The "agile workplace" is quickly becoming a key buzzword for companies of all shapes and sizes — by embracing new ideas and taking risks, you create a space ideal for flexibility and increased productivity. As organizational design leader Wouter Aghina of McKinsey & Company notes, true agility happens "when you thrive on change and get stronger, and it becomes a source of real competitive advantage."
That's easier said than done, however. Here's a look at what needs to happen to drive agility in the workplace, and a dive into the critical role of IT managers throughout this transition.
If you're hoping to create a more agile work environment, you need three things: The right physical space, the right intellectual space, and the right emotional space. That may sound a bit pie-in-the-sky, but this type of cultural shift requires commitment.
One of the primary reasons for agility in the workplace is to encourage employee collaboration. However, this doesn't happen without the right physical backdrop. Consider an office that's entirely composed of closed-off rooms, assigned desks, and artificial lighting. Not only are staff naturally segregated by hierarchy, but no one wants to be there. That's not exactly the ideal environment for collaboration. This is a good place to start: Take down walls where possible, toss the notion of "assigned" spaces, and leverage tools such as corporate-approved mobile devices to encourage staff to move, talk, and create.
Next up is finding the right headspace. This effectively comes down to taking chances and embracing risk. For example, back in 2010, coffee giant Starbucks decided to add beer and wine to its evening menu. Consumer response was tepid at best, with most customers preferring the retail chain as a coffee shop/office over an adult-beverage lounging space. The company shelved the idea and went on to something else. Agile workplaces drive innovation, which actually gets put into practice.
And then there's emotional impact. As noted by Chief Learning Officer, this means empowering employees to speak up — whether it's about new ideas, to bring up constructive criticisms, or offer their own takes on current projects. Team members need to feel that their opinions are respected, that they'll be taken seriously, and that they won't face backlash for disagreeing with "the boss" or other management staff members.
More Than Moving the Furniture
If it were as simple as tossing all the old desks, committing to risky ventures, and agreeing that staff should all be nice to one another, agility in the workplace would be a one-day fix. That's not quite the case, however. And while C-suite executives and team leads are responsible for much of the transition away from static models, IT managers also play a critical role in all three areas:
- Effective Use of Space: Think UCaaS. This allows employees to work from anywhere, anytime, using the devices of their choice, which in turn is part of the corporate network at-large. In addition, UCaaS tools empower collaboration through rich-media sharing, streaming, and on-demand conferencing to ensure your office space is productivity-friendly, both physically and digitally.
- Taking Chances: The IT go-to is communication APIs. Here's how it works — embracing business risk depends on some prior knowledge of customer preferences and profiles. Customizable APIs let IT teams design personalized, immediate communication strategies to help connect with consumers, and discover what they're looking for from your brand. These APIs offer notable improvements to speed and efficiency.
- Socially Speaking: Do you want employees to be more comfortable sharing what they think and offering their ideas? Give them a better way to connect. This could mean social networking oversight to ensure that corporate policies are respected while staff use personal or corporate-owned devices to interact, or it could mean backing secure messaging applications to give employees the tools they need to connect with managers without feeling exposed.
Agility in the workplace is the goal — getting there demands a commitment to the cultural shift from managers backed by innovative communication technology.
Are you ready to go agile? Connect with a Vonage Business representative to take the next step.