RGP Research: Human Agility in the Now of Work

October 28, 2021
3 Minute Read

Disruptive change is a constant challenge for businesses and individuals alike. What enables some of us to not only survive but thrive? To find out, we conducted an extensive research study and developed a model for nurturing a more agile, resilient workforce and workplace that fosters innovation and growth.

Macro events like the dot-com crash, the 2008 financial crisis, climate change and the COVID pandemic are global in nature, forcing companies of all sizes across virtually every sector to rapidly adapt. But it’s not just unexpected, “Black Swan” events like the pandemic that present extraordinary challenges. Even when expected, change creates turbulence and uncertainty.

Harnessing the Forces of Disruption to Innovate and Grow

To learn how organizations can shift their perspective to view disruption as a profound opportunity for innovation and growth, rather than an obstacle to overcome, we engaged a select group of business leaders, focusing predominantly on the C-suite but representing a variety of roles across all Fortune 1000 industries. Using both quantitative and qualitative research methods, we explored two key questions:

  • What fear or obstacles do businesses need to overcome in order to realize the benefits associated with adapting to change?
  • How do organizations redesign their workforce and workplace strategies during a time of constant change?

Surviving and thriving in tomorrow’s world will require the building of an organizational change muscle.

Craig Thielen, Chief Essentialist, Trissential

What emerged from our research is a recipe for agility—one demanding that organizations disrupt themselves through radical empathy. We discovered that, in many ways, what equips businesses to thrive through disruption mirrors the characteristics that enable humans to survive.

Adopting a Model for Human Agility in the Now of Work

To take advantage of emerging opportunities and confront potential threats, you must evolve from the rigid approaches of the past by embracing agility to create customer value for the future. Organizations that are successfully navigating disruption to capitalize on opportunities rather than viewing them as threats share five core characteristics:

  • Distributed Leadership: Companies that distribute leadership are more adaptive when faced with large and sudden change events, realizing more benefits and experiencing fewer obstacles.
  • Culture of Flexibility: When embedded within organizational culture, flexibility plays a significant role in how successful companies are in navigating macro events.
  • Resilient Operations: Agile organizations support new processes by implementing the necessary structures, technology, strategy and change management practices.
  • Nimble Finances: Funding an innovation-oriented organization requires a higher level of dexterity. Finances must be designed and carefully managed to be nimble, enabling leaders to make decisions with fewer financial constraints.
  • Continuous Listening: Organizations that continuously listen to their employees, customers, industry and the world amplify their ability to benefit from change.
5 Characteristics of Human Agility
RGP.com Human Agility Research

Taken individually, these factors might seem to deliver only incremental value, but when viewed holistically, the cumulative impact is significant. The more an organization adopts these characteristics of agility and infuses them into their people, processes and technology, the more benefits they realize and value they create. 

Key Benefits and Obstacles

Companies with a deep-rooted culture of innovation, fueled by an agile workforce managed with empathy experience more benefits and fewer obstacles from large or sudden change events.
Benefits of innovation during disruption

Business Agility & Resilience

  • Organizations with leaders who embrace innovation experience 16% fewer obstacles.
  • Companies that lead the surge in innovation, changing faster than their peers or competitors, realize 11% more benefits during major change events than those that do not.
  • Companies that rapidly respond to market conditions achieve 12% more benefits.
  • Companies whose leaders and employees are aligned on enterprise objectives, organizational goals and future-state vision experience 12% more benefits.
  • Companies that are typically successful with change initiatives experience 10% more benefits.

Flexibility, Diversity and Empathy

  • 59% of research participants say their company supports alternatives to the traditional 9-to-5 work day.
  • Organizations that actively increase diversity experience 18% more benefits than companies that do not.
  • Companies that actively invest in workplace experience see 12% more benefits.

Explore the research to see how your organization can adopt this model for human agility and develop the characteristics that will enable you to thrive in the face of the next disruption.

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