Opinion

Why being agile is powering the growth of British SMEs

6 min read

11 December 2015

Nigel Wright, managing director of Converge Technology Specialists, examines how agile working is enabling SMEs to grow with a competitive edge.

Many see it as a key differentiator to providing the best customer service, others see it as the key to winning the war for talent, and for some it provides management with the work-life balance they seek having often left a 7am to 10pm job in search of something better. 

Employees have higher expectations of their employers and many see flexible working as the norm rather than the exception. Indeed, by 2020, it is predicted that 50 per cent of the UK workforce will be freelancers, contractors or temporary staff.

Business owners will need to radically rethink their future staffing structures and become more agile to accommodate this change in approach. 

Optimising management’s time

Agile working makes a huge difference to business owners and their team who often have to travel as part of their job. Being able to use the ‘downtime’ to respond to emails, complete business proposals, business plans and funding requests, optimises this time, enabling you to make the most of your day.

In the same way, by ensuring that key staff are able to keep in touch and keep files up to date, this provides your business with a competitive edge. You don’t need to be at an office to update presentation materials, sales packs or marketing literature if this can be done on the go. 

Equally, for client-facing businesses, your clients are increasingly likely to want your team to offer them on-site support, consultancy and, possibly, round the clock service.

Read more on the agile workplace:

Reliable and secure IT systems are essential to make agile working a reality

Transferring to cloud computing and providing staff with a connected device (laptop, smartphone, tablet) means they can be logging on to the internet and instantly connecting back to the office system, safely and securely accessing and updating files in real time. 

Management and key staff’s time can be optimised to enable them to work effectively from any location or between client meetings, taking back the downtime from their day when travelling.

As employees have become more accustomed to using technology outside work, it is also important that firms match, or exceed, their employees’ expectations for technology use when they’re at work. And I’m pretty sure that you most likely set up your business using just your laptop, mobile phone and moving between cafes to pick up WiFi signals?

Continue reading on the next page for why agility broadens the pool of available talent that can supercharge business growth and how it can be a method of space management too.

Image: Shutterstock

Greater flexibility – the weapon in the war for talent

Agile working models enables businesses to offer staff greater flexibility in how, where and, sometimes, when they work. Offering flexibility is fast becoming a strategic tool for businesses wanting to attract and retain talent. 

It broadens the pool of available talent helping business growth, ultimately improving your reputation and positively impacting upon your profitability. Increased flexibility also aids the retention of employees in line with life changes. It could be the difference between keeping good people or losing them to the competition. 

How do you currently support key people to return to work after some time out due to serious illness, bereavement or parental leave? How do you want to stand out from the competition? 

And how do you go about retaining good people who are nearing retirement but want to work on a part-time or consultancy basis?

For the naysayers, flexible working is certainly not a ‘soft’ option or benefit: 80 per cent of mid-sized firms surveyed that made a shift to mobile working reported improved workforce satisfaction and improved productivity levels. 

Space management

Agile working also enables businesses to keep an eye on accommodation costs. More often than not, you can scale your IT up as you grow but expanding into new premises can be costly.

But before you start the search for a new office, could you offer hot-desking and provide staff with more opportunities to work from home? How many times do you need to meet the team to exchange ideas, obtain information or meet your customers and clients? Many businesses remark on the productivity boost and cost savings that hot-desking combined with home-working can bring. 

Larger businesses can also introduce hot-desking to free up space used by client facing staff or those who travel as part of their job. Permanent desks can be given to those teams or staff who are generally office-based and require specific technology to do their job. 

With a little flexibility, a new mind set and the right technology, everyone can mutually benefit.

Nigel Wright is the managing director of Converge Technology Specialists