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'Flexible working is the key to sustainability'

The Agile Future Forum (AFF) may have huge corporations such as BT, Lloyds Banking Group, Tesco and John Lewis among its founding signatories whilst the likes of Microsoft have recently joined up, but its principles have been designed to enable any size of company to adapt its culture to one of agility and at this year’s AM and Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) People Conference, delegates will be shown how its practices can benefit the automotive retail sector.

One of the original 22 signatories was Ford when the AFF was established after then deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and business secretary Vince Cable approached Lloyds in 2012 to launch an initiative to futureproof British business and ensure they remain central players on the global stage. Nicky Elford, head of agile working at Lloyds Banking Group and the COO for the Agile Future Forum, and Lara Nicoll, diversity & inclusion manager for Ford Motor Company UK, will represent the AFF and talk about how a new way of working is critical for success when they take to the stage at the event on 11 June.

In many respects, the nature of automotive retail has forced the sector to embrace flexible working already although the pair will show how an even more agile approach could net higher returns with case studies including that of B2B business MTM Products, which manufactures labels and building signage such as exit signs, with just 49 employees, when they present at the conference, which takes place at The Park Plaza Riverbank in London, before the prestigious AM100 Dinner.

Commented Nicoll: “When the AFF was established, it purposefully set out to include a broad range of companies across a wide geographical spread. However, having large corporations involved means we can take advantage of their expertise and develop a wide range of tools and advisory documentation. These would otherwise be prohibitively expensive for smaller companies trying to find guidance and support in evolving their business operations to create a more agile workforce which better meets the demands of today’s economy.”

Agile working has many forms and could include home or field working or even freelance support as well as implementing shift patterns which can make a business more efficient as well as offering a range of working options for employees.

Added Elford: “Regardless of size or whether a company trades globally or domestically, agile working enables the brand to more closely align its product and services with the demands of the modern day customer. Our experiences have shown that productivity increases, sales improve and talent and innovation shine through at a greater degree across the business.”

Research in partnership with McKinsey and Company, one of the AFF founder members, shows increase in benefits equivalent to 3-13% of workforce costs for those companies which adopt agile practices. MTM Products, the AFF’s smallest business signatory so far, benefited from a staggering 10% increase in productivity just by adopting agile working.

Said Elford: “In the past agile working had been viewed as flexible working and a benefit to the employee bestowed by a philanthropic company. For the first time, the AFF is proving agile working has a business value which can be measured and tracked. For us, the challenge is changing the cultural mind set of employers.”

The conference, now in its second year and still unique in automotive retail, focuses on the industry’s greatest asset, its people and explores a range of topics including attracting high calibre apprentices, developing individuals and nurturing ‘home-grown’ talent as well as highlighting the IMI’s measures to create a more professional  sector.

Tickets are available to dealers and manufacturers, with a limited number of supplier tickets on sale. To book, please contact Emma-Louise Kinnaird on 01733 395133, email  or visit

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