Expert Opinion: Agile Human Resources is the Need of the Hour 1

Subir Sinha
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, crisis response has become a top priority for HR. The capability of the hr function with which they respond swiftly and effectively to ever-changing employee expectations, workplace disruptions, and business demands is what hr agility is all about. As the pandemic resets major work trends, agile can help hr leaders to rethink employee engagement, planning, performance, and experience strategies and deliver meaningful results more effectively.

Going by dictionary ‘Agile’ means nimble, lithe, spry, supple, perceptive, and dexterous. In the organizational context, it is the ability to SENSE, ANALYSE, DECIDE and RESPOND to CHANGES QUICKLY and CONTINUOUSLY in the SHORT TERM.

You need to be flexible to the needs of the situation and it is different from adaptation which is a long term process. Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and several Silicon Valley companies are seen as Agile Corporations which focus on Market/Consumer, Technology and Regulations very swiftly to their advantage. An Agile organization is poised for improved profitability primarily through the faster decision making and higher efficiency.

In the changing times, especially, in the Corona and post-Corona era, Human Resource function also needs to be Agile. It has to be swift to quickly adapt to the changes required and precipitated by the environment. The focus of HR has to be on its internal customers i.e. employees, different functions and stakeholders; and quickly and continuously meet their changing expectations as per the need of the hour.

Cross-Functional Teams with Defined OKRs

The first step is to start working in small teams and collectively working on projects based on short timelines of three months against defined Objectives and Key Results (OKR). HR needs to take up projects and quickly constitute teams of specialists and cross-functional representatives who understand the employees’ requirements and work together to solve the issue and complete the tasks in three months’ time maximum. A good example of this would be working on a Career Progression System for high potential employees in the organization. The entire gamut of identifying high potential employees and designing, developing and implementing their progression and retention strategies should be done in three months by the organization. Working in a Small Cross-Functional Team towards an agreed time-bound deliverable is Agility.

Leveraging Technology is the Key 

In the Talent Acquisition department of the Human Resources function, agility can be seen through how quickly it leverages Technology, Artificial Intelligence, Market Dynamics and facilitates the availability of right and desired talent to various departments with good employee recruitment & selection methods and on-boarding experience. The use of Technology and Artificial Intelligence in quickly sifting the database and shortlisting right candidates as per the job specifications and job description is something that Agile HR will do in changing times.

“The use of Technology and Artificial Intelligence in quickly sifting the database and shortlisting right candidates as per the job specifications and job description is something which Agile HR will do in changing times.” Click To Tweet

Fresh Ideas Foster Agility

Agile organizations need newness in ideas, thoughts, perspectives, etc. on an ongoing basis. Human Resources have a critical role to play in this. They will need to infuse fresh and young talents across all functions in the organization; design, develop and implement a structured Management Trainee Programme. When young Management Trainees from different colleges, institutes join an organization, they bring in vibrancy in the organization. They are bubbling with energy, fresh ideas, concepts and start questioning the assumptions in their work areas and add value to improve and change them for better efficiencies. Agile Human Resource function should also focus on hiring Summer Trainees for short project-based assignments and harness the best out of them. Promoting new ideas is the hallmark of Agile organisations and HR facilitates this.

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Innovation and Flexibility Should Be in the DNA of Agile Organisations  

Innovation and FlexibilityAgile organisations drive innovation in all aspects of their work while HR needs to facilitate and drive innovation and flexibility. A great example of this is the current scenario where the Covid-19 pandemic engulfs the world. Work from home which was only done by the IT Companies has now become the norm. Human Resource Function along with the IT function of the organization has facilitated this very seamlessly in most of the organisations including manufacturing, services, banking (BFSI) etc. After the lockdown was announced by the government, within a week we saw people working from home and this is a clear example of agility which we have seen recently. HR and IT functions were agile and quickly responded to business requirements as work had to go on.

Customized Compensation and Benefit Programs

Customized CompensationHuman Resources agility can be seen in the Compensation and Benefits area. We see various organisations structuring compensation and benefits as per the employees’ needs and expectations. It is no more one size fits all. Human Resources have been agile in designing compensation for employees in innovative ways. For senior management, it is customized to wealth creation with ESOPs, Variable Bonuses, Loan program, etc. On the other hand, it is designed for more cash in hand for junior and middle management along with statutory benefits and medical insurance plans. It’s One On One (OOO) Compensation: an Agility is driven by market reality.

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Learning & Development

Learning and DevelopmentThe Learning and Development function of Human Resource also needs to be Agile. The changing needs of the market, technology, desire for learning new skills by employees, all call for Agile Learning and Development methodologies in the organization.  The L&D function plays a critical role in an organization as it helps and facilitates employees to acquire new skills and competencies to be able to do their jobs successfully. Again, the recent pandemic has seen a surge in online learning. Human Resource function has demonstrated its agility in quickly offering need-based online courses to employees. Agile Learning can be seen by short videos on our hand-held smartphones. This has developed because the span of attention of employees has shortened and these videos allow them to learn on the go. Learning and Development function has also transformed and HR’s agility can be seen here clearly.

Facilities Management

Last but not the least, even the Facilities Management function of Human Resources needs to be agile. We have seen it during this pandemic. When work from home became a norm the Facilities Management Team quickly got into action to amend rules and provide Wi-Fi connectivity to employees, transport desktops and laptops to employees’ homes, etc. All efforts were taken to help set up office infrastructure at homes to ensure productivity.

Use of Contemporary Software

“An agile Human Resource function needs to use new-age software like Scrum and JIRA as these are being used in Project Management. They can be effectively used in Talent Management, Compensation modelling, etc. These software will help HR to start and close projects in a logical manner.”

An agile Human Resource function needs to use new-age software like Scrum and JIRA as these are being used in Project Management. They can be effectively used in Talent Management, Compensation modelling, etc. These software will help HR to start and close projects in a logical manner.

In the end, I would say that all functions in the organization need to be Agile and be focused to the requirements of their internal and external customers. The swiftness with which they respond to their ever-changing requirements is what Agility is all about.

An Agile Human Resource Function has to keep its eyes and ears on employees, understand their needs and requirements and facilitate and provide all support in minimal time to ensure enhanced employee engagement, experience and productivity.

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Subir Sinha is a seasoned HR professional with over 29 years of comprehensive experience in a variety of HR functions cutting across Manufacturing, ITeS, Retail, Telecom and FMCG industries. His keen areas of interest include talent acquisition and retention strategies, performance management, conflict resolution, government regulatory oversight, companywide HR communication/coordination, as well as succession planning. He also specialises in recruitment and selection of management staff, including senior management and functional heads, as well as campus selections, international hiring and mass scale hiring. Currently he is a freelance HR Consultant based in Delhi NCR helping SME’s/MSME’s and Startups set up robust HR systems and processes.

1 Comment

  1. A very insightful article, explaining that it is the need of the hour to encompass agility in HRM functions for the organisations to be future ready.

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