in those who need to agree ‘agile working’? Do they do it themselves to ‘show permission’? Also, agility is a two-way thing - sometimes an organisation might need to ask for employees to put ‘all-hands-on-deck’, but hopefully this would be balanced by the agility they offer the other way. Do you think everyone should be entitled to it? There may be some jobs where it just wouldn’t work - but I think this comes back to mindset; let’s start from the position it WILL work, and then seek to address any challenges, etc to this. Do you think it promotes a sense of empowerment and better results? Back to mindset; will the employee respond that way - or slack off? I would say most employees would work more effectively - of course, some will be ‘slackers’, but I would be confident overall staff productivity would increase. Have you noticed a shift from new recruits wanting more agile working as opposed to higher salaries? and on that note, do you believe this is a millennial mindset? Absolutely on the first point - on latter (millennial), I think this is also creeping into more ‘mature’ employees - maternity returners, for example. But also, I get a sense that, linked to an increased importance of ‘worth’ in terms of the organisation in which you work, there is also a value attached to flexibility/ agility being offered. What are the cons of agile working? Having to say ‘no’ on occasions - but I think the challenge for more traditional organisations and cultures to look across at the likes of Google, Facebook, etc, etc who create an environment that encourages agility, but at the same time makes it fun/ interesting/ reward to come into the office! Recruitment Business Partner What is your definition of agile working? We are organisationally and technologically supportive of colleagues who want to occasionally work from home. A flexible approach to agile working helps us empower our employees to perform at their best whilst removing constraints which can stand in the way. As well as being a perk that is becoming increasingly important to candidates, working from home can increase productivity and help people make their role work around their personal circumstances. As we are a multi-site nationwide organisation, a culture of hot-desking and fluid movement between buildings is already ingrained in our staff. Do you think it promotes a sense of empowerment and better results? My opinion is that it fosters more responsibility and ownership, as well as providing the space needed to complete larger, detail-heavy projects. There are some instances where it’s not practical, particularly for ‘floor-based’ roles which require a presence on site, but there’s no reason it can’t work given our access to the right technology. Studies have shown that it’s prized more highly than salary and other benefits for millennials and it seems to be becoming a regular offering in cultural sector organisations who can’t compete financially with the Private Sector. What are the cons of agile working? The main drawbacks in my experience concern people who become isolated in standalone roles or departments – even though they’re connected technologically, they can feel as though they are unsupported and misunderstood by the wider business. A stable team of co-located peers can sometimes be a useful network even if they have no expertise in your area of work. In my opinion, I think agile working is a great concept and if the work is being done, why would you not want to give your employees something that makes them happy? I’ve always been someone that enjoys working in a team and values the people around me but having one or more days per week of getting up slightly later, getting to see my two dogs and not having to do the 45-minute Central Line commute to work and back... how could I refuse?! What are your thoughts on agile working? Would a day (or more) from home help your decision when accepting a new role?