Taking People / HR function to the Next Level

It’s a well-known fact that we are sailing in a highly turbulent and complex business environment, that is highly uncertain and volatile. The shelf-life of products and companies is diminishing, preferences and expectations of the multi-generational workforce is changing, customers’ needs are changing, technology is becoming obsolete, and many more changes are happening all around. Change is constant and some organizations and people embrace the change whole-heartedly while others lament and take time to cope with the stress generated from change.

When organizations are operating in such a dynamic vortex of uncertainty, it’s but natural, and of course, highly important for the People function (aka Human Resources) within organizations to shift from a traditional mindset, old behaviors and command-and-control management to a more open-contemporary mindset to unlearn and learn new behaviors, and focus on adaptability, innovation and speed. In short, the People function and teams need to embrace Agile HR. In our earlier blog post – What is Agile HR? – my team and I outlined that Agile HR encompasses operations agility, people management agility and cultural agility.

Many of us are familiar with the phrase “easier said than done”. This phrase is very apt when planning toward Agile HR implementation. Few to many tend to think that the Agile HR approach is no rocket science and every organization can embrace this approach to fruition. However, it’s important to understand that this form of thinking can lead to transformation failures. Agile is all about a shift in values, behaviors and actions. That, is why, thought leaders, Agile practitioners and Coaches mention that Agile is a Mindset. It’s all about having healthy and open transparent conversations between and across members (including leaders) and teams. Coaching is integral to this approach, and when done in the right way, it can help people practice constructive behaviors and actions, thus building an agile constructive culture.

Before even beginning the transition to Agile HR, it’s important for an organization’s leaders and the People/PeopleOps teams to answer:

  • Why should we shift to an Agile HR approach?
    • What impediments is the People team and the organization facing? Are these blockers and problems localized to any one People area (like recruitment or L&D) or it’s spread across the entire People function?
  • Can Agile mindset, values and practices help resolve the blockers?
    • Do we have a common working agreement to pilot agile practices on a small scale, experiment and learn from failures and successes?

It’s imperative for the teams to list out all the problems / blockers. Next, the teams need to analyze which Agile practices and values can help solve the issues.

For instance, maybe the recruiting team is overwhelmed with the huge list of requisitions and are in a dilemma on how to address all the requisitions and when to switch over to next requisition. The scrum master (aka recruiting lead or manager), recruiters and other key stakeholders (like product owner) could start using scrum ceremonies, beginning with sprint planning. During this stage, the team prioritizes the backlog for the sprint so that the recruiters have a clear understanding on the top requisitions that need due attention for the sprint. Next, the team discuss how much effort would be required for each requisition based on the complexity of skills and capabilities, and finally, have a working agreement on the maximum number of profiles that need to be screened and sent to hiring team, apart from planning for backup profiles.

Another common problem might be that members of the People function feel lost or stuck on the same task for few days. And, the People Lead might not have a clear visibility on team’s day-to-day workflow. To address this problem, the Lead can use Kanban. Through this board, the Lead visualizes each member’s work and other members too gain a clarity on which task their peers are working. Defining the definition of done and keeping a track of the lead time, helps the team to address blockers on a timely basis, and improve the workflow.

Paying attention to the “why” aspect (with focus on one’s own team and organization) and aligning to organization’s vision and mission can help build a strong case for practicing Agile HR approach, with all members having a common understanding on what pain points need to be addressed to maximize the gains. It’s essential for the team to begin agile practices at a small scale by trying out for three iterations with retrospective sessions. This will help the team to analyze their processes and approach, and if necessary, iterate on their processes.

Author: Lakshmi CV