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HR Needs an Agile Makeover

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Human Resources is an outmoded way of thinking about people and needs a significant makeover. In a recent article Dov Sal examined the purpose of HR in agile organisations and encourages HR practitioners to adopt the Manifesto for Agile HR Development.

In his article, Sal explores the purpose of an HR group in an organisation, asking the question:

Is the purpose to Hire/Fire/Pay? Is it to ensure employee happiness?

His response is "No" - the purpose of HR is to:

  • Help the organization own a clear (/strong) purpose
  • Help maximize the execution power
  • Maximize their alignment

​He explores the importance of the organisation having clarity of purpose, referencing an article in Forbes.

He discusses the need to maximize execution power and says:

If your organization needs people in order to move, it needs the people who are capable to take you where you want to go and are motivated to do so.

On alignment he says:

Alignment is the synchronization between your vision and your execution power, validating they are as close as possible to each other.

  • Having your team understand and identify with your vision
  • Having your team work in the direction of your vision

On a similar note, Bersin by Deloit talks about an Agile Model of HR which:

 states that human resources' job is not just to implement controls and standards, and drive execution—but rather to facilitate and improve organizational agility. This changes HR's mission and focus. Driving agility means driving programs that create adaptability, innovation, collaboration, and speed.

They provide examples of strategies which support this approach:

  • Training leaders at all levels of the company to act as hands-on coaches, not "managers"
  • Designing the organization into small, high-performance teams that set their own targets
  • Creating customer interactions within all groups and functions in the company
  • Delivering a strong, focused mission and values to keep everyone aligned
  • Creating systems with lots of transparent information, i.e., what are our goals, who is working on what project, who are our experts
  • Implementing "systems of engagement" not just "systems of record," i.e., collaboration, information-sharing, project management
  • Building a focus on continuous learning and learning culture at all levels
  • Implementing a strong external employment brand that attracts "the right type" of people
  • Hiring and promoting experts, not general managers
  • Encouraging and teaching people to give each other direct feedback
  • Creating programs for peer-to-peer rewards and recognition
  • Developing programs to foster diversity in teams

The Agile Alliance has published Experience Report titled Practicing Agility in Human Resources which explores how one organisation,Principal Financial Group, adopted an Agile approach in their HR practices, the lessons they learned and advice for others. 

The report includes some quotes from people in the HR group who were part of the transition:

"Agile is about empowering our employees to work smarter to meet the needs of our clients... it just makes sense." - Vice President of Human Resources Business Partners

"One of the key things that makes Agile successful is communication... it's part of how we do work going forward...this impacts everybody!" - Human Resources Chief Operating Officer

"It helps others see everything I am working on, helps me understand what my teammates are doing... and where they may need assistance... I have a better view of...and feel more connected with...the work." - Talent Development Team Member

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