Why the UK needs to switch on to the agility mindset

New research by the Agile Future Forum (AFF) published last week shows that more flexible models of work will be needed as agility becomes a key focus of the modern, competitive company. Fiona Cannon explains further and provides a case study from Citi on how it embraced agility.

New technologies, changing customer demands, demographic shifts and globalisation have changed the world of work significantly. Businesses need to respond effectively to this new reality in order to stay competitive. Despite this, most organisations are configured around a 19th-century model of work: 9-to-5; five days a week; a 16-to-60 career path. New, more agile, models of work are needed to meet the challenges we face.

The Agility Mindset, published last week by Palgrave MacMillan, is the culmination of four years of research and testing new models of work by the Agile Future Forum (AFF) – an alliance of 22 leading UK companies, including Lloyds Banking Group, BT, Cisco, ITV, John Lewis, KPMG, Willis Towers Watson and Ford of Britain – set up to consider how UK business might benefit from the extended use of workforce agility.

The AFF’s unique research has proven agile working has direct, positive impact on the bottom line. In the areas we reviewed, we were enjoying benefits of between 3% and 13% of workforce costs, with the opportunity to increase that by 3% to 7% with the introduction of more extensive agile working practices.

But a new approach is required if these benefits are to be realised. Traditionally, workforce agility (or flexible working) has been considered a benefit for employees and a cost for employers. That needs to change.

There needs to be demonstrable benefits for the business, employees and stakeholders if agile working practices are to be successful. And it is possible to find the sweet spot between those three constituents, particularly as businesses need agility and employees want agility.

The development and implementation of agile working practices can no longer be left solely to HR. Gaining buy-in from business leaders is key to making substantial organisational change. In order for UK business to take full advantage of agile working, leaders need to recognise the business advantage it will provide and work hand in hand with HR teams to bring about these changes.

The Agility Mindset provides unique research into the economic benefits of agility, but it also shows organisations how to implement new models of work using tools developed by the AFF and sharing our experiences. These have all been developed by employers for employers. We believe they are transformational, which is why we are keen to share what we have learnt.

The AFF founding members reflect a broad range of sectors, sizes and geographical spread, and each have a track record of managing workforce agility within their organisations. Between them, they employ over half a million people across the UK and, as such, are a microcosm of UK plc. We’ve found that workplace agility has real-world impact on the bottom line, supported boosted productivity and results in a workforce empowered to work the way they want to work.

Vivian Hunt, managing partner of McKinsey & Company and a founding member of the AFF, stressed the importance of being reactive to the constantly evolving nature of work: “Agility is an ever-changing concept. What’s considered ‘agile’ today may be ‘business as usual’ in the future.

“The willingness, ability and culture to be strategically agile about developing, reviewing and implementing new practices over time are as important as applying current practices effectively now.”

No one can know what the future of work will ultimately look like, but the AFF have established seven general principles likely to run through the evolution of an agile workforce:

  • Trust will play an increasingly important part in the relationships between organisations and individuals. In many cases, command and control relationships will fall into disuse.
  • The workplace will survive, but presence at the workplace will cease to be a proxy for diligence and commitment.
  • The focus of performance measurement will shift from inputs to outputs.
  • There will be less central management, and more team and self-management.
  • Some changes will be adaptations to the arrival in the workforce of Generations Y and Z and the extension of the time in the workforce of older generations.
  • Traditional working patterns – 9-to-5 each day, five days a week, 45-50 weeks a year, fewer bank holidays – will adapt to reflect the new norm.
  • The gig economy is an emergent form of employment that more people may choose as an alternative to a career in a single organisation.

Organisations with an agile mindset will be equipped to respond effectively and easily to these predictions, giving UK business the competitive advantage in an increasingly volatile, unpredictable, ambiguous and complex world.

Citi – Creating a workplace fit for the future


Case study provided by Citi Group

Citi is a global financial services organisation. Core activities are safeguarding assets, lending money, making payments, and using capital markets on behalf of clients.

Citi Realty Services (CRS) recently introduced Citi Works, a shift from the traditional to the progressive workplace. It incorporates a range of work settings and technology to support more active and connected work styles, and is in response to the latest trends and priorities for today’s workers.

It is a global initiative in line with corporate ambitions and the future direction of the company. All new buildings and major renovation projects must be evaluated for Citi Works, and there must be good reasons for not adopting it.

It has been successfully implemented in every region and across a wide variety of business groups. In the EMEA region, it has been implemented in Belfast, Budapest, London (at Canary Wharf, pictured above) and Warsaw.

Citi Works replaces individually assigned seating with a greater variety of shared seating and space types, among a defined neighbourhood of employees. Unassigned seating improves occupancy rates and creates opportunities for real estate efficiency and variety, and better amenities that foster greater interaction and collaboration.

Shifting from one seat per person to neighbourhoods of shared space fosters collaboration and mobility, and has led to a 20% increase in real estate efficiency.

Citi Works pillars
1. Activity-based workplace

  • A rich variety of work settings to support a range of activities, including focused and collaborative work.
  • Personal flexibility to choose where you work to best meet your personal productivity needs; fostering employee satisfaction and pride in the workplace.

2. Technology alignment

  • Allows employees to work seamlessly from various locations, while accessing the resources they need.
  • Virtualisation strategy facilitates unassigned seating models.
  • Various collaboration environments enabled with wi-fi and video conferencing.

3. Unassigned seating

  • Alignment of overall footprint, space allocation, and proportion to actual use.
  • Accommodate more people in less space with the right number of primary seats provided to support current work patterns.
  • Ability to accommodate adjacency and organisational changes flexibly.

4. Enhanced service and branding

  • Elevated level of space maintenance and employee support.
  • Alignment of brand purpose and values to bring the Citi brand to life in the workplace. Establishing a common, familiar thread across all Citi workplace environments globally, while providing flexibility for regional differences and local requirements.

Citi Works principles

  • Consistency: a common set of principles and best practices.
  • Efficiency: real estate standards for physical space use, capacity, and density.
  • Quality environments: workspaces that inspire employee satisfaction and pride in the workplace to allow our people to do their best work.
  • A rigorous strategic process that engages end users.
  • A technology and real estate partnership to deliver integrated solutions.
  • Proactive change management to facilitate the transition to new environments and tools.
  • A continuous learning commitment to make each project better than the last in delivering predictable, high-quality space.

Critical success factors

Management readiness – willingness of the leadership team to enable agile working practices that would involve unassigned seating, removal of management offices, implementation costs. Businesses must understand their overall needs, evaluate their technology requirements, and develop an opportunity assessment.

Technology – Citi Works is aligned with the company-wide Virtualisation Strategy initiative to provide tools and support for virtualised environments. In addition, a range of innovative IT products and collaboration tools are available in Citi Works spaces, e.g. video and collaboration tools, wi-fi and virtual desktops and wireless headsets.

Change management – A change management programme gets employees ready to enter the new Citi Works environment, preventing stress or confusion.

Providing for staff needs – employees must see a “payback” for the move to Citi Works; working remotely increases employee satisfaction and enhances productivity.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply