An agile workforce for a fast-moving world of work

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The fast-moving nature of today’s working world means that employers often need rapid access to skilled workers on a project by project basis.

Catalant, a US-based agile working platform which launches a UK office today, has just published a report, Obstacles to agility, on a recent summit in Boston on future workplace challenges.

Speakers noted that traditional operating models did not give employers fast enough access to workers and the skills they need for the future. The shift towards a project and skills-based view of work is a challenge, said Joe Fuller, Professor of Management Practice and Co-Director of the Managing the Future of Work Initiative at Harvard Business School, and “requires companies to think differently than they have to date. The first thing it requires is making the individual [worker] more the unit of analysis than the job.”

Bryan Fontaine, Executive Vice President of Global Operations and Corporate Development Engineering at Bose Corporation, advised companies to develop strategic initiatives around the critical results they are trying to achieve, break those initiatives down into distinct, targeted projects and match those with employees or external experts who have the right skills. He emphasised the urgency of getting the right people on the right projects, noting that, “You don’t get great results without great people.”

The summit also touched on the need for retraining to ensure employees were up to date with the skills needed for the modern workplace.

A pre-event survey showed 93% of respondents reported that accessing the right talent is extremely important, but only 7% reported that their organisations have equally effective access to the specific skills and expertise to move critical initiatives forward quickly.

Accessing the right talent and skills was rated as the most important driver of agility, but for many an inability to plan and deploy the right people was holding them back. However, hiring was not always the solution and respondents agreed they need to rethink the way they structured work and invest in technology to match their best people with their most critical projects.

Fuller said: “Companies are going to be facing a situation where the skills they need – particularly unusual combinations of skills they need – are going to be harder and harder to get,” adding, “that means you need a process. We’re going to have to stop thinking about talent through the lens of talent acquisition.”

General Assembly’s General Manager Charlie Schilling echoed this sentiment saying that companies do not always need more people, but rather: “You need to get more out of the existing assets you already have.”

Catalant says a mixed approach is needed, which focuses on innovation and upskilling and exploits the talents not only of existing staff, but also alumni and retiree networks in addition to boutique recruitment experts and external experts.

Stu Kliman from management consultants Vantage Partners said employers needed to move away from traditional beliefs and make room for new thinking and mindsets focused on accessing top talent in a way that is broader than talent acquisition.

Pat Petitti, co-founder and co-CEO of Catalant, said: “The Reimagining Work Summit brought together some of the best thought leaders and most innovative operators at the biggest companies in the world, sharing best practices to drive innovation and digital transformation. The biggest takeaway is getting work done faster by leveraging the right people, whether employees or otherwise, which is the key to innovation and remaining competitive. That goes for companies from the Fortune 100 to start-ups and everything in between. We’re excited to continue partnering with exceptionally innovative leaders from large companies around the globe that are using technology to work better.”

Catalant operates a technology platform and programmes that provide advice and expert resources so employers can be more agile.

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