What Is Agile HR?

Four man cartoons showing about what is agile hr.

Agile HR is all about responding to human capital needs (at organizational, team, and individual levels) in a quick, positive, and engaging way.

It involves policies, processes, and people (the 3P’s) but with stronger inclusion of strategic and systems thinking, servant leadership, appropriate agile methodology & practices, process re-engineering, feedback loops, and learning culture.

Why Do HR (Human Resources) Need To Be Agile?

The 21st-century business is undergoing an immense transformation for value-driven products /solutions delivery and the degree of responsiveness to customers. To stay competitive and sustainable in this volatile and disruptive business landscape, organizations are transitioning to an agile organization model. This is characterized by, alignment around mission, vision, and values; adaptability; cross-functional team collaboration; growth mindset; value-based customer services; and continuous improvement, to name a few.

Agile has become a strategic necessity for organizations, it is essential for HR leaders and practitioners to sit down in the driver’s seat, fasten their seatbelt, and embark on their agile journey that leads their organizations towards adopting newer perspectives.

In today’s fast-paced digital era, many projects are being executed in an agile way (short iterative work cycles, incremental improvements, and continuous learning), HR is required to keep up with these changes and think ahead.

This paradigm shift is possible only when HR transitions from a transaction and routine-based function to a more transformational- and human-centric function.

Let Us Try To Understand Some Key Differences Between Agile And Traditional HR.

Traditional HR is inclined towards developing standardized policies and procedures while Agile HR mandates HR leaders and practitioners to design flexible and adaptive programs, processes and embrace digitization. Unlike traditional HR, Agile Human Resources advocates for a psychologically safe environment, so that organization members get the opportunity to experiment and learn fast from failures.

Instead of doing routine and transaction-based employee lifecycle management coupled with general administration, HR leaders need to create integrated HR-Business solutions by focusing on individual competence and organizational work processes, as well as culture and climate. In today’s agile era, the HR role cannot be limited to generalists and administrators. HRs need to acquire T-shaped capabilities – having an in-depth knowledge in any given HR function with the skills to work across different disciplines.

As companies are shifting away from traditional hierarchies with command-and-control culture to an agile-centric way of operating in cross-functional teams, HR leaders and practitioners should step up to cross-collaborate with their peer leaders to create a coaching culture.

21st-century business is not solely about maximizing shareholders’ profits. Long-term business success demands HR professionals and leaders to be people-centric. They need to put their people first and create value-driven solutions for internal customers (that is, employees), external customers, and end-users.

The visual below outlines the key differences between Agile and traditional HR.HR.

Read more about the difference between Traditional Recruitment vs. Agile Recruitment

How Can HR Be Agile?

HR leaders and practitioners need to understand the essence of Agile HR that encompasses operations agility, people management agility, and cultural agility.

Operations Agility is the ability for an organization to adjust and change its internal and external operations to suit employee or customer needs. This can be as simple as updating a policy based on employee feedback/changing market conditions or moving a factory to a lower-cost area to ensure customers are still getting quality stuff at their best rates. To achieve this; organizations need to establish ways to sense customer and employee sentiments. This can be done with surveys or traditional KPIs. Most importantly, only organizations with high operations agility respond quickly and directly, to feedback.

Similarly, People Management Agility is all about feedback, but instead of viewing through an operating lens, the organization constantly looks for affirmations to change to their human capital strategy – how to recruit and retain top talent for today, and retain (especially when the labor market is moving towards gig economy)

Given the ever-changing world, we are in, it is important to ensure that organizations are looking for talents that would help accelerate the growth of the company. At the same time, talent acquisition teams have to be trained to emphasize the reduction of recruitment costs and create deeper employee engagement. Recruitment and retention – support one another through Cultural Agility.

Cultural Agility is the lynchpin of an agile organization, particularly when it comes to Human Resources. It is fundamentally believed that feedback should be constant and that we (employees, the organization as a whole) should act on that feedback. An organization that has high cultural agility is self-aware of its strengths and weaknesses. Its members are adaptive, inquisitive, and have a shared belief system that drives decision-making across the organization. They support one another, and always look to deliver value and quality.

When designing flexible programs and/or creating an engaged workforce, HRs should take into consideration operations agility, people management agility, and cultural agility.

Who Are Some Of Them Who Have Already Experimented And Been Successfully Using Agile In HR?

The summer of 2015, had mostly been hot for the ING group when they decided to shift their entire traditional method of operations to agile models. They still call their transformation journey ongoing, as it is all about continuous improvement. ING believed in minimizing bureaucracy and empowering people more. Every employee in the organization was put on “mobility”, and asked to reapply for positions within the “new” organization. The intense selection processes focused more on culture and mindset. Gradually the new people model was also created, with the agile performance management model in place.

At PICUS, there is no annual salary raises for workers. Salaries are adjusted frequently based on research from the job markets, and one of the agile principles of learning and knowledge sharing is applied, salary hikes are provided to employees picking up difficult projects, and performing beyond expectations. Trello boards are used in recruitments, and sprints in talent management systems.

HR function includes many sub-functions like talent acquisition, performance management, learning & development, compensation & benefits, and above all, employee engagement. It is imperative for HR leaders and practitioners to take one step at a time and begin the Agility movement for each of the sub-functions. A glimpse of Agile movement HR is available at Agile-HR Solutions

To learn more about how Agile solutions in HR can be practiced in your organization, connect with us here.

Frequently Ask Questions

What does it mean to be an agile employee?

An individual who understands that change is constant and embraces the change by being adaptable and nimble. He or she adapts by making shifts in his or her behavior. The employee understands that the agile mindset is all about delivering meaningful value to customers and elicits decision-making capabilities & collaboration spirits to provide quality deliverables.

What is HR called now?

HR is no longer Human Resources and organizations cannot consider humans as resources. People are valuable assets to organizations. Hence, it is apt to refer to HR as Human Capital, People Operations, or People Ops. Organizations are using new HR titles like People Operations Associate, People, and Culture Specialists, Experience Architects, Talent Management Champions, Agile PeopleOps Coach, PeopleOps Specialist, Talent Champions, Human Capital Curator, PeopleOps Interns, and many more.


, Published on January 12, 2021

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