How to create an agile workforce

March 3rd, 2023
HireVue Team
Create Agile workforce

Creating an environment and culture in which an agile workforce can flourish doesn’t happen overnight. It starts with hiring employees that are well-suited for workplace agility. Utilizing an agile mindset assessment can be instrumental in discerning the right attributes for agility in potential employees during the hiring process. 

Developing and maintaining an agile workforce is a key component for successful companies. The benefits that come with an agile workforce are transformational to the company and its employees. While there are lots of moving parts to consider, companies that want an agile workforce should start with  hiring employees with an agile mindset. These are the four attributes that comprise an agile mindset:

  • Mental Agility – being comfortable with the complex
  • Results Agility – ability to drive results under tough conditions
  • People Agility – effective emotional intelligence and communication
  • Change Agility – fluid thinking and removing roadblocks

The goal is to develop a workforce and company culture that is able to quickly adapt to the ever changing business world.   “Joe from accounting” and “Sue from admin” might come up with an idea or process that is both more efficient and cost-effective than what the company was doing beforehand. Rather than live in the, “We’ve always done it this way,” world, the company should embrace new ways of doing things to improve itself and reward agile attributes which involve having everyone contribute to the process. 

As leaders, you have the opportunity and responsibility to educate your future agile employees so they understand that acquiring an agile mindset and developing an agile workforce provides benefits for both the employees and the company. An agile workforce is truly a win-win for everyone. 

You also need to support their new participation in the process. The time for territoriality is over. Your employees must feel secure in providing new ideas to leadership that will ultimately benefit the company, so such development should be encouraged and not discouraged. When you use agile assessments to hire new team members and train current employees to be agile, be sure to be both honest and forthright while encouraging them. They need to believe you to buy into the new concepts of an agile workforce.

Along with educating your employees to create this workforce, you also have to demonstrate high-quality leadership that also showcases agility. Leadership isn’t simply delivering orders from above. Even if you are not able to do every job of every person over whom you have responsibility, you should at least be familiar with the role and responsibilities of every position in the company. If you are, then you can use the proper tools and have the insight to appoint managers that have the right qualities to be able to lead the departments to which you assign them.

Lead by example. You have to participate in the process, lead with an agile mindset, and take constructive criticism if it improves the company. No one person is the answer for everything. To make your workforce agile, you have to be agile yourself. Learn from employees in your company that know more than you do about a subject. Listen to their ideas. Cull what won’t work, and set in motion what will work. Encourage folks to continue to be part of the process even if you didn’t implement their ideas.

Maintaining this environment requires vigilance. You have to nourish it for it to continue. Complacency is the enemy of productivity. Always evaluate the effectiveness of the program, and change what needs changing when appropriate.

Five benefits of an agile workforce

Having an agile workforce from top to bottom can positively transform your company and your employees. A 2020 McKinsey article suggests that businesses with an agile workforce experience a 30% – 50% improvement in operational performance. But productivity is just one benefit you may experience. The following five benefits work together symbiotically to create an agile mindset culture and all but ensure tangible, successful results from your workforce.

  1. Transparency and trust

All of us have worked in or heard of “toxic work environments,” and they all have ugly commonalities, such as hopelessness, mistrust, secrets, unfairness, and a myriad of others. At the core of toxicity is the absence of transparency and trust and instilling it in your workplace culture is tantamount to having a thriving work environment.  

Transparency and trust start at the top and permeate throughout the organization.  All of the company’s leadership must be committed to operating from this vantage point. Here are some key tenets of instilling transparency and trust.

Keep your word.

If you say something, then mean it. If you promise something, then deliver it. If you say that you will do something, then do it. Nothing impresses an employee more than knowing that the boss is trustworthy.

No secrets.

While everyone in the company can’t know all the things that are going on, do your best to keep most things open and on the table.  Secrets breed discontent and mistrust.

Lose “the blame game.”

What got messed up is far more important than who messed up (especially if all team members take responsibility for their actions). Rather than looking to dole out punishment or terminate employees for wrongdoing, it’s far better to work together to fix the problem.

Remain approachable.

This is all about trust. Your employees must be able to trust you enough to open up about their mistakes and practice two-way transparency.

  1. Happier employees

Happy employees are more productive employees. If you go through the effort to hire employees with an agile mindset, those attributes will, by their very nature, create a happier work environment and happier employees. Your team can work under tough conditions, adapt to changes, communicate more effectively, and work together more harmoniously. And, because you’re now more transparent and trustworthy, they know you’re on their side. And, the occasional pizza party and adding a foosball table can’t hurt either. 

  1. Flexibility

Flexibility is part of the foundation of an agile mindset, and your company benefits in multiple ways. First, flexible employees can contribute in multiple ways. And as a result, they feel more valued, especially if they are recognized for their efforts. Second, flexible employees are better teammates, because they are more adaptable to curve balls that come with any project, timeline, or deliverable.

Furthermore, company efficiency improves, too, which is great for your bottom line. Lastly, flexibility must come from the employer. For instance, being flexible with work place and time helps employees achieve a better work-life balance. It will also help your bottom line. In the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey 43% of respondents said they were more productive in a flexible working environment. In fact, a survey by Airtasker found that remote employees worked 1.4 more days every month.  

  1. More innovation – Better results

The heart of innovation is being open to change, recognizing a different solution that might work to solve a problem, and having the expertise to execute it. In a group of flexible employees, it’s possible to have experts working together in every aspect of a process or project. With an agile mindset, these employees listen to each other and learn from one another to devise and innovate a better way to do what needs to be done, yielding better results for our company and customers. 

  1. Less turnover

People are going to want to stay with a company that treats them well, recognizes their contributions and accomplishments, gives them the ability to feel truly appreciated, and work with others who share an agile mindset. Also, if you make the workplace friendly and healthy, word will get around, and when you need more candidates, there will be more people with excellent qualifications who want to work for you (and likely with an internal referral). Again, flexibility from you can be a deal-breaker for retaining employees. A Raconteur report in 2022  said that 64% of employees in an agile workforce felt more valued and 91% felt recognized for their work. That’s a job worth keeping. 

Also, agile employees will get to know one another and form tighter teams that will work well together. Finally, knowing that you can trust your coworkers and bosses, as stated, is one of the most important characteristics of an agile and healthy workplace.

Employee characteristics to look for as you build an agile workforce

An important part of the hiring process is identifying the characteristics someone should possess as part of an agile mindset. While you shouldn’t pass on candidates that don’t possess all of these characteristics, these are things to look for, and the more the better. 

  1. Creativity

It’s impossible to plan for every contingency no matter how many resources you allocate to the process. When things come up for which you haven’t planned, you have to be able to count on your employees to devise creative solutions, which don’t have to be elegant or complicated.

Creative employees have mental agility, which allows them to deal with complex challenges and ideate new solutions for existing problems or new methods for current processes. This improves your efficiency, and any improvement might also be applied to other processes and procedures. There’s always more than one way to solve a problem, and creative employees embrace that challenge. 

  1. Critical thinking

Critical thinking requires a person to review and analyze something with an objective mind and evaluate it from a variety of perspectives. Critical thinkers possess change agility, which involves intuitive, fluid thinking and realize there are more ways than one to remove roadblocks and solve problems. 

Often your team will be faced with problems and challenges that are unforeseen. This is where critical thinking and results agility become more paramount. If your employees can drive results under tough conditions, then  you will have more success with the unexpected. Solutions for those problems will need to be worked out with a fresh vantage point.

Critical thinking is also part of the evaluation process when it comes to how well processes work and how close products are to fulfilling their designs. Processes and products might, for one reason or another, not conform to their design criteria. If someone thinks critically about the performance of a process or product, they can determine if something other than the original design might work better.

  1. Responsibility and accountability

Your workforce must be able to trust one another to fulfill their obligations. And, when something goes wrong, they must be accountable to themselves and their team to accept responsibility and work with you and their coworkers to create a solution. 

Accountability doesn’t mean fault finding. Instead, it’s an acknowledgement of a mistake, a willingness to accept responsibility, and learn from mistakes. It’s a key component of an honest, open, and transparent workplace. It cannot be stressed enough that fixing what’s messed up is much more important than assigning blame for it.

Agile employees will take responsibility for more than one set of tasks and will be comfortable with accountability. You, as the leader of the company, must also adhere to the tenets of agility. If you don’t take accountability for your mistakes, then you aren’t leading by example, and the culture will suffer.

  1. Communication

Your team members should also embrace people agility, which facilitates timely, honest, open, and transparent communication among their coworkers as well as management. Good communicators:

  • Value listening
  • Consider what others say and feel
  • Use appropriate language (including body language)t
  • Aren’t equivocal and won’t obfuscate intentionally
  • Remain cool and calm  under pressure 

People agility also involves emotional intelligence which allows your employees to be supportive and uplifting.  They create a more compassionate, accepting, and open space for people to comfortably express their ideas and opinions. Emotional intelligence is also a useful trait to look for in new hires because they can adjust to and work with different types of personalities more easily and productively.

  1. Willingness to learn

Employees who “know everything” aren’t useful in an agile setting because that mindset leads to “my way or the highway” situations. The smartest people admit when they don’t know something, seek the correct answers, and deliver the right kind of solutions that are needed for success. Furthermore, a key attribute of an agile mindset is the willingness to adapt to new technologies and digital tools. 

  1. Humility

Willingness to learn goes hand-in-hand with being humble. People who are humble don’t always need to be “right.” They are comfortable with modifying their thinking based upon new information. They are willing to share credit when it’s warranted. Remember, though, that being humble doesn’t mean that someone has to be a doormat. It’s perfectly normal for someone to be goal-oriented and driven while remaining humble.

Getting started

When you’re ready to make the transition to an agile workplace, think of HireVue for your agile mindset assessment. We’ll help you identify the exact skills that fit your job needs, so that you can find the most qualified candidates.