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An agile workforce: Does your company need it and how do you build it?


The business environment of yesterday is gone. In 2022 alone, a record 50 million Americans quit their job, and this trend will continue affecting the future of work.[1]

The core tenets businesses used to strive for – stability, predictability, scalability – are now deadweights for companies that want to thrive in today’s shifting landscape.

Businesses that plan to stay at the forefront of their industry face rapid technological change, shortening product life cycles, and ever-increasing customer expectations.

Add on changing workplace trends that are breaking down geographical and cultural barriers or rising employee expectations, and things get even more complicated.

In an environment where skills and preferences become obsolete in months rather than years, the only way for companies to compete is to build agile workforces.

An agile workforce enables an organization to adapt and stay at the top of its game. 

But how can employers harness the agility of their human capital, build adaptability into their HR processes, or reap the benefits of an agile workforce?

We created this article to help employers answer all these questions and more. 

Join us as we combine our expertise as a leader in pre-employment skills testing with best practices from across the HR industry to bring you an actionable guide to agile workforces.

What is an agile workforce?

An agile workforce is a flexible and adaptable group of employees who can quickly respond to changing business needs and market demands. 

It involves rapidly adjusting resources, skills, and capacities to address new challenges and opportunities. 

From an employer’s perspective, an agile workforce is highly desirable, enabling organizations to stay competitive in a dynamic business environment. 

Fostering an agile workforce requires you to make decisions across key elements including:

  • Talent acquisition – Attracting and selecting candidates with the right capabilities and mindset

  • Skills development – Supporting professional growth opportunities to develop a workforce capable of tackling any problem

  • Organizational choices – Ensuring teams and work environments are structured to encourage agility

  • Technologies and tools – Investing in an infrastructure that supports flexibility

In this sense, building an agile workforce isn’t simply about hiring the right people. It extends far beyond that, demanding a strategic shift in HR practices to embrace versatility, resilience, and continuous learning.

What skills do agile workforces typically possess?

The Agile Business Consortium provides a simple framework to assess the essential skills needed for an agile workforce. 

Let’s look at four attributes agile employees typically possess, including how they could present themselves in work settings.

Essential skills for an agile workforce graphic

Essential skills for an agile workforce

How these skills appear in the workplace


refers to taking initiative, anticipating future needs and challenges, and actively seeking to prevent problems or create solutions.

Proactive employees actively engage with new ideas and are

not afraid to jump in

before everything is clear. They tend to capitalize on trends others don’t appreciate.


is the ability to adjust and respond effectively to changing circumstances or demands.

Flexible employees are open-minded and willing to consider alternative approaches. They are often great collaborators who encourage

cross-functional teamwork



is the acceptance of new challenges and different ways of working through problems.

Resilient employees

show tolerant attitudes and are comfortable with changes, embracing new technologies or work methods without pushback.


is rapidly incorporating new information and building skills to take advantage of new opportunities.

Competent employees are generally skilled in many different areas and learn new tools and take on new responsibilities quickly.

All these skills work in tandem, so organizations must foster each simultaneously.

One way employers can achieve this is to provide employees with training and feedback after hiring them. 

However, an equally effective strategy is to address agility during the hiring process.

Apart from assessing job-specific skills (like coding or financial analysis), TestGorilla helps organizations screen for agile attributes in the form of:

That way employers can rest assured they are onboarding candidates with the skills necessary for an agile workforce.

Agile workforce examples

So what does an agile workforce look like in the real world?

Although agility presents itself differently depending on the organization or industry, employers can look toward these examples of companies with agile workforces.


Perhaps one of the earliest examples of an agile workforce is Ford’s invention of the assembly line.

Before the assembly line, automobile production was slow, expensive, and inflexible. Narrowly skilled craftsmen worked on every single vehicle in isolation, spending weeks or months completing one car.

Instead of following this approach, Ford revolutionized the industry by dividing production into smaller, more manageable tasks that the workforce could handle on many cars in unison.

Ford’s agile approach infused flexibility and redundancy into the manufacturing process.


Google famously has an agile workforce characterized by a culture of problem-solving and continuous improvement.

One of the ways that Google fosters an agile workforce is by encouraging experimentation and risk-taking. Employees must spend 20% of their time on new ideas and projects outside of their day-to-day responsibilities.

This program cultivates personal initiative, rewards creativity, and has contributed to new product innovations like Adsense and Google News.


We’ve created an agile workforce through deliberate HR practices that promote adaptability.

For example, we can attract highly engaged workers internationally thanks, in part, to our remote work policies and tools

Our system includes investing in positive work environments and technology stipends to empower individuals to contribute in the best way for them.

Moreover, instead of focusing on misleading resume experiences, we hire based on unbiased assessments of the skills and character traits associated with a proactive, nimble, and effective workforce.

Why is an agile workforce important in 2023 and beyond?

Agile workforces are relevant for today’s shifting landscape.

Technological, cultural, and competitive pressures have led to a business environment that requires fast responses to unforeseen challenges.

An employee base that quickly assimilates new information can stay ahead of the curve.

To bring this to life, let’s imagine some scenarios that show how and why an agile workforce helps organizations lead and innovate:

  • To respond to competitive product releases, a company must add artificial intelligence capabilities to its app – An agile workforce can hire, retrain, or shift capacity to implement the change.

  • To integrate a newly acquired business unit, a company needs to ensure collaboration between US-based employees and their new international colleagues – An agile workforce tolerates and accepts cultural and time-zone differences and adopts collaborative technologies seamlessly.

  • A competitor attempts to poach a company’s best product leaders – An agile organization can retain top talent by understanding its employees’ motivation and reorganizing its agile teams and priorities in alignment.

As illustrated above, every business should aspire to build an agile workforce, but for a few types of companies in particular, agility is all but a requirement:

  1. Small and mid-sized companies must stay agile to incorporate constant feedback and compete against larger competitors with more resources.

  2. Technology businesses must stay agile to stay at the bleeding edge and execute on short product life cycles.

  3. People-centered businesses (for example, a creative agency) must stay agile to retain talented employees and surpass the expectations of their customers.

Although it could seem like an agile workforce only counteracts negative pressures, the opposite is equally true. 

In the next section, we’ll look at the business benefits of an agile workforce.

The business benefits of agile workforces

Research from various sources proves that agile workforces contribute to better business outcomes.

Here are 4 of the most impactful statistics and takeaways to consider when thinking through the business benefits of agile workforces:

  1. McKinsey’s Enterprise Agility Study showed that agile workforce transformations improve customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and operational performance. Together, these benefits contribute to a financial outcome that is 20%-30% greater than before the transformation.

  2. Digital.ai’s 16th State of Agile Report showed that 70% of companies using agile development methods report greater project management visibility, also contributing to better team morale at 60% of the companies surveyed.

  3. The same Digital.ai report found that more than half of organizations implementing agile work processes increase their ability to manage remote or hybrid teams.

  4. Gloat’s Workforce Agility Survey showed that although 80% of HR managers are experiencing a talent shortage, the most agile companies can better solve that problem through internal mobility since 63% of employees are interested in new career opportunities at their current company.[2]

Whether it’s higher profits, better employee engagement, or reduced costs, an agile workforce offers numerous benefits to companies willing to make the appropriate investments in their people.

The agile workforce planning approach

To build an agile employee base, the workforce planning process itself needs to be adaptable.

Enter the concept of agile workforce planning.

In general terms, workforce planning aligns human resources to business outcomes and creates effective organizational structures.

Workforce planning means considering questions like:

  • Is my company appropriately staffed from a sizing perspective? Do we have enough employees to achieve our goals?

  • Am I compensating my employees appropriately for their positions, and does this fit our operating budget?

  • Do my employees have the proper skills to execute company initiatives?

  • Am I appropriately distributing my employees from a managerial, departmental, or location perspective? 

Agile workforce planning turns the rigid, linear method of setting workforce plans from an unmovable annual forecast into an iterative process that adapts to changing industry dynamics.

Before laying out a suitable planning framework, it’s first important to emphasize how you can be agile in workforce planning.

Tips for agile workforce solutions

Why this helps


planning and budgeting


Shorter forecasts reduce unnecessary “buffer” budgets and create space to realign employees with changing product or service needs.

Monitor gaps-to-goals consistently

Staying on top of plans iteratively enables HR organizations to respond to the most pressing issues and make better tradeoffs.


feedback to HR

To have agile planning, HR needs to understand if the company trajectory is changing and how employees contribute positively or negatively.

Measure the health of the workforce with data

Agile planning requires

data and metrics

to make objective assessments and decisions rather than relying on subjective inputs about who or what is needed.

With these tips in mind, your company should be ready to take an agile approach to workforce planning.

One well-established framework to consider comes courtesy of AIHR.

Agile planning workforce approach graphic


The approach lays out six individual steps explained in more detail below:

  1. Baseline: The first step is to understand the business’s overarching strategy to determine what stakeholders the company must involve.

  2. Supply: Next, HR should form a clear view of the current state of the workforce and determine how it will change from the impacts of planned hiring efforts, natural turnover, and internal reorganizations.

  3. Demand: As a counterpoint to the supply step, the next step translates company targets into demand for skills and talent. This step considers where, when, and what type of people are needed to hit goals.

  4. Gap analysis: This step contrasts the demand for employees with the talent supply to understand missing skills or positions.

  5. Action plan: With a firm grasp of talent management, HR can engage with stakeholders to determine how to shift the workforce and how these demands could impact financial plans.

  6. Deliver: Finally, HR can implement the workforce changes necessary to balance supply, demand, and company constraints.

What makes this workforce planning approach agile is the fact that you do it iteratively.

HR should continuously monitor the company’s experience against their assumptions and make real-time changes as imbalances arise.

8 strategies for building and developing an agile workforce

Companies that want to build an agile workforce need to increase the adaptability of their people, processes, and tools.

Although it’s tempting to think that hiring the right people can create this outcome, the entire employee experience is at play.

Use the following holistic HR strategies to develop agility within employees and leaders at all levels.

Expert tips to increase workforce agility

If you’re ready to start increasing your workforce agility but are short on time, here are eight strategies at a glance:

Strategies to build an agile workforce

What this means in practice

Hire for the right mindset

Screen for a growth mindset to find agile workers from the start

Challenge employees appropriately

Increase engagement by challenging employees to reach their full potential

Foster a culture of trust

Create an environment that rewards non-conforming thinking and risk-taking

Train, train, and train some more

Develop agility intentionally with ongoing job

training and development


Learn to share talent

Place talent where you need it most to get the best outcome for employees and employers

Don’t forget about retention

Focus on the actions that keep agile employees motivated and engaged

Become a skills-based organization

Emphasize skills that contribute to agile workforces rather than impressive resumes

Adopt flexible working policies

Encourage flexible work habits to attract creative thinkers and get their best work

1. Hire for the right mindset

Agile employees take on challenges, adapt to unplanned scenarios, and stay open to information.

To find these traits, look for candidates showing an open mind, growth orientation, and a winning attitude.

One shortcut you should consider is ensuring you include m****ultipotentialites in your talent pool. 

Multipotentialites have many talents and immense cognitive flexibility and possess the superpower to acquire new skills rapidly.

These features make them a perfect fit for complex roles and dynamic environments.

2. Challenge employees appropriately

Imagine what the opposite of an agile workforce looks like**…**

  • Workers that complete repetitive and mundane tasks 

  • Employees who never improve their position or responsibilities

  • Leaders who barely communicate with their team members and fail to be inclusive

The fix to a stiff and rigid workforce that looks like this is a challenge

Challenging employees in their jobs gives them goals to reach for and helps them understand how their efforts contribute to the company’s progress.

Challenging your employees can help ensure your workforce stays limber, engaged, and ready to take on what’s next.

3. Foster a culture of trust

Agile workforces respond to change with new ideas and creative fixes that don’t always work or fall within the status quo.

However, it’s hard for employees to be innovative if they fear it could harm their job prospects or be received poorly by their managers.

Instead, companies should create a culture of trust and empower workers to feel psychologically safe in the workplace. 

A culture of trust helps create the level of flexibility and experimentation that agile workforces require.

4. Train, train, and train some more

Today, when skills become obsolete quickly and technologies constantly change, it’s not enough to rest on experience and education.

Your workforce needs ongoing training and development to stay agile.

Look for opportunities to upskill and reskill your employee base and give them the tools to succeed.

5. Learn to share talent

Agile organizations realize that talented people are what drive progress forward. You should place workers in whatever position unlocks the most positive impact.

Although you could hire an employee for one role, business priorities and their skill set over time could dictate that they are a better fit in another department.

Rigid workforces can’t stand this idea – leaders hoard talent or worry about managing a rising star.

Agile workforces, on the other hand, encourage flexibility and movement through things like:

Sharing talent like this is a critical strategy to build an agile workforce that shifts to changing company needs.

6. Don’t forget about retention

Hiring is not the only way out if your organization can’t hold onto its most agile workers. 

Retention plays a crucial role by helping companies avoid skill gaps or lose subject matter experts that make cohesive work possible.

Retention is also a barometer of whether other agile strategies have the intended effect.

Workers enjoy an agile workforce because it offers them fun challenges, a great culture, and opportunities to progress in their careers.

By fixing retention, companies are likely to improve many other employment practices along the way.

7. Become a skills-based organization

Skills-based organizations are more adaptable by design.

Rather than focusing on traditional “career tracks,” they focus on hiring and training skilled workers who can solve the company’s problems.

Skills-based organizations fret less over impressive resumes and work experience and instead cut to what matters – hiring for aptitude and willingness to contribute.

Becoming skills-first helps organizations build agile workforces by finding talent that can adapt to versatile job definitions and evolving responsibilities.

8. Adopt flexible working policies

Flexible HR policies can also influence the adaptability of your workforce.

These include decisions about allowing employees to:

  • Work flexible hours or non-standard schedules

  • Be more productive with a 4-day workweek

  • Work remotely or in a hybrid environment that best suits them

An agile workforce requires a diversity of thought and input. Strict and structured work policies dissuade creative and unique individuals from joining your company.

Hire an agile workforce from the start

Who wouldn’t want a workforce that responds rapidly to market shifts, embraces new technologies and working ways, and collaborates effectively?

Although it’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t want that, building an agile workforce is a bit harder than understanding your end goal.

Businesses must adopt a workforce management approach that prioritizes the right skill sets, builds a conducive environment for employees to thrive, and embraces flexible work policies to develop an agile workforce.

Hiring is not the only ingredient in this recipe, but it can prepare your agile workplace for success.

So, next time you wonder whether a candidate is agile enough to fit your needs, don’t guess

Instead, use TestGorilla’s Problem Solving skills or Critical Thinking tests to know for sure.


  1. Iacurci, Greg. (February 1, 2023). “2022 was the ‘real year of the Great Resignation,’ says economist”. CNBC. Retrieved May 25, 2023. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/02/01/why-2022-was-the-real-year-of-the-great-resignation.html 

  2. “12 Workforce agility statistics: what workers want, what HR can deliver”. (n.d.). Gloat. Retrieved May 25, 2023. https://gloat.com/resources/12-workforce-agility-statistics-what-workers-want-what-hr-can-deliver/


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