Agility is the new workplace currency

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." - Charles Darwin

Darwin’s famous observation is quite relevant when you reflect on what is happening in the modern corporate world.

The environment is rapidly changing forcing everyone to manage different expectations - as well as making choices about how to embrace the new forces at play. How organisations respond to these changes is crucial to their success and survival. We need to acknowledge the workplace of the future won’t be fixed. It will be virtual and flexible.

" How organisations respond to these changes is crucial to their success and survival." Anouk De Blieck.

More than ever human-resources professionals can play a key role in helping employees become future ready. The industry can help people get equipped for the changing environment and develop the right capabilities to be able to thrive.

Agility is becoming a new workplace currency. It’s about embracing change, being curious and approaching problems in a novel way. It’s about connecting with empathy to gain insights, demonstrating resilience and turning ideas into reality.

It’s about rapidly iterating, failing fast and reflecting to get to a better outcome. It’s about making a deliberate choice on how you want to be engaged - are you going to be a spectator or will you be part of the play?

This also means taking a risk of feeling really uncomfortable – but it’s not by feeling comfortable one learns.


As leaders of a people function, one of the common challenges HR functions face is responding to changes quickly and innovatively and supporting people to adapt to a fast-changing environment.

Moreover it also forces us to rethink how we support our leaders and employees, and get the best out of them.

Getting the best out of staff requires building a workforce which is adaptable, resilient and responsive to different demands while delivering seamlessly to customers.

This involves changing how you work with customers, how you work across teams and building the skills and capabilities of people to enable them to move with the changes.

People practices

People practices are key to the success of new ways of working. As early as 2012, Josh Bersin from Deloitte focused specifically on how HR could contribute towards building an agile workplace.

HR, he believed, was a function with a significant contribution to make towards an organisation’s agility. For Bersin, Agile principles are vital to supporting the kind of continuous learning, continuous talent acquisition, as well as transparent processes which enable organisations to attract, develop and engage talent in the twenty-first century.

Too often in the past businesses have developed processes on what has been viable and feasible and have not always spent enough time on what has been desirable (see visual).

Future career

Today in fast-moving organisations we see:

  • Future careers will be less hierarchical. Businesses will move to a environment where career progression and development will be more horizontal. Staff will be encouraged to move across various disciplines and businesses. Go out and try learning new skills.

  • Agile and customer-centric organisations will need leaders to drive more collaboration and empowerment.  It’s about moving away from a hierarchical environment where often command and control was the preferred style of many.

    Often this was reinforced by a strong direction of the top and the expectation the top would have all the answers. With our environment rapidly changing, one cannot react well on changing customers’ needs in that very fixed construct.

    Agile is about leaders letting go and acknowledging one does not know it all - which is challenging. At the same time it also about employees being empowered and part of driving better customer outcomes.
  • Greater demand for T-shaped individuals – those with a depth of related skills and the ability to collaborate. Data and technology capabilities will become critical.

As a result, to compete in this new world, employees need to be more versatile and agile. Businesses need people who:

  • Can learn and grow and develop the critical capabilities we need to succeed in a fast paced, digital world; and
  • Are curious and agile and can move seamlessly across different roles when and where we need them.

It is upon businesses to create the right conditions for them to be successful - and a culture which enables this transformation.

Click image to zoom Tap image to zoom

Source: Design kit IDEO

Therefore, for HR professionals to better serve our customers and employees, we should gain a deeper understanding of three key elements of the customer/employee experience: employee personas, moments that matter, and the employee journey.

Future ready

To be future-ready organisations also need to change the way they recruit. Once the best candidate is identified, the talent acquisition process is complete.

Traditional methods and channels being used such as CVs, face-to-face interviews, focused very much on the experience and technical fit.

Now we see organisations moving more towards continuous talent acquisition. Organisations invest in their employer brand and cultivate ongoing relationships with talent across multiple channels, including social.


Having kicked off in May 2017, ANZ’s New Ways of Working journey was an excellent opportunity for the bank to take a step back and use NWOW to re-imagine our people processes - and to support creating corporate agility.

Designing HR to better support these ‘moments that matter’ has required a shift in our thinking from programs, processes and policies to an approach where we design based on experiences which delight and engage.

We have been using Human-Centered Design (HCD) thinking to accomplish this. HCD is a creative approach to problem solving. It's a process which starts with the people you're designing for and ends with new solutions tailor-made to suit their needs.

A recent article from Deloitte notes how recruiting is increasingly becoming a digital experience as candidates come to expect convenience while demanding new careers. 

Technologies and innovations are reshaping the workforce, and an attractive employment brand is a differentiator for attracting skilled resources. Every interaction with a candidate is a moment which matters - and it is important to combine this new technology with a human touch.

Three steps to future-proofing your career

• Mindset and Learning agility

In my view, the most important one is to embrace learning. To grow, you have to embrace the discomfort. 

It feels awkward.  It’s uncomfortable. It means also taking a bit of risk. Each of us has a choice on how you will deal with this change – you can be a spectator of what is happening, or an active contributor.

It’s about trying new things out (build confidence and resilience), and the best way to do this is also having people supporting you in this journey (ie a mentor).

• Staying connected and your brand

Connectivity is the glue which will keep this new virtual and global world together. Clarity of purpose will ensure you connect people, customers and communities to deliver seamlessly to customers anywhere and anytime.

It’s your ticket to play when engaging with others, leveraging the various channels and resources out there, and to stay ahead of trends, provide thought leadership and establishing your brand.

More than ever it is important to reflect what you want this brand to be, and be consistent when interacting with others. In this digital and social world, you are also ‘always on’. What you say and do, will be noticed if it is in your personal life or at work. It’s so important.

• Pay it forward

Lastly, as a leader you have the responsibility to bring the best out of others. I have been very fortunate throughout my career with wonderful support and opportunities to grow.

It’s about sharing learnings with others, giving them the courage and confidence to try out new things, and to encourage them to lean into this journey too. That being said, I do believe that paying it forward is something each of us can role model. Their success will be yours.

Anouk De Blieck is the People, Skills and Talent Lead for the ANZ New Ways of Working Transformation. She was named a 2017 Linkedin Power Profile for Australia.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

editor's picks

05 Sep 2017

Carnegie on data, analytics & Sputnik

Andrew Cornell | Past Managing Editor, bluenotes

Companies need to realise the scope of the change presented by analytics quickly – and for some it’s already too late.

05 Sep 2017

Tech-tock, the tech clock is ticking

Andrew Cornell | Past Managing Editor, bluenotes

For financial services, those who own the customer will have the highest margins.

11 Sep 2017

Podcast: a social and entrepreneurial mindset

David Lewis | Australian business professional and founder of The Mentor List

In the Mentor List’s latest podcast they talk to Jan Owen about unleashing the potential of young people to lead positive change in the world.

24 Aug 2017

PODCAST: inside the mind of truly great leaders

Andrew Cornell | Past Managing Editor, bluenotes

The role of modern leadership is creating an environment of trust and empowerment, Dr Alicia Fortinberry says.