Growing your business with an agile workforce

The opportunities are out there now for small businesses to expand and grow by looking at options like contracting, outsourcing and digital solutions in order to to get new things done while keeping your core team lean.

Hiring, retaining and firing staff is among the toughest areas of operation that small business owners have to deal with. The costs of hiring the wrong people can be catastrophic to the health of your business. Even if you have the right people on board, your situation may change, so that you are dealing with such factors as new projects and clients that demand a different skill set to what your staff can provide.

This is why it has become crucial for businesses to adopt agile growth strategies that can quickly shift and provide flexibility depending on the project at hand. It’s rare these days for businesses to have a set and predictable set of circumstances that define the skills makeup of employees.

The idea of agile workforces owes a lot to the Agile Development process pioneered in software development teams. In software development, the agile ideal gained traction because it emphasised fast, active and evolving processes that got projects up and running quickly and then tweaked in response to feedback.

Agile methodologies …

“… all fundamentally incorporate iteration and the continuous feedback that it provides to successively refine and deliver a software system. They all involve continuous planning, continuous testing, continuous integration, and other forms of continuous evolution of both the project and the software. They are all lightweight, especially compared to traditional waterfall-style processes, and inherently adaptable”.

Increasingly, big and small businesses are opting for strong core leadership and strategy teams that can be supplemented by highly skilled contract or freelance workers. These workers could be sourced either through local markets, including agencies, or even from overseas as outsourcing becomes more widespread and streamlined.

Whatever combination or work model a business decides upon should be dictated by the specific needs of projects and clients. The beauty of this is once a project is done, a team can be disbanded and the business is not left with the ongoing expense of having a highly skilled professional sitting idle or doing low-value work. You can also bring in specialists as needed rather than having them on staff full-time.

The key things to think about if you want to embark on making your business more agile is how you are going to foster collaboration and facilitate communication. This is again why you need a strong core leadership and strategy team that can control factors like technology used between teams and preferred modes and lines of communication. This is the area that could be fraught with difficulties if not handled correctly. Instituting the use of a productivity program like Basecamp or Dropbox across teams is a good way to start providing uniform environments within which ad hoc teams can work effectively.

You might find that shifting from your current mode of operations will be initially hard to do and you might meet with some resistance from staff. However, if you’re in the type of business that needs to respond and adapt quickly to varied client and project demands, exploring the ways you can work in an agile manner might be the first step you take to creating a more collaborative, creative and flexible workforce for your business.

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