Empowering Agility: Running an Efficient Workforce in a Dynamic Business Landscape
Agility in business is increasingly important in the present day, and what agility means has been changing in recent years. For some time, the received wisdom was that to be agile, you needed to carry a small workforce, be razor-sharp in promotion and marketing, and take advantage of the ability to move fast. But the last few years, including specifically the pandemic, have delivered some significant lessons. One of those has been the importance of being able to react to unforeseen situations – and the key learning within that has been that it’s probably better to carry a larger workforce.
Agility is still key, but if you are a business that carried a small workforce into the pandemic, you’re probably as aware as anyone of how that period stymied agility. If you have five people all working to their optimum levels and one of them falls ill – with a contagious illness that means they can’t possibly come into the office or travel for business – then you have four people. No matter how you square that, it’s a blow that’s hard to absorb. So now most people accept that it’s beneficial to carry a larger staff, and to make the most optimal use of it. How you do that is what we’re going to discuss below.
Why is a large workforce beneficial?
Naturally a workforce can only be as large as budgets allow, but within reason, the more people you have on board, the more talents you have. You can be more flexible, respond faster and – this is more important than ever given the recent past – have more resilience in times of crisis. There has been a certain received wisdom that cutting jobs is the simplest way to streamline a workforce, but the reality is that more workers with a degree of flexibility is how you will be able to react to both crisis and opportunity alike.
How do you identify the right people for an efficient workforce?
Greater efficiency comes with more movable pieces. With advances in technology that allow you to focus on optimizing your workforce for maximum efficiency, it’s easier than ever to manage a larger number of workers. Let’s take a realistic example of a situation that may affect a business: You have the opportunity to take on an account that has suddenly become available, and the one caveat to their request is that someone in your business must be able to speak German. If you have a smaller workforce, the chances that someone on that workforce speaks German and is available to take on the account is greatly reduced.
When you’re hiring for flexibility it is always worth expanding the conversation with potential hires: they’re good enough at what they do to be a fit for your business. What else can they do? What supplementary talents can they bring to the table? Speaking German is one possibility, and other languages are useful too. When you’re hiring a sales professional, learning that they’re also skilled in accounts, or have a background in conflict mediation, means that you can consider these skills when looking to deploy the strongest possible candidates, or teams, for each piece of work that lands on your desk.
A bigger team can handle crises and opportunities more easily
As we’ve alluded to with reference to the pandemic, reacting to a crisis is one reason that a larger workforce is desirable. The same is true of reacting to an opportunity. Dealing with unforeseen circumstances doesn’t always mean dealing with bad unforeseen circumstances. As we hinted above, opportunities can come along for your business that will be easier to handle the larger the staff you have. You can create – formally or informally – a team within your business that you call on when you need to respond swiftly to unforeseen circumstances.
The profile for people to be seconded on to such a team is that they should be adaptable and good at communication. Once you have presented them with a brief that needs prompt action, they should be able to digest the details, understand what they need to do, and get to work on turning the situation to your advantage. Ideally, the team will also have a diverse range of skills. It’s almost inevitable some of their skills will replicate each other’s, but it is beneficial for example to have one team member who is a natural problem-solver, someone else who has extensive knowledge of resourcing, another who is a skilled organizer, and so on.
Communication is key to an efficient workforce
When it comes to task management, there are two situations it is essential to avoid. On one hand, you want to make sure that people aren’t talking over one another, trying to do the same job and getting in one another’s way. On the other, you don’t want a situation where you’re three days into a five-day task, and one person is asking another “Have you done [x}?”, and the response comes back “No, I thought you were doing that.”
Communication is indispensable. An agile workforce will always know who is doing what, and it will be documented. It’s useful for everyone to have a dashboard setting out what they are doing at all points. Think of it as a relay race: Person A has the baton while they begin the task, and they need to finish promptly so they can hand it on to Person B, and so on. And the handover needs to be clean – everyone should know when it’s their time to do something.
The modern business landscape moves quickly, and is located in a world which is filled with surprises around each corner. It is beneficial to you and your business to know how best to handle anything the world can throw at you, and when you optimize the efficiency of your workforce, you can be confident that you will have the best chance of positive outcomes. If you take every chance that comes your way to improve, you can be sure of the best results time after time.