Agile HR – A Mandate for Progressive Organisations! 1148

Kenneth W Wheeler

The near future increasingly belongs to Agile HR and Agile organisations – there is no debating this fact. Agile HR is a certain way of future-proofing our talent and ensuring our work energy is invested in the most meaningful way.

And as an HR Professional, I am excited that it is deservingly getting the due recognition and attention it should at a Global platform.

If we consider the dictionary verbiage, Agile is termed as an adjective that means ‘able to move quickly and easily’. What characteristics hence must define a process or person as Agile? It would be the ability of an individual (person or organisation) to:

  • Have swift and well-coordinated movement to influence an outcome quickly for any unfamiliar, uncalled or unforeseen situation.
  • Ability to improvise and adapt quickly – almost naturally to any newfound environment.
  • Operate in a mindset of possibilities with a high appetite for taking calculated risks.

Agile WorkingWhen you pause and reflect on these characteristics, it almost seems that not everyone could possess these traits or perhaps to act this way is a talent or gift belonging to a few. Just like some children happen to be swifter and move with greater flair over others who struggle and appear rather awkward (particularly in sports).

Similarly, few organisations seem to move quicker, action-driven and result-oriented while others move slowly and are risk-averse. Considering this viewpoint – is agility a privilege with which one is blessed? Or can it be developed as a skill, practice and DNA at both individual and organisation level? Can HR get organisations to accept, adapt, learn, grow and thrive in an Agile mindset?

Agile working methods are disrupting the world of work and HR needs to capitalize on agile’s potential to help organizations thrive in a very dynamic business environment. To do so, HR coherently needs to develop Agility as a skill, practice and DNA at both individual and organisation level. But how can HR get organisations to accept, adapt, learn, grow and thrive in an Agile mindset? Let’s find out.

The answer to such questions can be approached by welcoming the following perspectives:

  • Recognize and appreciate that goals, objectives and business focus constantly on change and evolve almost instantly today.
  • Strategies need innovation and quick improvisation to meet the changing business challenges, thus creating a more resilient unit.
  • Be comfortable with a learn fast and fail fast approach – allow teams to take tasks outside of their usual scope of work to facilitate and develop new skills.
  • Agile HR is a departure from the rule-based approach to a simpler, more productive, results-driven model.

Keeping the above in mind, HR must operate on some key fundamentals to successfully establish an Agile framework and work towards establishing a firm Agile foundation.

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Agile HR - A Mandate for Progressive Organisations 3

Begin from Where It Matters the Most – Recruitment!

HR must invest in creating a recruitment strategy that embodies the agile characteristics. Re-work on the content of company profile, job description and responsibilities. Ensure to adopt hiring practices that value attitude, behaviour and competency tuned to identifying candidates that have a flair for an agile mindset.

Gamble with hiring candidates that are comfortable with risk-taking – they would never be discouraged to experiment and bring a new perspective in an assertive manner.

Provide training to your interview panel team to ask specific questions that help extract an individual’s capacity on agile thinking. Explore candidates’ experience in situations where a planned action did not go well, and a need for improvisation was required. How was the situation handled? What was done to make the project/task successful?

Make Agile an Integral Part of Your Culture

HR must cover agility components like continuous innovation, nimble planning and execution, encourage experimentation, flexibility to improvise and promote empowerment as an integral part of the organisation’s Vision & Mission statement.

HR must proactively provide the necessary L&D sessions, tools and simulation workshops to a different management level that helps bring about a sustained and flourished agile mindset as a natural process in the organisation. Look at critical things such as:

  • The internal reward and recognition program must support the agile components to allow a more seamless adoption
  • Celebrate every small success that defines an agile way of doing things and acts as a powerful motivation for all employees
  • All 1:1 feedback session must promote and discuss agile thinking at a monthly and quarterly frequency
  • Goal setting and projects given to both individual and teams must again mirror an opportunity to implement agility
  • Promotions must carry a good weightage of agile demonstration
  • Make ‘agile squad teams’ to work across functions with units helping them to operate in an agile way of execution.

All these multiple touchpoints over a period of time will make the organisation agile in its thinking and execution in the truest sense!

Influence Agile Learning and Behaviour

Bringing in talent that favour agility is a great first step. Just like recruitment, agile behaviour supported by an able learning and development program is equally necessary for a win-win situation. An agile HR will always set up a robust framework to help establish and facilitate different ways to make agile learning a very visible part of the organisation – one that employees’ value and cherish, understanding fully well that it is a perfect means to keep themselves future fit. Make way for:

  • Online learning modules defined by successful case studies from inside and outside the organisation
  • Develop Agile simulation workshops
  • Identify Projects that operate on short term impact and delivery
  • Pick individuals from different functions to jointly collaborate on new business initiatives
  • Promote temporary lateral movement into a business unit of employee’s preference and interest.
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Employees Must Act Entrepreneurially

Employees Must Act EntrepreneuriallyTo achieve this is a significant success for any Agile HR unit. One assured way to accomplish this objective is to establish employee empowerment. When the spirit of intrapreneurship is acceptable as a normal norm by peers, managers and executive management alike – magic happens.

Employees no more operate under the notion of ‘working for’ but a ‘working with’ mindset. Ownership is at its peak and HR succeeds in creating a psychologically safe work environment. Risks and failures are encouraged in the ever-evolving customer behaviour (both internal and external), product adaptability and changing new technology – all of which are being upgraded today faster than ever before.

“When the spirit of intrapreneurship is acceptable as a normal norm by peers, managers and executive management alike – magic happens. Employees no more operate under the notion of ‘working for’ but a ‘working with’ mindset.”

Agile HR must pride themselves as an embodiment of change management and strongly highlight and showcase to all employees on how they can learn and act entrepreneurially – a must-have component for long-term success and scalability of both employees and the organisation.

To Bring it All Together

Individuals and companies do not have to have natural agile DNA. However, HR by means of establishing an agile framework governed by agile principles covering aspects of processes, people and internal collaborative networks can successfully transform organisations of all sizes and shapes to eat, sleep and breathe an agile mindset. Being agile is not just a good to have but a must-have component as an absolute business imperative.

The old HR perspective of policing employees through policies/procedures that restrict and hinder creativity/innovation at work is a buried forgotten past.

Agile HR work is not about managing people as resources but collaborating and developing them to build shared value for individuals, organisations, customers and investors alike. An agile framework is the way of the future and being future fit with an ‘Agile HR’ as its moderator and creator!


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Kenneth W Wheeler is a seasoned HR professional with 16+ years of rich learning experience spread across different industries. Awarded as 101 Top HR Minds (India) 2019 and a certified NLP Coach, he is a well-rounded expert in Envisioning, Strategizing,  A key contributor in winning the BM Munjal award for LogiNext for 2 consecutive years for achieving business excellence through L&D program, Kenneth is currently the Director of Talent & Culture at True Fit Corporation. His obsession includes exploring multiple ways to build an agile learning infrastructure, governed by the use of new-age cutting technology (AR & VR, AI, ML, Bots). Thus, nurturing a culture of future fit employees by building a well-crafted blended learning approach in the form of gamification, mobile learning, experiential learning, design thinking, storytelling and contributing directly to companies’ bottom-line results.

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