After 20+ years of promoting the business benefits of flexible working I'm pleased to see the launch of the Agile Future Forum (AFF), with the aim of maximising the competitiveness of UK businesses in the global marketplace. Twenty-two businesses – including several well-known brands – who currently realise financial benefits through using workforce agility have joined together to help other UK businesses to do the same.
The purpose of the AFF is to define the business value of workforce agility as a key input of the competitiveness of UK plc and to provide the leadership and practical support required to increase agile working practices across the UK. Workforce agility enables an organisation to establish the optimal workforce to support its business objectives by thinking about when and where people work, what they do and who is employed to the mutual benefit of businesses and employees.
This marks a step change in the development of working practices in the UK (with implications that will resonate world-wide). I have been researching new ways of working for the last two decades and have seen the way it can improve productivity, reduce employee turnover, cut absenteeism and help employers attract talented people. But too often it has been seen as an HR-driven employee benefit and dismissed by managers as a burden on the business. Now, at long last, here is a report pointing out the benefits for employers, backed by some serious chief executives.
The announcement about the launch of the report says..." The AFF believes that agile practices can be established that benefit business and employees, but a new approach is needed where business leaders, rather than simply HR, should lead the development of agile practices starting with a clear understanding of the needs of the business and their workforce. In addition to the report launched today, the AFF has developed a range of practical support that enables organisations to consider workforce agility in this way. The AFF CEOs are also committed to sharing their experiences with the CEOs of other organisations to support the growth of the UK economy."
This gives the HR function an opportunity to be seen as business partners by promoting Agile Working as an initiative that will contribute to the bottom line, instead of pushing it as an employee benefit or employment law compliance issue. I look forward to seeing if HR rises to this challenge!!!