The importance of adaptability in business has been acknowledged for decades, if not centuries. Over ten years ago, the Harvard Business Review referred to it as “the new competitive advantage”. This was, of course, on the eve of an economic crisis, and before significant market disruption that has characterised the last decade and a half. Now, in 2024, the advantage may no longer be new, but it is just as important. 

What forces the need for adaption can largely be out of an organisation’s control – geopolitical conflict, major supply chain disruption, and even a global pandemic – but all of these have real-life effects on a business’s workforce, which leaders can do something about. While on-the-ground training and a commitment to constant upskilling provide a good starting point, the very best organisations need to think even more creatively about how they’re getting the most from their workforces.

Some of this is already happening, and as such the composition of the workforce is visibly changing, and alternative models of employment are becoming more common in the workplace. With nearly two in three executives thinking the very traditional model of employment will radically change within the next five years, now is the time for leaders to think about how they can adapt to this change and get ahead of these long-term trends.

As the world changes, skilled individuals are given the freedom to build interesting portfolio careers, but what does it mean for businesses? How can they leverage this for their benefit? Or, as importantly, what happens if businesses can’t do this? 

The need for businesses to adapt to change

The consequences of not effectively embracing change and transformation can be significant. Stagnation is anathema in business, especially for tech organisations at the forefront of innovation, and central to that is a competent workforce made up of the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles. Skills development is crucial, for anyone in the business; according to our own research at Grayce, a staggering 59% of young people would consider leaving their current employment if their employer didn’t invest enough in their skills development. This underscores the critical importance of businesses adapting to the evolving needs and expectations of their workforce.

There are multiple examples of where large organisations have failed to adapt to change and faced the consequences. Perhaps most famously of all, Nokia’s inability to compete in the smartphone market knocked its market share from 50% in 2007 to just 3% five years later. Toys R Us, Xerox, Kodak, and MySpace, occupy the same graveyard. As the famous management consultant, Peter Drucker, said – “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence itself, but to act with yesterday’s logic.” Businesses must adopt a forward-thinking approach to navigate the challenges of an ever-changing landscape or risk falling behind in the long-term and losing valuable talent.

Some of the benefits if businesses get it right 

On the other hand, getting transformation right and embracing change can have a radical impact on the performance of a workforce. To echo Peter, offering the same old approach to business-critical projects is yesterday’s logic and won’t stand the test of time. 

Targeted, agile, and accurate recruitment for specific projects becomes more feasible, allowing companies to assemble teams with the exact skills required for a given task. Moreover, the cost-effectiveness of using agile resourcing models cannot be overstated. Companies can avoid paying out large salaries over a significant period of time while not being certain of what is on the horizon. They’re able, in other words, to optimise tight financial resources and sharpening their focus on what really matters. 

Accessing a broader, more diverse range of talent is another key benefit. The geographical boundaries that once constrained recruitment efforts are now blurred, making it easier than ever to bring in talent from different parts of the country, continent, or even the world. Diversity of talent can inject fresh perspectives into projects, fostering further innovation and creativity. To take this to the next level, it is worth looking closely at schemes such as reverse mentoring, which seek to turn a diverse workforce into a highly performing one.

Agile resource models also serve as a valuable bridge to longer-term recruitment strategies, too. By providing individuals with on-the-job experience, businesses can evaluate their capabilities first-hand. This experience acts almost like a trial period, allowing both parties to assess compatibility before committing to a more permanent arrangement.

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How businesses can maximise the benefit of agile resource models 

In order to truly harness the potential of agility, businesses must ensure their employment approach aligns to their overall business strategy.

Agility is inherently more stream-lined. It allowed businesses to establish precise and measurable objectives, not only enhancing the efficiency of the workforce but also ensuring that they directly contribute to the company’s overarching mission.

Despite their flexible nature, anyone new to a business should not be perceived as an external entity, but rather as an integral member of the team from day one. A well-structured onboarding process ensures easy integration, fostering a collaborative environment. The last thing any business needs is a disjointed, uninspired workforce, even if it comprises highly skilled individuals.

In addition, agile roles should not be isolated endeavours; instead, they should form an integral part of a well-crafted business strategy. Each role should be intricately connected to achieving specific business objectives, reinforcing their importance in the grand scheme of the organisation.


In navigating the landscape of a ‘VUCA’ world, characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, business leaders must acknowledge how difficult it is to foresee large-scale changes. Betting against a fluctuating market with significant financial commitments is an ineffective strategy. The reality is that we probably don’t even know what skills we’re going to need in ten or fifteen years’ time. 

Rather than passively reacting to market changes, though, forward-thinking companies can proactively position themselves by investing in an agile workforce strategy. By embracing the flexibility and expertise that alternative resource models can bring, businesses can not only adapt to the evolving landscape but also thrive in an environment where adaptability is the key to sustained success.

In this ever-changing world, the ability to strategically leverage a workforce becomes a crucial element of future-proofing businesses and ensuring they remain at the forefront of innovation and competitiveness, driving performance and increasing profits.

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