A flexible attitude and readiness for change are some of the most desirable traits in the work environment today. Such an attitude makes it easier to adapt and survive in changing times. These changes are happening very dynamically, and something that until recently was considered an abstraction is now the order of the day. Remote work is a perfect example – the pandemic has in a way forced its introduction and the need to adapt quickly, but this change has taken hold and started to become our new daily routine. HR teams therefore need to react quickly to changing circumstances so that the entire organization can transform in time. In this regard, the agile approach is foolproof.
Agile in HR – table of contents:
Agile in HR – what is it?
Although the Agile Manifesto originally referred to software development teams, its principles apply to other fields, including HR. The foundation and main assumptions here remain the same, and the whole thing is merely tailored to the needs of HR management. The difference that can be seen in HR teams working according to agile principles is the division of large complex projects into smaller bits, which speeds up work and thus clearly presents the value to employees and the organization as a whole.
First, let’s understand who the customer is from the original manifesto: “Our highest priority is customer satisfaction through early and continuous implementation of valuable software.” In the case of HR, it will be the organization’s employees, and they should be the focus of all attention and all practices should be people-oriented.
Once you’ve determined who the HR activities are aimed at and who the primary audience is, it’s time to define what the activities are about. Agile implies continuous testing, learning, and regular feedback. The same applies to HR teams. While this is quite a far cry from the rigid planning of the entire process in advance that is mostly used, it is an effective method that allows you to focus on the employee and their needs.
The last major part of the agile premise is the recognition that people and processes are more important than the tools you apply. This does not mean to let them go entirely, but they should be treated as aid rather than as the main element. In the case of human resource management, these might be Scrum or Kanban boards. While they are helpful in the work, they are only aids and not the main determinant of value.
What do organizations that adopt agile in HR gain?
Agile places a strong emphasis on communication, and it is often the element that limps along in an organization. Without the proper flow of information, there can be no high team productivity or rapid response to change. That’s why the HR team should become a central part of the company, so it can respond quickly and efficiently to employees’ needs. It is teamwork that makes changes happen quickly, efficiently, and as expected.
Another element of communication is feedback to teams. The standard in traditional HR departments is periodic reviews and monthly or semi-annual statements. In a dynamic team, this simply doesn’t work. Agile proposes to move away from this and change to a continuous flow of information so that any changes can be implemented much faster.
Additional benefits that can be seen regardless of the company’s industry are:
- Better cooperation between teams
- Greater commitment, productivity of employees
- Support for innovation, greater creativity of employees
- More efficient evaluation system – better analysis of results
- Efficient adaptation to sudden changes
- Ability to spot gaps in employees’ skills and respond to those needs
- Greater flexibility for employees
How to implement agile in HR in your company?
As you can see agile in HR has a lot in common with the classic Agile approach. In terms of implementation, it is similar. Just as with the original premise, there is no single, rigid plan in Agile in HR. It is necessary to be guided by the main principles, but also to find your way based on your own needs and capabilities.
After all, something different will be right for a large enterprise and something different for a small company. Although not exactly the determinant should be the size itself. For some, it will be more beneficial to use a Kanban board, whereas others will be more suited to a Scrum structure. You may not find your way right away. This is what Agile is all about – constant development, testing and learning.
Here we mentioned the main principles to follow when implementing Agile methodology in HR. One of them is the division into teams of diverse specialists, following homogeneous departments. In standard HR departments, someone else deals with the topic of talent and another with standard recruitment. If instead, they worked together to form an all-encompassing team, their approach would be more innovative and the flow of information would be better.
One popular tool that works well for a variety of teams is a progress dashboard. It helps you to see priorities and check regularly what stage each team is at and whether everyone is meeting assumptions. Such observation also allows you to react quickly and make changes to the original assumptions. This point can also include a shift away from the traditional division of responsibilities and roles to be driven by skills and availability.
Another distinguishing feature of Agile in HR is the fluid rhythm of work. The standard for traditional HR teams is to work on a quarterly or semi-annual basis, while Agile involves shorter cycles to make this feedback more timely. Whether it’s a matter of a weekly or bi-weekly work rhythm depends on the needs of the business and the projects currently underway. This approach makes it easier to change direction when we perceive that something is going wrong. This not only reduces risk but also saves time and money.
It is also worth mentioning at this point that Agile involves co-creation rather than change management. Employees have a lot to say about the shortcomings as well as the strengths of the organization, and listening to them can help you understand their needs. What’s more, they often have ready-made ideas for change that can become innovative solutions that lead to positive transformation of the entire organization.
When facing the decision to change, it is worth taking into account on the one hand the constraints imposed by the organization and not going beyond our capabilities, but on the other hand take to heart that if we want to make a change, it must not be just a cosmetic improvement, but a thorough transformation. Agile for HR is not about introducing feedback surveys or tools to facilitate communication, but about changing the thinking and approach to HR management and putting the employee at the center.
What to know when new to implementation of Agile in HR?
Which issue you want to focus on and to what extent you make changes is up to you. Still, you may wonder how to begin? You may get inspired by case studies of companies that have already traveled this path. Familiarize yourself with them, see what steps they took, what worked, and what they are working on.
Remember, however, to treat such stories more as inspiration than as an instruction manual. Pull out what works best for you and start taking action. In case you are completely inexperienced and don’t feel up to making such major changes on your own, you can enlist the help of an experienced trainer or consultant who will give you the right training and determine what changes to make first.
Also, stay in touch with your team. Such a change should not be one-sided; after all, the team is the main stakeholder. Set clear goals and show what impact they will have on the organization. This allows employees to better understand the meaning of the changes you are making, and thus accept them.
Agile in HR is an opportunity to transform the profession and make it fit for the future. It’s also a chance to understand the new approach to the entire organization as a common set, rather than separate, independent departments. A flexible, more human-centered approach is the answer to the challenges posed by a rapidly changing business environment.
Remember that the main principle of Agile is to continuously improve, test and make changes. Start with a small step, see how it works in your organization, gather feedback. The first approach will not always be successful and will bring success, so be prepared to fail and learn from it. Work with your employees, listen to them, use their ideas and make changes according to the needs of the organization.