Why Companies Need their HR to be Agile

- Agile HR

by Management 3.0 Facilitator, Thiago Brant

I’ve noticed that the term Agile HR is used increasingly in the media lately. As more and more courses on the topic emerge, many companies are in search of Agile HR. But what exactly does this mean?

In this article, I will answer some questions asked by my colleagues either on LinkedIn or events I have attended. This is quite a comprehensive topic so it must be approached thoroughly. I believe the next wave of agility, potentiated in 2021, will be largely based on the agile leader and the involvement of HR with agility.

Come with me!

Quick links:
What does HR mean?
Can HR become agile?
What is the importance of agile human resources?
What is the role of HR in Strategic Planning?
How can Agile HR help companies in transformation?
Is it possible to operate a transformation project of the organization without the effective participation of HR? And without an Agile HR?
How can HR show its relevance to other sectors?
How to have a design thinking mindset in HR?

What does HR mean?

Human Resources is a very typical term for the transition from Management 1.0 to Management 2.0, when companies began to value human beings as their most valuable assets, but were still seen as “resources.” Some companies even adopted different terms such as Human Talents.

Human Resources then becomes the area that is responsible for all aspects related to people, which include:

Can HR become agile?

HR not only can, but must become agile. The world has changed, and the “agile” way of handling things is now part of the creative workers’ daily lives. Therefore, all the processes mentioned earlier need to evolve, becoming more agile, to meet this new reality.

And at this point there are two very distinct approaches, which need to be taken into consideration when talking about Agile HR:

Agile 4 HR

This is the idea of bringing agility into HR, from the point of view of HR as an organization. Here we talk about applying agile practices and mindsets in the day to day of HR. Structuring HR in value streams, with small and cross-functional teams, with a customer focus and a culture of innovation.

HR 4 Agile

Here comes the idea of HR as a change agent, concerning the HR function for the company. It is HR contributing to inspire the organization, hire great professionals, energize, and develop people, besides making the company admirable for the job market (what we call employer branding).

I see Agile HR much more as the second point (HR 4 Agile), but this would hardly happen without looking at the first aspect (Agile 4 HR). And here comes the concept of leading by example.

The HR that uses the agile mindset becomes an example for the rest of the organization.

What is the importance of agile human resources?

Agile HR has strategic importance within organizations. As mentioned earlier, the workplace is increasingly more agile, and HR has an important role in taking care of what we now call, agile people, the creative professional who is responsible for all the company’s value delivery.

Agile HR is the one that embraces the organization’s initiatives and can execute all HR processes in an agile manner, and in a way that ensures people’s agility. If HR does not become agile, it tends to be an obstacle in the daily business execution and ends up becoming a costly and even irrelevant area.

What is the role of HR in Strategic Planning?

Something that traditionally was not done, was to put HR as a protagonist at strategic discussion tables. It is common for HR to be there, but in general just to be present, without much of an active voice.

Today, in a complex world that requires agility, and motivated agile people, HR needs to have the same weight in strategic planning as operations, finance, marketing, and other strategic areas.

How can Agile HR help companies in transformation?

HR helps companies in transformation and leading change, but it also contributes to change in HR processes, leading them to follow and embrace change.

Creative professionals require different ways of dealing with career plans, remuneration, development, and challenges. HR needs to evolve all of these practices, making them agile and aligned with agile people’s wishes and desires.

Is it possible to operate a transformation project of the organization without the effective participation of HR? And without an Agile HR?

Many companies have followed this path, marginalizing HR. But in all my practice as an Agile Coach, I have realized that the biggest obstacle to agile transformation in organizations is exactly the HR processes. No matter how agile the areas and the creative professionals become, there will always be a moment in which they will run into some bureaucratic process on HR’s part.

And when HR embraces the transformation, it must factor itself into it. The HR that transforms an organization is the one that manages to transform itself by becoming agile.

How can HR show its relevance to other sectors?

I have already mentioned leadership by example, and HR can use this to be relevant.

HR can, and even should, be ahead of a transformation.

For an agile and/or digital transformation to happen, we need to create the sense of urgency for change in senior management and bring the so-called tipping point, the point where there is no turning back, but realizing that we must embrace change.

Kotter teaches us all this in his eight steps for change, and I believe HR can guide the organization through these steps, acting alongside senior management while caring for all agile people so everyone is aligned, engaged, and committed to this change.

How to have a design thinking mindset in HR?

This question was asked during one of the Agility in HR workshops I taught in Management 3.0. My view is that HR also needs to see its initiatives as products, which can be made by the MVP cycle and continuous evolutions. All of this can begin with design thinking.

Let’s review the performance program. What about understanding the needs of those involved? What about ideation to have more clarity? What about starting with a prototype or MVP to validate the hypotheses? All these lean startup concepts can be applied to HR products. HR also needs to change its “projectized” mindset to a more productized one.

Let’s suppose that we want to review the company’s selection process, making it “more agile.” We know that for the selective process we have to:

  • Migrate from the traditional competence assessment to a values assessment and culture fit
  • Move from a centralized HR function to an all-hands participation
  • Stop being an on-demand process to make it a continuous process
  • Migrate from the traditional advertising boards to social and referral networks.
  • From a bureaucratic process with steps and responsibilities to a simple flow on a Kanban board
  • Avoid external suppliers to touch the process internally.
  • Avoid standards, allowing adaptation to each need.

Since it is impossible to make all these changes at once, we can start experiments and gradual changes like:

  • Creating a squad dedicated to recruitment
  • Understanding the pain from both the candidates’ and the recruiters’ sides
  • Prototyping and piloting solutions for these pains
  • Finding ways to measure the effectiveness of the process as well as the satisfaction of the positions’ applicant and the requester.

If we want to involve the requesting teams in the process, for example, we can start with a pilot, focused on some stage, and as we achieve success and learning, we will expand to the whole process.

In this case, we can first involve the teams in the profile screening stage, then in the interview stage, and the decision stage. All this, one thing at a time, running experiments, measuring results and proposing improvements. We can do this in sprints, for example!

And what is my personal view of all this?

I have been working with agility, digital and agile transformation for the last 12 years. I have used several frameworks such as Scrum and SAFe, and I have acted in several roles such as Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Agile Coach.

Today I see that HR needs to understand what happens in the day-to-day of agile teams, the famous squads. Which practices are they using? What makes their daily work easier and what hinders it?

Management 3.0 is a great example of this. It is a management model for agility and was embraced by agile teams. Understanding it and contributing to its application is almost mandatory for Agile HR.

The reason why I decided to become an Agility in HR facilitator was exactly to bring this vision to HR, and to contribute, so that all HR disciplines can align themselves to agility.

HR needs to be seen as an accelerator of agility, and no longer a bureaucratic and costly obstacle.

Header Image by Christina @ wocintechchat.com (Unsplash)

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