- Agility is more than approach to work — it’s a way of experiencing work
- Gallup has discovered eight key drivers of agility, called the Agile8
- Start with the Agility Index to seize growth opportunities at your company
Agility is more than an approach to work. It’s a way of experiencing work — and one worth studying. So, in a first-of-its-kind research study on agility, Gallup surveyed 5,500 U.S. and 4,000 European workers in 2018 and asked about their experiences with agility.
The data showed that their perceptions of the mindset, systems and processes necessary for true agility are driven by certain factors that allow for quick responses to business needs. Gallup discovered eight “key drivers of agility” and dubbed them the Agile8.
We also found that employees who experience their company as agile are very likely to believe their company is ahead of the competition, the company’s financial future is secure, and their employer is successful and growing.
In short, when employees see agility in action at their company, they tend to report that the organization is meeting customer demands and have a more positive, hopeful take on their organization’s future success. That can translate into better performance, higher retention and deeper engagement.
Agility is more than an approach to work. It’s a way of experiencing work.
Unfortunately, Gallup’s German data from 2019 showed that just 9% of German workers strongly agreed their company had the right mindset, tools and processes — the foundations of Gallup’s Agility Index — to respond quickly to business needs.
Workers have faced very tough times since then — yet that 9% jumped to 17% in 2020, hit a high of 18% in 2021 amid the pandemic, and has held strong at 16% in 2022. Those small shifts over the past several years reflect how the pandemic affected our way of working, but the fact that Gallup’s entire Agility Index is up seven percentage points in Germany since 2019 indicates an improvement in agility.
Something happened — and leaders should know what it was. Because if agile mindsets, tools and processes sparked in your company, you need to know where to fan those flames. And if they didn’t, you need to know how to light the fire.
Gallup has some ideas.
Agile Cultural Conditions
Your search should probably begin with the pandemic. Gallup has tracked responses to disasters for decades and often finds a “rally effect” in people — including, perhaps, among yours. A March 2020 article by Gallup’s Chief Workplace Scientist Jim Harter highlighted human nature’s tendency to react to a crisis in one of two ways: fear, helplessness, and victimization or self-actualization and engagement. He suggested that if leaders provide a clear path forward, humans are capable of being incredibly resilient.
If agile mindsets, tools and processes sparked in your company, you need to know where to fan those flames. And if they didn’t, you need to know how to light the fire.
If an agile mindset increased in your company, you probably showed your people a clear way forward into a new way of working. Maybe that required new processes, like a different internal supply chain. Maybe it meant experimenting with new collaboration tools. Maybe you just simplified things. In any case, under your leadership, your people rallied to bring your company through a disaster.
Next, look for what you (and your managers) did that caused employees to work closer, better and faster — with agility, in other words. It may help to frame your thinking within the eight fundamental cultural attributes Gallup finds in truly agile companies — the Agile8:
- speed of decision-making
- trial tolerance
- technology adoption
- knowledge sharing
- innovation focus
Think about how you encouraged cooperation, perhaps, or empowered managers, or freed knowledge from silos. All those actions — and many more — helped workers succeed in a fast-changing workplace. Those actions can help workers succeed now too.
It is a process, though, and you might need a hand. If you do — anything from executive coaching to deep-dive workplace analyses — get it. It pays off because the actions that made your company agile during a catastrophe will advance it now.
How You’ll Succeed
Advance and adapt. The world is still changing, and mega-trends didn’t stop for COVID-19.
Consider this: The digital age is just starting, and it’s already hard to use data effectively, according to Gallup’s CHRO Roundtable members. Green energy is in its infancy, but six automakers will start phasing out global production of fossil-fuel vehicles by 2040. Add to that global supply chain weaknesses, economic disruptions, the war in Ukraine, the conflict in the Middle East and other issues no one can predict. The world is changing, customers are restless and your workforce has to have the right mindset to succeed.
There’s plenty of room for improvement. In fact, Gallup has never found more than 50% of respondents strongly agreeing with any of the eight agility drivers.
But there, too, change is in the wind. With the lessons learned during the pandemic, Gallup clients are indexing overall agility in their companies. Some are focusing on specific factors of the Agile8, like the 160,709 business units evaluating how their environment directs them “to try, fail and learn from mistakes,” or the 223,115 business units deciding if they’re encouraged “to come up with new and better ways of doing things.”
Those are not low numbers. And behind them are even bigger numbers, representing the millions of employees with the momentum to drive the mindset, tools and processes of agility.
Will they be enough to make business more agile? Enough to launch a more positive, hopeful take on work? Maybe. Change often comes slowly then suddenly.
Gallup has never found more than 50% of respondents strongly agreeing with any of the eight agility drivers.
But even if those hundreds of thousands of people don’t change the overall state of business in Germany, they’re changing their businesses. They’re also changing their employee experience by focusing on being ahead of the competition, successful, growing and financially secure.
If your organization is ready to increase its agility, consider using the Agility Index as a starting point. You’ll probably find plenty of room for improvement — and plenty of momentum to build on.