Why You Should Have an Agile HR - Part II

Why you should have an Agile HR

An article published by Harvard Business Review in 2017 said, “If software has eaten the world, Agile has eaten the software world.” This is even truer today than just a few years ago when it was written—at that point, a Google search for “Agile software development” generated nearly 14 million results. As of the writing of this blog post (just a few short years later), that number is over 196 million.

Even if your company isn’t technically a ‘tech’ company—the development of software likely plays a large role in what you do. This is precisely why Agile is spreading so quickly, not only in tech but in virtually every industry: Software teams start to reach higher levels of performance, and other teams take note and begin to adapt the same practices.

However, at a point, these companies all seem to experience the same growing pain: Once their software teams begin mastering Agile—improving time to market, continuous learning, responsiveness, and collaboration—they find that the lack of agility in HR keeps them from continuing that progress.

In the first post in this series, we discussed why HR goes Agile. In this post, we’ll take a deeper look at how adopting Agile practices in HR can not just improve the performance of other teams, but also boost the efficiency, transparency, and effectiveness of the people operations org.

Here are four reasons why you should have an Agile HR.

Increase transparency within HR and beyond.

One of the top benefits of Agile reported by teams is an increase in visibility and transparency across the team. Put another way, people on Agile teams feel more ‘plugged in’ to what their coworkers are doing, thanks to Agile practices like daily standups and retrospectives.

Here’s why: Often, HR teams don’t meet regularly to share progress in an ongoing, formal way. This results in a team that’s really more of a collection of functional silos, than a team. Leaders have little visibility into the progress of initiatives or what their team is working on, exactly.

Through Agile practices like daily standups and visualizing work on a Kanban board, Agile HR teams learn to communicate more, and more effectively, too. This creates a new environment of transparency, in which team members get insights into what others are working on, and can can collaborate to solve problems quickly.

Reduce risk across the organization.

Another benefit of increased transparency across the organization is that it allows teams to identify and address problems sooner—before they become larger issues.

One of the primary functions of HR is to reduce risk related to the people that work within the organization. This risk can come in many forms: Poor cultural fit, toxic personalities, insufficient onboarding practices, and sexual harassment, to name a few.

The increase in transparency—and more specifically, the increased flow of information that results from adopting Agile—can help to alert the right people sooner when problems arise, so that they can be addressed faster.

Play by the same rules as other departments.

HR teams often feel largely disconnected from the rest of the organization—not jumping on the Agile train can work to exacerbate this issue, especially if there’s already underlying tension between Agile teams and a non-Agile HR department.

If your product teams, sales teams, and customer operations teams are all practicing Agile, following Agile practices and using Agile tools to manage their work in Agile ways, but your HR org is not...it’s going to make collaboration feel like playing a game you don’t know the rules to. You might be able to contribute, but not as meaningfully as if you were fully aware of how the “game” works.

Rather than playing by two different sets of rules—HR organizations stand to benefit greatly from embracing Agile practices, tools, and ideas. They’ll not only better support other departments within the organization, they’ll also be able to experience all of the benefits of Agile.

...therefore encouraging cross-departmental collaboration.

When HR goes Agile, it helps to remove a lot of the barriers that might have been preventing cross-departmental collaboration, such as working in different tools, in different planning/execution cadences, or towards different goals as other teams in the organization.

Simply speaking the same ‘language’, and more importantly, operating under the same set of Agile ideals—can bridge divides between HR and the rest of the organization, encouraging the kind of deeper collaboration required of a truly effective HR org. Instead of perhaps gathering some information from other teams and then “going and doing”, an Agile HR organization works continuously with other departments to create effective solutions for hiring, onboarding, retaining, and supporting talented people.

Keep reading.

Stay tuned for the next and final installment in this series, where we will discuss how to get started with Agile HR.

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.