Agile Working – CIPD’s Versatile Corporate Philosophy [Report]

Championing better work and working lives

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, or CIPD, is an organization dedicated to research into the evolving field of HR.

Upholding the motto of “Championing Better Work and Working Lives”, this 135,000-member strong institution has carried out its brief for over a century.

They’re carried this charter by focusing their research agenda on three major aspects of professional business: extrapolation of future work trends, tracking the diversified nature of the workforce, and analyzing the culture and interactive processes of the workplace.

Organisational agility is critical to business success

Through their constant endeavor to drive corporate practice by providing informed content, raising business standards by offering advice and practical support to the professional world at large, their credibility has given significant weight to their research.

This has placed them in the unique position of promoting informed engagement and discussions with policy makers and other opinion leaders.

Within their varied streams of investigation, one of the most critical subject matters under research is their development of agile working corporate practices.

Since today’s business world is far less black-and-white, and undergoes frequent and rapid transformation due to its complex nature, the ideal organizational set-up demands the ability to respond to changes swiftly and accurately.

This means that, while specialization is always a successful way to entrench oneself within a niche, an organization at large needs to be far more versatile in its function and potential output as well.

This is corroborated through a report released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (2009), which states that roughly 90% of globally surveyed senior executives hold the ability to anticipate and address changes in market forces as critical for business success above all others.

Secondary evidence in favor of this finding can be ascertained through the feedback to the CIPD Labour Market Outlook Summer 2014 (CIPD 2014a), where companies – including 60% of public sector organizations – hailed ‘smart working’ as one of the most important work strategies, capable of improving productivity by as much as 56%.

The current philosophy of agile working which is on the rise also takes into account the changing needs of a 21st century workforce – where more employees expect flexibility in business practices in order to balance personal and professional lives and responsibilities, and demand greater support from their employers while transitioning into different phases of their life.

However, agile working doesn’t just help meet the growing demands of the evolving workforce.

It also provides the organizations themselves with the invaluable ability to innovate themselves in their customer focus and work output, while exerting measures of control over operational cost.

Moreover, previous CIPD findings from 2009 have also reported that by implementing flexible professional practices for agile working, such as flexible working environments enhanced by supportive technological resources, businesses have also managed to increase employee engagement by empowering them through the gift of greater autonomy in everyday work.

And that’s not all. There exist myriads of other benefits within the implementation of agile working practices as well, several of which have been examined through case studies on the Agile Future Forum (2013).

However, the body of evidence from this rising philosophy of agile working points to an undeniable fact – its existence hinges on people management practices.

Since the required traits for agile working within an organization are high-performance cultures, flexible management, as well as infrastructural setups which aid collaboration, speedy decisiveness, and rapid implementation, successful execution of this philosophy hinges as much on the potential of the workforce as much as the workplace itself.

But, in the end, though it’s quite clear that 21st century organizations are voraciously seeking to re-invent themselves for the sake of charging ahead in the corporate race, the level of sophistication currently adopted by HR practitioners while putting the philosophy of agile working to practical use is still quite murky.

As well, there is evidence that even in workplaces where agile working policies are being put in place, HR teams have been unable to effectively respond to the very human nemeses of agile working – namely, rigidity of habit, invariability of short-term priorities over long term benefits, and the inability to adapt flexibly to diverse circumstances.

The findings of this research are based on a survey of HR leaders, an employee survey, focus groups and case study illustrations

Getting smart about agile working
Getting smart about agile working

View report Getting smart about agile working


Written By

Norberts Erts

HR Degen and Product Marketing Manager at Sage. Former Co-founder of HR software company CakeHR (acquired by The Sage Group plc in 2019). Keep a sharp eye on HR, marketing, business, finance, science, technology, and the connections between them.