Is the Agile Approach to HR Feasible (and Why It Must Be)

What’s older, software or agile?

For each and every accomplishment in today’s business world, we say thank you to nimble technology. Smart automation and robust analytics have made us masters of productivity and strategizing, pushing our companies straight to the competitive edge.

What we do struggle with is HR.

Though empowered with no less powerful toolkits, representatives of this and other crucial supporting departments are still lagging behind our production and customer-facing teams. This brings up the question – is agile tech all we need, or do we have to make HR agile in its core?

Is an agile approach to HR even feasible?

And if so, how to employ it?

Why We Need Agile HR?

We work in a customer-centered world, where every single aspect of our organizations must aim to accomplish the same goal. Some call it customer satisfaction, others customer success. In any case, it’s obvious who has a precedence.

Of course, agile software development serves this mutual purpose as well. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to meet the ever-growing demands of the modern consumer. Our production lines would flop, and so will all other organizational aspects task with keeping the customer hungry for more.

And, that requires one hungry workforce.

The best equipped among us have succeeded in retaining our large customer pools, but at what price? Being so focused on the receiving end, we’ve forgotten about two crucial things – our talent pools and employee satisfaction. Moving forward, we’ve forgotten to recharge our HR batteries.

Without HR to take care of our employees, we’ll hardly be able to take care of our customers for long. Despite all our investments in cutting-edge HR tech, human resources remain traditional and unequipped to meet the ever-growing demands of the modern workplace.

Is Agile HR an Urban Legend?

Of course not.

A lot of (successful) organizations are sending their HR teams off to agile training courses, where they are learning how to implement and use nimble technology in everyday processes, but also how to make a switch from traditional processes to sustainable workflows.

A good example comes from ING, a leading provider of personal banking and savings accounts, which understood that agile customer service and banking technology cannot help them move forward without an agile approach to HR to support them.

So, ING did some research.

Their leadership team visited a couple of digitally native companies like Netflix and Zappos to see how this approach works in practice. They talked to their (millennial) employees about what attracted them to these companies and what made them decide to build a career there.

In doing so, ING learned a valuable lesson – that agile is not only about tech and automation, but even more about building a culture in which attitude, collaboration, and readiness to learn and improve are the most valuable assets.

Interestingly enough, they all fall under the HR bracket.

How to Make Your HR Agile?

Take a hint from ING and go see agile teams in action.

You’ll learn that apart from collaboration and continual development, this approach implies more frequent assessments of employees’ KPIs and HR’s performance itself. Instead of annual cycles, agile HR uses short milestones as a gauge that helps track and improve everyday operations.

An agile HR team also relies on total workforce management system for keeping these operations in check. As all agile tools, these systems allow them to allocate tasks, collaborate in real time, introduce transparency, as well as record and analyze their milestones.

A huge part of HR processes can be automated, but keep in mind that automation only serves to speed up repetitive and administrative tasks so that your team could devote their time to actual legwork. This especially applies to real-time employee feedback and response.

So, go see how others are doing this, but develop your own approach.

Since agile is about streamlining operations through best practices, it’s not exactly a copy-paste methodology. You’ll have to experiment to keep improving. To see what works and what doesn’t, introduce biweekly revision meetings.

Your employees are burning up the last of their energy trying to keep up the pace with demands of modern customers, and HR is the only support system they have. As a backbone of your organization, just imagine how far it would be able to go if you make it agile enough.