Small Business Introduction
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, asked Sir Win Bishoff to consider establishing and chairing a group of Chief Executives and Chairmen from leading employers to consider the issue of workforce agility and how UK business might support the growth of workforce agility across UK plc. The 22 founder companies of the Agile Future Forum (AFF) differ in terms of sector, size and location.
We all share a common view, however, that workplace agility is generating significant and tangible economic benefits for our businesses. It was really important to the group to ensure that small businesses were appropriately represented and it was on that basis I was asked to join the group.
Like most other small businesses MTM faces daily challenges meeting changing customer demands, managing our financial position and cashflow in a difficult economic environment and wanting to do the right thing by our loyal employees. When considering how to make our business more agile MTM have always started with the business need before introducing flexible/agile working practices but we also look for a “win-win” solution which benefits both the company and our employees. A good example of this is multi-skilling which dates back to 1996 (before the days of work life balance being known as such!!) this was the only tool available at the time as our bank (not Lloyds) gave me six months to turn the business around from a loss making situation without access to any additional funding. We have never limited agile/flexible working to those with care responsibilities as we believe that agile working benefits the business and our employees and the opportunity should be open to all.
I want to share MTM’s ethos and approach to agile working in the hope that it will help other small businesses owners think about how creating a more agile workforce could help support you when facing your own daily business challenges.
I believe MTM have a fairly unique approach to requests to changes in working arrangements from individual employees.
Before presenting a request for change to management the employee has to:
Come up with a proposal that will have no adverse effect of the company
Agree the proposal with work colleagues (team mates)
The benefits of this approach are:
- The employee presents a solution not a problem
- Employees are quite innovative if it means getting what they want
- Avoids accusations of favourable treatment by colleagues as they have agreed it
- Avoids need to use legislative procedures as we agree things informally
- Leads to improved motivation and job satisfaction. We have always seen extra benefits to the company to those initially quantified
- Like any company we can only deliver the level of customer service we want and customers expect with a well-motivated and “happy” team
- We see agile working as a key component in delivering tangible business benefits and also motivating employees. It complements things like
- training and development, job enrichment and involvement but we always come back to the business need i.e. customer satisfaction, continuous improvement and our ability to meet delivery demands
It is difficult to quantify some of the benefits but here are a few statistics which support our policies:
Employee turnover reduction -currently approximately 5%
A reduction in sickness absenteeism – average 2 – 2.5 days per annum with over a third with zero absenteeism and over 70% with only one day absent.
Increased Customer retention levels to 98%
High level of employee referrals to fill vacancies – it is great to know that our employees advocate our business..
Because of our agility practices and the mutual trust between management and employees (the key value at MTM) we have managed to agree solutions which have got us through the difficult economic situation over the last few years without going into the red and whilst maintaining key skills. We believe we are ready to take advantage of the economic recovery when it comes and we will continue to seek out ways to create an even more agile working environment at MTM.
Take a look at the other case studies, FAQs and the SME specific research material on the site – I hope the AFF products and my insights will encourage other small businesses to think about how they can benefit from more agile workforce practices and to get involved in the Agile Future Forum.
Ian Greenaway, Managing Director, MTM Products Ltd.
How agile is your organisation?
Agile Future Forum report 2014
Understand the economic benefits of workforce agility