For some businesses, the term “agile working” is simply another phrase for “flexitime”. Paul Allsopp of The Agile Organisation says “agile working is about bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology, time and place together to find the most appropriate and effective way of working to carry out a particular task. It is working within guidelines (of the task) but without boundaries (of how you achieve it).”
The concept is further simplified by the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (ENEI) which explains that the idea is based on the concept that work is an activity we do, rather than a place we go.
With the technology available to modern business, there are numerous tools to help companies work in new and different ways, to meet customer needs, reduce costs, increase productivity and improve sustainability.
Agile working can be a transformational tool to allow organisations to work smarter by eliminating all barriers to working efficiently.
However, in Zimbabwe’s traditional 8-5 work places, the longer standing organisations, place an emphasis on “presenteeism”.
In fact, with the country’s unemployment rate sitting at a rocky 95 percent there is an unspoken sense of pride that comes with having somewhere to go to work from.
In spite of this statistic, the growing percentage of the employable global workforce are Millennials and Millennials seem to collectively prefer agile work environments. A white paper by UNC Executive Development paints the picture of the generational workplace evolution.
“By all accounts, Millennials are unlike preceding generations. They view the world differently and have redefined the meaning of success, personally and professionally.
“In some cases, this has led to misunderstanding among the different generations coexisting in today’s workplace.
“Increasingly, however, business leaders are realising this generation’s unique competencies and perspective, and employers are looking for ways to harness their strengths.”
The generations preceding the Millennials are sort of like cowboys, a rugged, individualistic lot.
In general, these Baby Boomers and Gen Xers believe in a command-and-control management approach, value working individually, view managers as experts and look to their employers for career planning. They like clear boundaries and have a generally inward-looking perspective as compared to Millennials (Gartner Research in Lynch, 2008).
The sheer volume of Millennials, combined with the relative lack of Gen Xers and the increasing retirement of Baby Boomers means that employers will be facing leadership gaps in the near future. And they will be looking to Millennials to fill those gaps. So perhaps with that in mind it may be time to look at non-traditional models of employment that will retain this very unique generation.
But agile working is not just beneficial for employees but even more-so for the organisations themselves. Nonetheless we are still a ways off from enthusiastic adoption of this new working model.
Remote working is still uncommon in organisations according to global research. Only 9 percent of companies use remote working every day and more than half of employers never allow their employees to work away from the office. With the reinforced mandate the current government has to create more jobs this coming year, there is an opportunity to transform the way Zimbabweans build the workplace.