Fears about the Ebola virus echo challenges, albeit on a lesser scale in the UK, faced during the Swine flu scare a few years ago. While these are relatively rare and unpredictable events, there are also much more predictable occurrences that UK businesses will face regularly, which can disrupt working patterns and need to be planned for.
Think further back than the floods of last year to the winter of 2010 when we experienced heavy snowfall on a number of occasions, leading to vast parts of the country coming to a standstill. One snowy morning, I recall a conversation with a customer, who was trying to urgently purchase remote worker licences to deploy staff unable to get to the office.
Ironically, the supplier of these licences had also been unable to travel to their offices. I’m pretty sure they were busy trying to hire a snowplough in order to make it in. Of course, the worst day possible to hire a snowplough and to test your remote working capabilities or try to buy additional remote worker licences is the day of unexpected heavy snowfall.
Change is also being driven by people. Employees now want to have more of a say in when, where and how they perform their daily tasks, and how they achieve their organisational objectives.
Such change has been made possible because technology has made rapid advancements in the areas of connectivity, security, devices and applications. These have all become more mobile centric, allowing people to stay connected regardless of their location, and ensuring their business can still operate effectively.
But the transition that businesses need to go through to a benefit from a more agile and flexible workforce requires more than just technology to make it a success. So when considering a more agile working environment, it is crucial to ensure that the reasons for change revolve around primary business drivers.
All businesses will have a strategy and a defined set of objectives, such as improving collaboration or increasing net promoter score, both designed to improve the customer experience and increase loyalty. Other key objectives of a more financial nature include cutting costs, reducing risk, driving productivity and increasing profitability.
Softer metrics should also be taken into account. It’s been well documented that adopting flexible working equates to happier employees, which drives higher discretional effort, makes for happier customers, and in turn can increase profitability and boost growth. So how can businesses move most painlessly to a flexible, more agile working environment?
At Olive, our experience in helping customers make these changes is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. The key to success is to be clear about what you want to change and why, and then align the programme to this. It’s not rocket science, but it can easily get obscured in a mire of internal politics.
For example, if you wanted to reduce costs and drive productivity through employees’ use of communication technology, gathering information in an audit-style fashion upfront is vital. Ask yourself, what percentage of office-based staff regularly use their desk phone? How often are people away from their desks during the day? What is the split between those users who have a company provided fixed phone, mobile phone and/or both? And if I was changing things would I just replace what they have with new? Or could I give them something different that would help them do their job more effectively?
An average across industry shows that in most offices, 20 per cent of desks remain empty throughout the majority of the day. If you can save this space, look to re-use it by sub-letting it. This could provide a saving of £9,500 a year for every desk.
Once you have audited current working styles and got to grips with usage, or otherwise, of your corporate facilities, our best practice for managing end-user requirements is:
- Share the vision and strategy: ensure the vision for agile working in the organisation is agreed and clearly articulated from the senior leadership team.
- Get leaders aligned and engaged: work loosely with managers within the business, and get outside help to equip them with the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to embrace a new way of working.
- Ensureemployees are engaged: change needs to be led by managers, but it needs to be accepted and endorsed by employees; for it to be embedded in the organisation, early employee engagement is a critical success factor.
- Regularlyreview and evolve: not everything will be “right first time” and it may not be possible to do everything immediately, so set clear goals and review regularly, gauge what’s changed, and make adjustments as an ongoing process.
By introducing some of this rigour and strategic approach, you will not only avoid disruption to your business, but you’ll be well placed to succeed in the new mobile-centric world of work.
If you require external assistance to help you plan, deliver or manage technology changes to make your business more agile, then of course we’d be happy to help. Please contact us initially at email@example.com
Or if you’re not quite ready to make the mobile-centric move just yet, you might like to follow our award-winning media-hub site, which contains blogs, top tips, videos and other advisory articles. Find us at mediahub.olive.co.uk