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7 Strategies that Drive Agile HR

First, we had the Information Age. Then came the Digital Age. And now, we’re on the cusp of a new epoch: welcome the Agile Era.

To start with — and to avoid offending all of the IT professionals out there — agile isn’t new. Its roots in the software development world trace back for several decades, and entered the mainstream conversation in early 2001 with the publication of the Agile Manifesto: a set of integrated principles based on the view that smaller, cross-functional teams with very clear and limited objectives can consistently work faster and better than large teams operating on a traditional “command-and-control” approach.

Since then, agile as a paradigm for getting work done has spread to other areas of the work landscape, such as marketing, finance, and now at last: human resources. Here are 7 strategies that proactive organizations are adopting to make their HR team more agile, responsive, effective and relevant:

  1. Creating smaller, high-performance HR business units that are empowered to set their own targets (e.g. reduce turnover rate among employees with 1-5 years of tenure by 25% within one year).
  2. Establishing multiple feedback loops generate iterative data, which is relied on to chart progress and re-calibrate as required.
  3. Coordinating and facilitating employee-specific learning plans that can be independent of their current job or role.
  4. Eliminating time-consuming and often redundant status meetings, and replacing them with focused, daily “stand up” meetings that cover pragmatic, short-term objectives and targets.
  5. Regularly interfacing with executives to ensure that on-the-ground work (which are called “sprints” in agile methodology) remain in alignment with organizational priorities. 
  6. Communicating with all employees company-wide to ensure they understand how their contribution impacts the big picture. 
  7. Working closely with managers and supervisors so they facilitate agility vs. revert to a more conventional, bureaucratic approach.

With this in mind, it’s important to note that HR’s journey to agile is typically full of twists and turns — and more than a few sinkholes and dead ends. This is not an indictment of agile, or a symptom that it can’t or shouldn’t work in HR — because it can and should. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that agile is not just about changing how the function of HR gets done: it is about re-imagining HR’s role from that of an administrative service provider, to that of a dynamic and strategic business partner. 

Indeed, this shift is more than a technology or policy play. It is a change management initiative, and even HR professionals who are eager about embracing agility will face challenges; let alone those who perceive agile as a threat.

Ultimately though, agile is not an option. The need to work smarter, work faster, and get closer to customers — both internal and external — is a basic requirement. Organizations that act on this awareness and empower their HR teams to succeed will reap the rewards of being on the vanguard of the Agile Era. Conversely, organizations that refuse to change and undermine their HR teams will soon find themselves dragged into the Agile Era kicking and screaming. That is a story that rarely ends well.  

Learn More

At PIVOTAL, we provide strategic consulting and targeted training to help organizations empower and unleash agile HR teams that work smarter, faster and better. To learn more, contact us today. 

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