Traditional ways of working are no longer sustainable. In this age of instant connectivity, demographic and social changes, as well as increasing customer demands, business leaders and organisations are recognising the need to think about the way they operate.

Historically, workforce agility (or flexible working as it was more commonly known) has largely been positioned as an employee benefit. Although this is a crucial factor and outcome, agility in business is about more than employee benefits. It is a way for companies to meet their strategic business goals in a challenging business environment. It involves doing work differently and focusing on performance and outcomes rather than on time and attendance.

New, more agile models of work are being adopted not only by nimble, entrepreneurial start-ups but by larger more established organisations as a necessary means to survive in today’s fast-paced and global market. At Lloyds Banking Group, for example, it has become imperative for us to be a 24-hour, seven days a week business and agile working has gone a long way towards making that possible.

The Agile Future Forum was established in 2012 by 22 founder companies (who alongside Lloyds Banking Group include ITV, Ford, Cisco, HM Treasury to name just a few) to support the growth of agile working practices across UK plc. Our organisations differ in size, sector and location, but share a common view that workforce agility, supported and implemented by business leaders can deliver sustainable, enhanced business performance and greater employee engagement. Our research suggests the benefits are equivalent to three to 13 percent of workforce costs.The biggest drivers of value are the ability to meet the demands of your customers more effectively whilst recruiting and retaining talented staff members.

One recent example of agile working in action saw creative agency, Rufus Leonard introduce agile working practices. Agile working has allowed the agency to build an increasing range of specialist skills in the office in a commercially viable and manageable way. It allows them to keep up with the demands of a rapidly changing and demanding industry, bringing the right people in and ‘flex up’ when they need to. Since engaging with their staff’s working habits in order to place agility at the core of their business, they found that some employees work better in the evenings, or the morning, and were able to adapt to their staff’s work needs.

Staff were even able to coordinate working hours to work around that of clients, as well as commitments outside of work. As a result, 2014 saw the agency report its best year for new business to date, with a pitch-win ratio of 75 percent, winning a place on the rosters of 11 new clients and 19 industry awards. They also found their staff to be healthier, happier and more motivated.

Agile working is about businesses and employees working together to consider where, when and how to work to maximise productivity, innovation and ultimately deliver best value to an organisation. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for every business but agile working has helped AFF companies to compete in the global market. We call on other business leaders to consider the value that workforce agility may bring to their organisation and ultimately, to the UK economy.

Five golden rules to help you capture the real value of an agile workforce:

  1. Be business-led – don’t leave it all to HR
  2. Deeply understand the needs of the business and your workforce and create a portfolio of practices that bridges the two
  3. Develop the agile working model bottom-up
  4. Consider big, strategic changes
  5. Prepare leadership first – and put in place sufficient management capacity