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Why You Need Agile Employees, and Not Just Hard Workers


“Work smarter, not harder” is an old adage…but it’s actually true in today’s work environment! To illustrate: hard-working Harold is the first one to arrive and the last one to leave the office. We all have a hard-working Harold at our companies – he shows true dedication and a willingness to put in extra effort. He drinks 5 cups of coffee every morning, pours over paperwork at 1:00 in the morning, and types 80 words per minute. However, Harold will probably not outperform Agile Anna, who more effectively supports peers, seeks feedback, and adapts to changing situations.

CEB found through quantitative research that agile employees outperform hard workers. However, 75% of surveyed employees are not agile. As a result, communications teams are fighting an uphill battle when trying to help the organization adapt to ongoing change.

How can you use communication to help employees be more agile in the workplace? Take a look at these 3 ready-to-use tools:

  1. 6 Important Questions to Ask Peers in order to accelerate learning: this self-reflection guide helps employees apply what they learned in interactions with colleagues or clients to their own work.
  2. 4 Principles to Enable Peer Sharing and Learning: you can apply these principles to existing communications events such as town halls in order to facilitate employee best-practice sharing in a more natural way, as part of day to day work.
  3. Turn One-Way Leader Messages into Structured Dialogues:  use this step-by-step map to choose your communications objective, plan messages to support your choice, and facilitate ongoing dialogue between managers and employees.

What challenges has your company encountered when adapting to change? What strategies do you use to improve your employees’ agility? Feel free to add your tips and tricks in the comments below.

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8 Responses

  • Dick Hall says:

    ..and you may very well find that hardworking Harolds are often the ones who have been defrauding and stealing from the company. First to arrive, last to leave, been there for years and seems to be trustworthy? Yep, those are the traits of white collar crime. Are your accounts audited every six months or so? Do you do a random trial balance? Why not? You may be surprised at what you find.

  • Harriet says:

    Depends on the employer one works for. You may be surprised at how many employers want “hardworking Harolds”. “Agile Anna” requires output from the employer in terms of listening and implementing new ideas if required. I prefer to be Agile Anna but realistically, Hardworking Harold is a better choice to get the work done.

  • Thomas Kastner says:

    What if each employer would have an employee training program that automatically cross-trained each Harold to be Anna-like and vice-versa?

  • Ben says:

    Hardworking or agile is a joke.
    Diligent and efficient employers and employees that are customer and sales oriented will make a company profitable and grow.
    This article is millennial B^S^.
    You can have excellent employees but crappy employer ruins everything unless his/her company is a monopoly.
    An excellent employer that has crappy employees needs a better human resources department that knows how to recruit.

  • Braam says:

    Hi. I am at work every morning 2 hours before everyone else. (05:00) It’s not so I can steal or do “white collar” crime. I do it cause I want to 1) set an example for my team and 2)Get all my work done in peace. So to whoever thinks it’s wrong to work hard, screw you.

  • Danny says:

    Accomplishments. In looking at both Harold or Anna, I would ask “What have they accomplished?” Is it maintaining the status quo and busy work, or is it maintaining what has to get done with looking for better ways of getting it done. Which one actually adds value?

  • Jeanne says:

    Totally agree with Ben (July 30). Work is like a relationship. Both parties start off with good intentions including the intention for it to work. However, there is always one rogue in a relationship who has no idea what give and take is all about, preferring rather, to take than give, thus sabotaging the relationship in the end. There are some seriously crappy bosses out there who are full of their own self importance that includes hiring dumbos and asses just because THEY think it will work. And to Braam – seriously love, get a blooming life – what example do you want to set to your “team”? That having no variety in life is the way to go?

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