Agile HR Series: How to Transfer Agile to Human Resources? (Step-by-step Guide)

The HR congress was on this week, I couldn’t attend but once again AgileHR was on everyone’s lips. In my last blog, I spoke about how adapting Agile concepts to HR can bring about some significant changes in the productivity and engagement of HR organisations. It sounds like Agile is great but why are more people not adopting it?  Having spoken to some of my colleagues in the HR community it seems that the difficulty in adopting agile is in three parts:

  1. The Language of Agile– because of its origins in Software development, the language of HR can seem inaccessible to non-technical people. It refers to scrums, retros, ceremonies and sprints. It’s a lot to get through to even begin to understand what it means for teams
  2. Fear of change – Having met with a number of HR colleagues either in training, in forums or in conferences its clear that as a discipline we have a habit of hiding behind convention and compliance in order to keep things going as they are. One of the reasons for this is that many HR organisations hold fast to the Ulrich Model of HR, the 4 roles etc. But guess what? That model was built in 1995! Guess what else happened in 1995. Amazon sold its first book; Netscape the first commercial web browser; We were still 10 years away from the iPhone!  Look how much the world has changed since then and we are still relying on a decades-old methodology for HR. Let’s evolve!
  3. Where to start – HR folk by necessity are both smart and determined. So even if they wade through all the language it’s hard to know where to start.

With that in mind, I am going to give you a jargon-free kick start to Agile which you can start using today. I am going to look at two primary concepts which will help you get off the ground one is about silos in and around HR and the second is the importance of a brief daily meeting.

Tear down the walls
The first thing to do is to break down as many silos as you can. One of the big issues found in software development was that software was being developed in one area and “thrown over the wall” to be tested. The testers had no idea what the code was how it worked and were expected to make sure it worked after a quick handover at the end of the development process. Since the advent of Agile and more recently DevSecOps, Developers, Testers, Security and Operations cocreate software products and solutions with everyone being involved throughout the process to ensure everyone knows what’s going on. Clearly, the same involvement is important in HR functions. A common silo exists between HR and recruitment with recruited candidates being “thrown over the wall” to HR to onboard sometimes with little knowledge of who the candidates are.  

My recommendation
HR and recruitment (and in my teams, I pull in admin) work more closely together to ensure joined up thinking and action in day to day activities.  Not only does this lead to better candidate experience and better onboarding but a broader understanding of the roles of other departments. It leads to a greater understanding of the broader business context; an understanding of talent and recruitment challenges; cross-training and better teamwork.   Okay so now you’ve kicked these silos into touch what next?

Daily cross-functional meetings
One of the critical aspects of Agile is the daily stand-up meeting ( so called because it’s daily and you stand up for the meeting to keep things brief!) The success of the meeting is its fiendish simplicity. One person is dedicated as the lead for the meeting to ensure the meeting happens, keeps it moving along by ensuring detailed topics are taken offline. This person also ensures items are tracked. Each team member speaks very briefly. They say
1. What they did yesterday (brief update but also ensures people keep their commitments 2. Plans for the day ( what are they committing to do today) 3. Blockers or help needed. In this quick meeting (15- 20 minutes depending on the size of the team) everyone learns what other team members are focusing on, can see how they can help if required, make suggestions and bring others up to speed with their focus areas. What I have found since I was introduced to the concept of the stand-up meeting is that it is a very quick way to exchange a lot of information as quick headlines rather than having to go through slides for updates. The meetings stop duplication of effort, which can sometimes happen in HR helpdesk environments. It also provides a broader context for the team about the workload of each team member and allows those with a reduced workload to step up and help. It reduces the need for lots of other meetings. For HR teams, I insist on doing stand-ups in an office and a commitment from participants that absolutely nothing confidential is mentioned outside the stand-up space and that employee personal matters are not discussed in this format with the broader team.

I really think your teams will enjoy the format if you add pastries to the occasional meeting you will get additional brownie points. As a manager you can check in on stress levels, happiness index whatever your temperature check mechanism is. I can’t predict what will happen in your teams but each time I have implemented this I have seen less stress, a greater feeling of “being on top of things” and from teams a sense that they are at once empowered by managers and supported by colleagues.

Why not give those ideas a go and let me know how you get on? Next time I will talk about some common digital tools that will help with organising your team workload and improve team communication both with HR and the customer organisations you support.

James Ryan

Head of HR and Operational Development

Tags: , , ,