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How HR Can Get Out in Front of Agile Transformation

Agile transformation is hot. Across industries, top-down planning models are giving way to nimbler, user-driven Agile methods that are better suited for adapting in the near term, such as rapid prototyping, iterative feedback, team-based decisions and task-centered "sprints." 

How HR Can Get Out in Front of Agile Transformation

Agile transformations affect how teams are organized, the skills and training required to fill those teams, and how talent is managed in the organization. 

And everybody is looking for the right talent to fit into their Agile Transformation plans.  

While IT has been the catalyst behind Agile transformation for most companies, one group has been conspicuously absent. The group most involved with the hiring and managing of employee performance — Human Resources!

MATRIX recently hosted a panel of Atlanta HR and Agile leaders to answer questions around agility and how it relates to HR. Listen to the audio clip from the panel on this particular idea of HR being more involved in Agile transformations, or keep reading for the highlights.

In practice, HR is often involved quite late in this transition process; for example, when HR management is needed to give their consent in a reorganization or when HR tools need to be redesigned. 

However, today it’s important for HR to not only be on board for the transformation process, but to really be a driver of the transformation by knowing what to expect. 

MATRIX Agile Practice Director Joshua Jack said: “The whole idea is to break down walls between people asking for work and people doing the work. HR knowledge of, and vision on organizational architecture, change management and people – and team coaching, definitely add value in the early stages of the transition.” 

So how can HR get more involved in Agile transformations?

HR sets the table. We hire the people.

Leading Agile Coach Tina Rusnak says, “align yourself with the vision of company”. Understand what IT is doing and get in front of it. Because when Agile comes to town, the talent bar really goes up. It impacts how you hire people, motivate them, maybe do a reorg, identify the lower performers – you really have to look at all of that.   

“There’s a very small window to get things done when you are reactive. Keep abreast of the company’s plans with a strategic element in mind. As soon as you learn of proposed changes, start planning and making suggestions,” said Sandy Jess, HR Director at MATRIX. 

Here are other specific recommendations:

Updated Job Descriptions

In an Agile environment, employees must be more collaborative, flexible and able to adjust their goals on a day-by-day basis. Strict rules and definitions HR may have automatically included in a job description may need to be massaged to allow for maximum agility. 

Recruiting

Technical skills are still very important, but so are soft skills like communication, customer service, multitasking. As Jess said, soft skills make candidates more valuable. “Ask them questions and listen to answers in a different way. Are they people-oriented? Find out how adaptable they have been to changes in the past.”

Culture

Today candidates come in evaluating culture way more than they used to. They spend time checking potential employers out everywhere online – Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.  

Performance appraisals

Overall, the focus is on delivering more immediate feedback throughout the year so that teams can become nimbler, course-correct mistakes, improve performance and learn through iteration—all key agile principles. “I like to do a 90-day check-in with new hires to get feedback on how we can improve the new hire process,” said Jess.

Learning and development

In addition to adjusting for new and improved roles in the organization, HR will be asked to take the lead in developing a “learning culture” in which employees are encouraged to expand their knowledge, stay possibility-oriented and get comfortable with ambiguity. 

Like hiring, L&D had to change to bring new skills into organizations more quickly. As Jack said, “tech is changing so fast we need to know, ‘where are we headed?’ We need a regular cadence where HR is involved when we need to find LMS or training.”  

HR can see to it that employees have the instruction and the support necessary to make the transition as comfortable and rewarding as possible. 

New Career Paths

Opportunity for career advancement is huge. As a company undergoes an agile transformation, a number of traditional roles must be adjusted to streamline teams and allow for a more agile workflow. This also means new roles are created and must be filled with qualified candidates. 

Whether it is about getting employer branding activities up and running, rethinking the performance management cycle, looking into alternative ways of rewarding employees, designing a new training program or implementing a new feedback tool, the HR Agilist is not afraid to experiment and constantly reflects on “What is it the employee needs? How can we help team leads in supporting the team? What can we do to make HR services more agile? What (unnecessary) procedures can we get rid of or make things simpler and leaner in current people processes?” 

Related articles

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/4-hr-roles-agile-transition-diana-russo/

https://hbr.org/2017/06/how-hr-can-become-agile-and-why-it-needs-to

https://www.cprime.com/2014/04/the-journey-to-agile-from-the-hr-perspective/

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