How to Get Started with Agile HR - Part III

How to get started with Agile HR

If you read the first two posts in this series, you know why many HR departments are looking to become more Agile, and the benefits they’re experiencing after doing so. To review, Agile HR is simply the application of Agile methodology in the HR department. In practice, it usually means more collaboration, less linear planning, shorter work cycles, and more transparency throughout the HR org.

If you missed parts one and two of this series, catch up by clicking the links below:

In many ways, the evolving nature of the traditional business structure is supporting the introduction of Agile HR. Organizational structures have become much flatter in recent years, opening up opportunities for collaboration in all directions.

However, although there are thousands of articles, books, and other resources for how to practice Agile software development, there isn’t a whole lot out there about how to practice Agile HR. If you’re looking to scale Agile into your human resources organization, here are three ways you can get started.

Learn the Language

Sprints, backlog, standups, epics, oh my! Agile certainly has its fair share of lingo. It’s important to learn the basic terminology of Agile so you can speak the same language as other departments when planning and executing work.

But at the same time, it’s also important not to get so caught up in ‘talking the talk’ that you miss the mark on the actual practices they describe. Reading blogs and case studies about how other companies practice Agile can help you learn the terminology in context, so you have a clearer understanding of how Agile works in the big picture.

Go to the Gemba

The Lean phrase ‘go to the gemba’ is usually used to describe the way Lean leaders should gather information to help guide their decisions: By going to where the work is being done, asking thoughtful questions, and learning from the people working most closely with the customer. Going to the gemba helps Lean leaders gain a deeper understanding of the problems their teams and customers face, and can help them make better, more informed decisions.

For HR teams, the ‘customer’ is often the employees they recruit, hire, train, retain, and support. If a lot of these teams are Agile teams, going to the gemba is not only a great way to learn how you can better serve employees, it’s also an excellent way to witness Agile in action and deepen your understanding of Agile practices.

If you have Agile teams in your company—go shadow them. Shadow them during key activities like PI planning, standups, and retrospectives, but also as work is being done, to gain a better understanding of Agile practices in action.

Observe how meetings are structured, how decisions are made, how work is delegated and managed, and how teams collaborate.

Seeing how Agile works on other teams can help you start to conceptualize how Agile practices like standups and retrospectives might be applied in your own teams.

Try Retrospectives

A retrospective is a regular meeting with all the team members involved in a particular project or initiative. The purpose of a retrospective, or “retro," isn’t just to share status updates—it’s to discuss ways to optimize the process the team is using, and to determine whether the work you’re doing is delivering its intended value. These meetings are often held frequently, such as biweekly, to allow new ideas to be implemented and evaluated in quick feedback loops.

HR can hold retrospectives within the department, as well as with their internal customers (employees). For example, a team of recruiters could meet regularly to discuss ways to optimize the language used to attract candidates. They could share which questions they each found best revealed the likelihood a candidate would be well suited for an Agile environment. Everyone present could then take and modify these ideas in their own practice to see whether they experienced similar successes.

Another excellent use case in HR is for hiring managers to hold retros after key HR events like hiring, firing, or performance review cycles. These meetings can help hiring managers determine what went right, what didn’t, and how to improve for the next time. Retrospectives encourage teams to stop and reflect not just on what happened—but how it happened, and how it can be improved in the future.

Realize the Full Potential of Agile

We hope that through this series of posts, you’ve learned how Agile can help your HR organization embrace new ways of working and join the Agile movement.

Maja Majewski

Maja has always been interested in the intersection of psychology and business. After studying Human and Organizational Development and Corporate Strategy at Vanderbilt University, Maja joined the LeanKit team as a content writer, where she was able to dive deeper into her exploration of how people, processes, and technology interact. She has authored over 200 articles and ebooks for several high-growth B2B companies, including LeanKit, Planview, Customer.io, and Clearbit. She served as the lead writer and researcher on LeanKit's Lean Business Report in 2016.

When not writing about process improvement, Maja practices it in her personal life - finding applications for her mantra "Better than before!" in everything from cooking to exercising. She enjoys spending time at home and going on adventurous vacations with her boyfriend and their German Shorthaired Pointer, Wrigley. Connect with Maja.