Why Agile HR is a Mindset and Not Just a Methodology 0

Sweta Bidwai

The word Agile is now not new to us. We have been hearing it for a long time. Agile methodology was the brainchild of software engineers in the 70s and 80s, developed as a way to speed up their development projects.

Agile simply means “able to move quickly and easily”. In my experience, to a larger extent, it is the mindset with a concrete action plan.

Agile in HR is an exciting topic and it’s transforming how HR hires, develops, and manages its people. As organisations strive to become more responsive, transparent, digitalized and collaborative, we not only need to quickly understand what Agile means in order to carry out the wider organisational transformation but also adopt the Agile mindset that empowers our HR team and revolutionizes traditional ways of working.

Agile HRToday, we have agile projects which continue to work on “sprints” – These sprints generally last for a defined predetermined duration and then the progress is reviewed and revisions are identified. This entire approach brings in quick and easy collaboration within the teams working together. This also negates the surprise factor which was the case in the traditional project deliveries.

In the traditional approach, the entire project had a timeline and the review happened only at the end or when the project was near completion. Whereas in the Agile methodology approach we break these long-term projects into shorter sprints, check the progress really fast so that we can re-route as per the dynamic need of today’s requirement.

This method invokes a culture of continuous feedback and improvement, allowing teams to react quickly to change, and avoid any large-scale mistakes being discovered at the end of a long and expensive project.

Having said that, HR has always been Agile. In fact, it was meant to be agile. HR was always meant to be agile. The only missing part was the need and its application and implementation. Even today the implementation of Agile methodology in HR is a challenge.

Today, the way the business world has evolved, HR is getting all the support it needs to lead from the front and take actions rather than just suggesting mere measures of action to be taken.

The question is where do we start from? What should we do to ensure its adoption and implementation is successful? While the basic principle looks very easy to start and adapt, but it’s deeper techniques, terminologies are quite complex.

Adoption and ImplementationAgile for HR has the potential to reinvent our operational model and help us modernize as a profession. You don’t even need to work in an Agile organisation to make your HR processes agile. You can realize the benefits very quickly by applying a few basic steps in your everyday work.

“HR was always meant to be agile. The only missing part was the need and its application and implementation. Even today the implementation of Agile methodology in HR is a challenge.” Click To Tweet

In my experience, below are some simple steps which would help in the adoption and implementation of Agile right into the roots of the organization culture :

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Mindset: No More HR Silos

Agile is all about the value we deliver to our customers and our business. In HR we talk a lot about the need to ‘add value’ but often struggle to clearly quantify and define what this value is. We need to work in smaller teams with collaboration. Collaboration is the key to Agile functioning. For too long we’ve been slowed down by our Ulrich-inspired model of single point topic owners, such as recruitment versus talent, and the separation of generalists and specialists and so on and so forth. Agile HR transforms the HR operative model and starts to build a pool of multi-skilled people able to innovate and design together. These people can also serve different parts of the business based on who is available and who has the skills, rather than following predetermined relationships or roles to execute a task.

Understanding

CollaborationWe need to develop a whole understanding of this methodology right from sprints, backlogs, epics, etc. There has to be clarity in knowing their relevance in a software development project and importance to the HR functioning. Just renaming your catch up meetings to Stand Ups will not help. Agile HR is more than just iterations, Scrum boards and a few stand-ups. It is about stepping out of the tradition of following HR best practice and shifting focus from long-term strategic plans to quick feedback-driven approach. Only once HR embraces this mindset, only then it can successfully adopt Agile tools and practices and become more responsive and adaptive. Agile HR gives more meaning to those who are actively working on the project and creates a more positive experience for the customer, producing more generous results for the company.

Identify Internal Experience

“Agile is all about the value we deliver to our customers and our business. In HR we talk a lot about the need to ‘add value’ but often struggle to clearly quantify and define what this value is. We need to work in smaller teams with collaboration. Collaboration is the key to Agile functioning.”

The concepts of experimentation are the highlight of Agile methods to be successful. One needs to first identify experience within the organization, projects, etc. This would mean some teams use the Scrum framework and sprint back to back each week, with the aim of driving rapid innovation and delivery. Whereas others might prefer a Kanban board to manage a constant flow of daily tasks, often combined with activities like retrospectives and stand-ups to ensure they continuously improve and remain dynamic. Whatever is the approach, the key is to find it through a test and learn cycle.

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Leverage Technology and Form Cadence

Having identified the agile model through internal experiences now is the time to leverage the best technology which is capable of supporting our new ways of working. It requires careful research to identify the right tool. Traditionally, HR has worked with an annual cycle, sometimes with half-yearly or quarterly check-ins. However, in our modern and ever-changing world, businesses can rise and fall at any time. Instead, Agile embraces a shorter time frame, and asks teams to check-in and replan at least monthly, with many teams working in 1 or 2-week cycles. What’s more important is, this cadence can start to drive continuous improvement throughout the organisation.

“Incorporating transparency and prioritizing people initiatives can help improve HR service delivery. This aids in bringing an important change which helps HR become accepted as another part of the business.” Click To Tweet

Prioritization and Transparency

People initiatives and services are prioritized primarily based on business value. Transparency is one of the key values of Agile and central to these ways of working. Increasing transparency reduces the risk of producing work of poor quality and is critical to the success of organizations. Put simply, without transparency, we cannot manage risk. Incorporating transparency and prioritizing people initiatives can help improve HR service delivery. This aids in bringing an important change which helps HR become accepted as another part of the business.

More iterative and collaborative work fosters a culture of continuous feedback and improvement while enabling HR teams to roll out initiatives that aren’t out of date the moment they get launched. Adopting the Agile mindset is only one part, organisations also need the tools in place to implement it.

Indeed, Agile demands that HR leaders and teams are more planned and organised than ever before. It’s a fallacy that Agile means ‘no rules’ and do what you want!

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Sweta is the Director – People & Operations for Saltside Technologies India Private Limited. She has been helping corporations build teams from ground up for over 11 years. She has worked with multi-industry as well as highly-focused organisations as a key influencer for culture, responsible for driving performance of the team. Her passion and deep understanding of organisational behaviour have helped her identify and develop talent to make teams that solve real-world problems at scale. And when she is not strategizing for productivity growth, she practices Yoga to keep a perfect balance.

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