Agile HR and Recruiters Required: The Way We Work Is Changing

The way we work is changing. Competition is becoming fiercer and attacking us globally and British business needs to adopt more agile working practices to stay competitive. However, the latest CBI Employment Trends survey shows that whilst 97% of respondents believe agile working practices are vital to the UK economy, many still struggle with the implementation and the biggest barrier to change is management. HR Managers and recruiters need to be mindful of this when they are selecting future employees!

This was the topic of an excellent talk given by Fiona Cannon, Group Director of Diversity at Lloyds Bank, at this year’s CIPD Conference.

The first question in my head was:

What exactly is agile working and how does this differ from flexible working.

It would appear that these are one and the same: flexible working has usually been working to the advantage of the employee’s lifestyle, whereas agile working benefits both the business and its people’s needs.

We understand that adapting and changing is the only way to survive – even though we may not like moving away from our comfort zone. In our 24/7/365 world the development and implementation of change is lead from the top, rather than from HR Managers, but in order to keep the talent that is the heart of any company, the considerations must come from the bottom up.

Any company that fails to embrace the needs of its valued employees will find itself falling behind its competitors.

Custom and practice becomes a habit. It was brought home to me a few years ago when a German student who came to live with us for two years asked:

Why do shops open in the UK when everyone is at work and then close when they finish?

It made no sense to him, but it was something I had not considered before – the 19th Century model was all I knew, even though it was frustrating – because that was custom and practice of UK retail. The German model works around the family – children finish school at 1pm and those in retail outlets close their shops to eat at lunchtime and re- open again at 4pm until 8pm or later. They built their businesses around when their customers could actually visit them, rather than traditional 9-5 model.

Over the last few years consumer demand has challenged and driven real change in Britain and businesses need to ensure they stay ahead of the game. Fiona Cannon gave examples of how their research had found that agility currently generates value of between 3-13% of workforce costs with potential of a further 3-7% savings and up to 11% sales uplift.

She illustrated how companies in different sectors were generating value:

Retail Supermarket

Saw value equivalent to 13% of total workforce costs, with potential for savings worth a further 7% of workforce costs and an increase of up to 11% in sales.

Call Centre

Saw value equivalent to 3% of annual sales for the call centre with expected further bottom-line benefit worth £30m over three years.

Manufacturing Company

Agile working contributed to 28% of staff reporting increased productivity and 14% of staff seeing an increase in chargeable hours.

Bank Head Office Division

Saw a value equivalent to 7% of total workforce costs, with potential for further 3%, and an opportunity to reduce premises costs by a further 23%.

Legal Firm

Agile working contributed to 28% of staff reporting increased productivity and 14% of staff seeing an increase in chargeable hours.


Delivered savings equivalent to 10% of net profits.

Without doubt companies are beginning to change the cultural mindset of their organisations in order to meet the future head on. If they are to survive they understand that the need to consider big strategic changes and that they have to examine their infrastructure should they need to make home working more prevalent in order to deliver efficient and effective services to their customers.

The Agile Future Forum (2013)

What is agile working and why does it matter?

The term agility in the business context can refer to workforce agility (flexibility in matching workforce fluctuations to demand) and operational agility (responsiveness and adaptiveness of processes and structures).

The Agile Future Forum describes agile working as a set of practices that allow businesses to establish an optimal workforce and provide the benefits of a greater match between the resources and the demand for services, increased productivity and improved talent attraction and retention.

These relate to:

Time: When do people work?
Location: Where do people work?
Role: What do people do?
Source: Who is employed?

You can find out more for free on the Agile Future Forum site by reading the ITV Case Study, downloading the full report, taking the agile test, etc, at

The seminar Creating An Agile Workforce To Provide Real Business Benefits was presented by Fiona Cannon from the Lloyds Banking Group and Ian Cutler from Willis

Mike Sandiford
Head of Partnerships
0207 193 9931

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