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Agile HR

Viewing organizations, teams, and individuals as customers, Agile HR teams have been able to adapt the feedback loops from traditional Agile frameworks to drive real change in their organizations’ work environments in a matter of weeks instead of years.

HR has gone through dozens of changes over the past few years. Yet, old habits die hard. So how can HR teams embrace a more agile mentality and make the changes needed to create a wonderful working environment?

What is Agile HR?

Agile HR is a way of working that allows you to be more flexible, adaptable, and responsive to your business needs. It’s about being able to quickly and efficiently deliver the right people at the right time in the right place with the right skillsets. Sound familiar? Pretty much, it's a way to make you the hero of your office.Agile HR focuses less on time-honored business traditions and more on creating and supporting an agile culture and empowering employees to make decisions based on their own knowledge and experience.It’s also about developing a shared understanding of what it takes to succeed as an employee or team member.

It’s you taking your company into the next era. Making sure that your company stays above the curve instead of getting bogged down in business minutia.Companies with Agile HR departments encourage collaboration, communication, transparency, and trust. They know that employees want to do great things and that they don’t always succeed because of external factors like regulations or lack of funding.Instead of working on checking boxes off of compliance forms, you work on creating an environment where employees grow and succeed.

What Does It Mean To Be Agile In HR?

To be agile means to follow the values and principles that help organizations continuously improve -even in complex environments. These principles are based on the idea that working together toward a common goal will produce a superior outcome than working independently. Collaboration sounds great, right? When you input agile processes in place, employees and teams can collaborate closely together to develop new products or services, easily. These approaches are becoming increasingly popular within the Human Resources department because they provide a framework for change management, collaboration, communication, transparency, and rapid innovation.Think of an issue that constantly plagues your HR department. Is it in recruitment? Is it retention? Is the onboarding process a pain? While some factors are out of your control, an agile approach focuses more on finding small solutions to try, refine, and try again. Instead of continuing to hear complaints, it is about finding experiments to work on together to revolutionize your organization.

Traditional HR vs. Agile HR Practices

HR departments are often seen as bureaucratic entities that focus on compliance, policies, and procedures. But there’s another side to human resources – the fun side! The side that’s focused on empowering employees and fostering innovation. Agile HR streamlines the first as much as possible and explores the second side at every chance. While traditional HR tends to be about rules and regulations, agile HR emphasizes flexibility, collaboration, and creativity.

While agile software development team is credited with creating the original manifesto, HR has its own version! In 2017 a group of HR professionals from around the world created their own agile values.

Collaborative networks over hierarchical structures

Traditional HR departments focus on top-down dynamics. What the boss says, goes. Agile HR focuses on creating collaborative environments where assumptions are questioned. Experience and perspective are respected to create more informed decisions.

Adaptability over prescriptiveness

If you are tired of hearing ,” thats the way we have always done it,”. yYou aren’t alone. Agile HR strives to burst out of the norm and be willing to try new ways of doing things and new ways of thinking through issues. As well as provide others the space and autonomy to experiment and learn. And if a solution doesn’t work, keep adapting.

Inspiration and engagement over management and retention

Would you rather have someone who reals stuck at their job or someone who is excited to work? We want the second one, too! Agile HR provides opportunities for growth and creative expression. Instead of creating walls, you make the space better.

Transparency over secrecy

Decades of office dramas have taught us that insider knowledge is power. That mentality makes for an interesting show, but a lousy work environment. Instead of hoarding information, share it freely and encourage curiosity. Agile teams value sharing information efficiently to make sure everyone remains aligned, and leaves the drama stays on the screen.

Intrinsic motivation over extrinsic rewards

Ever heard the phrase, “you couldn’t pay me enough?” Agile HR practitioners understand that while fair compensation is vital, so is providing for the entire person. Rewards should provide opportunity and enrichment to the mind and spirit, not just surface-level material goods. A free lunch is nice, but a free class to learn something that interests the team is better.

Ambition over obligation

Agile HR encourages you and your team to want more. It is ok to want to grow, improve, and develop new ideas - even if they fail! We often sit back and follow the status quo for dozens of perfectly valid reasons. Strive to improve anyway.

Benefits of an Agile Approach to People Leadership

While most companies are still struggling to implement effective talent management systems, businesses are seeing success with agile approaches to human resources. Companies are focusing less on traditional paths and more on building a workforce that can adapt to change. This shift requires a different type of leader, one who understands how to develop employees across multiple roles and positions within the organization. Agile approaches help individuals develop needed leadership skills at all levels. While many companies struggle to find qualified candidates, an agile HR model helps organizations develop leaders at every level. By creating opportunities for growth, you help employees become better leaders themselves helping new employees thrive.

An agile HR model focuses on developing leaders, rather than just filling open positions. Instead of looking for someone to fill a specific role, it looks for individuals who can lead others. Companies that adopt this method often see improvements in employee retention rates and overall organizational performance.By focusing on developing leaders at all levels, you can build a team that can adapt to changing needs.

You don't want to hire someone who is great at managing a few people but struggles to manage a larger group. If you're looking for a person who can take charge of a large project, you need to look for someone who can work with a diverse set of stakeholders.Companies that adopt an agile HR strategy know that there isn't always a clear path to becoming a manager. They understand that managers aren't born overnight and that successful leaders come in many forms and come from many paths.

Tips for Adopting a More Agile HR Model

Agile is all about collaboration, communication, and transparency. This means that you must work together to solve problems, communicate effectively, and provide visibility into what happens throughout the organization. In short, agile is all about people. If you want to adopt an agile approach to human resources, here are some tips to help you along the way.

  1. Get Everyone involved.
    One of the biggest mistakes companies make when trying to implement agile is assuming that everyone already knows how to collaborate and communicate. You need to start small and build up momentum. Start with one small experiment and slowly expand over time.
  2. Be transparent.
    If you want to see success, you need to let your colleagues know what you're doing and why. Transparency is key. Once you've implemented something, you'll learn whether it works or needs tweaking. And remember, no matter how good the idea is, it won't work without buy-in.
  3. Make sure there's room for experimentation.
    As agile was first developed for software teams, it might be hard to imagine adapting this approach. Again, think small. What is one process your team can improve upon? For example, you could use agile methods to improve employee performance reviews or even onboarding processes.
  4. Move towards a continuous feedback model.
    When it comes to agile human resources, many companies struggle to implement it correctly. This is because most organizations still rely heavily on traditional methods such as annual performance reviews and one-off surveys. These approaches don't work anymore because employees no longer wait for an evaluation to know whether they're doing good or bad. Instead, they want immediate feedback about how they're performing.
  5. Increase frontline decision rights
    The most effective way to increase employee empowerment is to provide the tools and information needed to make good decisions. This means providing access to data and giving people the ability to analyze it themselves.
    In addition to being able to see what others think, employees must feel empowered to act upon those opinions. To do this, provide feedback channels where everyone feels comfortable voicing their opinion. Establish a regular cadence for retrospecting on the needs and improvements of the team.

Developing your managers' coaching skills

Agile falls apart without solid leadership. But, just like agile has to be learned, so do great leadership skills. In the immortal words of William Shakespeare:

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them

Often times in business, it's the last category. However, the role of coach (notice I am not saying manager) is one of the most important roles within any organization. This is because it helps people grow and develop into better leaders which, in turn, helps the entire organization thrive beyond the success of one person. However, many organizations struggle with how to effectively train and support their managers. They often lack the tools and knowledge needed to become effective coaches. There are enough books on leadership to fill impressive-looking libraries, but here are a few key components that all agile coaches need to succeed.

  1. Understand Your Team
    Before starting to build your manager’s coaching skills, make sure you know what motivates each member of your team. You don’t want to try to motivate someone who doesn’t care about the outcome. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of each person on your team. Once you do this, you can start tailoring a team that works well together and feels comfortable collaborating based on each person’s unique perspective.
  2. Build Relationships
    Building relationships is key to becoming a good coach. When you meet with your employees, ask questions and be (not just show) interested. If you genuinely care about them, they'll feel comfortable sharing information about themselves. Make sure you're listening carefully, too. Don’t just nod along while they talk; really pay attention. By doing this, you'll learn more about your team members, which will help you improve your coaching skills.
  3. Encourage Action
    Science has shown time and time again that positive reinforcement can be the best motivator. So when you see something positive happening, give a shout-out! Let your team members know that you appreciate their efforts and congratulate them on being successful. Also, let them know that you noticed their hard work. This way, they'll continue to strive toward achieving goals.

Agile HR FAQs

How Do I Apply Agile To HR?

As we move into the 2020s, many organizations are embracing agile practices to improve efficiency and effectiveness across the board. In fact, there are even some companies that have adopted the entire agile approach, including Scrum, Kanban, Lean Startup, DevOps, Continuous Delivery, and others.

Agile methods like Scrum and Kanban emphasize rapid delivery of value over long lead times. This allows teams to respond quickly to changing market conditions.

While agile methods are great for building products, they don’t always fit perfectly within the context of HR processes. However, there are ways to adapt agile principles to HR without compromising too much functionality. Here are a few tips for how to apply agile to HR.

Agile sales helps sales teams become focused on what matters most. They can react quickly to changes in markets and adjust their strategies accordingly, resulting in improved customer satisfaction.

Data analysis will help you identify potential opportunities and improve customer service while helping you avoid common mistakes.

What developers discovered

HR departments are often seen as bureaucratic entities that focus on compliance, policies, and procedures. But there’s another side to human resources – the fun side! The side that’s focused on empowering employees and fostering innovation. Agile HR streamlines the first as much as possible and explores the second side at every chance. While traditional HR tends to be about rules and regulations, agile HR emphasizes flexibility, collaboration, and creativity.

While agile software development team is credited with creating the original manifesto, HR has its own version! In 2017 a group of HR professionals from around the world created their own agile values.

Explore The Agile Mindset

Agile can be as structured or flexible as you need it to be. One of the first ways to implement agile is to align the mindset shift between and goals of the team. Use a retrospective to create shared goals to work on before the next retro meeting.

Build self-organizing teams

Many people think of agile as being about small cross-functional teams. While that is true, agile isn’t limited to just small groups. A large organization might want to break down the onboarding process into smaller chunks to make it easier for everyone involved. If you give each individual responsibility for a particular task, you can have a dedicated ambassador responsible for recruiting, another responsible for training, etc.

Focus on delivering value

In most cases, the goal of agile projects is to produce working software. When applied to HR, this translates to getting new hires up and running as fast as possible or creating cultural initiatives.

What HR Can Learn From Tech?

The tech industry is notorious for having no shortage of talented workers, but it’s also known for being very good at hiring people. This is because there tends to be a lot of turnover among employees, especially in high-demand jobs like software engineers.

In fact, according to LinkedIn data, some 90% of software developers leave their employer within five years of joining. And while many of those departures are due to internal factors such as personal life issues, others are related to career progression.

This makes succession planning particularly important for tech firms. They tend to be smaller operations where the CEO role is critical, and they don’t always have the luxury of waiting around for someone else to grow into the position.

So how do you ensure that you hire the best person for the job without wasting too much time? One way is to shorten the timeline. You could just wait until the position opens up, but that approach isn’t ideal either. After all, you want to make sure that whoever steps into the role is ready to hit the ground running.

A better option is to give potential successors a chance to prove themselves early on. In fact, the tech industry has already begun experimenting with shorter timelines. For example, Facebook now offers one-year performance reviews rather than the typical three-to-five-year cycle.

Adobe has announced that it would provide four-month feedback loops for managers looking to promote their employees. The idea here is to help managers identify strengths and weaknesses in their team members so they can decide whether to keep them or move them on.

How do I Make My HR More Agile?

While these approaches may seem counterintuitive, they actually work well when combined with other key principles of agile. For example, if your company is using Scrum, then you should expect to see a lot of short sprints instead of longer cycles. That means you need to plan ahead and set goals for each stage of the onboarding process.

You also need to create an agile environment where new hires feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. So, if you’re going to ask questions during the interview process, make sure you’ve thought through what you want to know beforehand.

Finally, you need to encourage collaboration between different departments. This will allow you to get a better sense of who your new employee really is before making any decisions.

What Is Agile Project Management?

Great question! Agile project management is a popular method of managing projects. It involves breaking down complex tasks into manageable pieces and assigning specific roles to individuals.

The main difference between traditional project management and agile project management is that the latter focuses less on detailed planning and more on continuous improvement.

In addition, agile project management emphasizes teamwork and collaboration over hierarchy. As a result, it tends to favor small teams over large ones.

How to Run an Agile HR Retrospective?

Retrospectives are one of the most valuable meetings in your agile arsenal. This is the time when team members can discuss successes and failures within working systems. This meeting is dedicated to creating a continuous feedback loop to help the team discuss progress on experiments and see what improvements can still be made. Learn more about agile retrospectives ion our Ultimate Guide to Agile Retrospectives!


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