What Does Agile HR Mean?

by Alex Kudinov

Interested In an Agile HR Class?

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Karen Bruns  Good morning, folks! Good afternoon or good evening no matter where you are in the world right now. My name is Karen Bruns and I am here with my partner in crime, Lucia Baldelli, and we wanted to talk to you a little bit today about our upcoming IC Agile course for Agile with Human Resources. We just want to have a quick little conversation about some of the things that we’re going to be teaching. What do you want to talk about today, Lucia?

Lucia Baldelli  Why don’t we start from, “What does Agile HR mean?

Karen Bruns  That’s a great place to start.

Lucia Baldelli  Okay, great. So agility is one of the most important characteristics of an organization and–because we need to change now, so rapidly and unexpectedly, and we’ve had a good example with COVID pandemic. So the idea for today’s conversation is about thinking, ‘What’s the HR role in agility, in shaping agility, for an organization and there’s a few examples that maybe we could discuss together, Karen, on what HR could do differently to help improve the agility of an organization. One of those could be, for example, taking on new HR roles that didn’t exist in traditional HR approaches. For example, imagine the employee experience designer. So this is a role that is dedicated to taking care of an employee in all the spaces of their life cycle within your organization. So HR is not just about hiring and firing but it’s really taking care of employee happiness within the organization at any time. 

Another idea about what our giant HR could do for organizational agility is about helping self organizing teams take on some roles that traditionally were with HR. Imagine, for example, recruiting a new team member, or creating new opportunities for training, shaping them, or even deciding the reward system together. That could be awesome if teams could actually choose that for themselves instead of being pushed on them, and maybe one more. If HR is in a separate department in your organization, then why..why can they not be Agile themselves. So we are teaching Agile teams to implement frameworks and follow Agile principles and values but they could do that themselves; and that will create transparency around the work they doing within the organization and how they bring value to the organization itself.

Karen Bruns  So true. So what about the differences between traditional HR and Agile HR?

Lucia Baldelli  Yes, so there are so many! I’ll tell you a few that come to my mind quickly but of course, we can expand a lot more in class. Imagine an underperforming employee, right, or someone who’s about to take a new role, what do we do? We just send them to a training because they have to fill in knowledge gaps or become more performant. What about, instead, having employees that are continuously offered opportunities to learn and stretch themselves, independent of an opportunity for a new role or a performance problem.

Karen Bruns  So continuous growth is what you’re saying? 

Lucia Baldelli  Exactly! Another one, imagine – and I’m sure you can think of a few of them – imagine companies that invest in, in the social brand. So they are communicating how great is the work for them, how great is the culture in their organization, and they are creating relationships with talent, to attract them continuously, and we’ll relationship with them, so that when a role becomes available, that they have already built connections. While in a traditional approach, this will be more “Hey, there’s a need for a role. Let’s start looking for people”, right, when we are in urgent need for someone new to start. 

Karen Bruns  Right

Lucia Baldelli  I’ll tell you one more. Talent Management is traditionally owned by HR in a new, more Agile HR approach. It’s facilitated by HR, but employees take ownership because they want to choose the people that are going to work with them in a team, right? They want to take part to the recruitment process, and even the evaluation and development procedures. So the whole role of HR changes and it becomes more in partnership with the other areas of the organization instead of being a separate function.

Karen Bruns  I can think of a few teams where I’ve been on and I thought to myself, “Wow,” when they bring in someone new, “it sure would have been great to have had a chance to talk to this person, myself, ahead of time because I might have seen things that maybe an HR professional, who’s not familiar with Agile at the time of the interview, didn’t know or didn’t recognize. So that’s a great shift.

Lucia Baldelli  Yeah, absolutely.

Karen Bruns  So one of the things that we’ve always heard is HR as a partner, right, and we’ve heard that it’s a partner to leadership, and…okay, sure, sure, we’ve heard that before but how is their partnership changing?

Lucia Baldelli  Well, we’ve seen the HR function as a separate function that takes care of hiring, firing, performance review, and all of that. Now, HR becomes a partner because they have shaped the business so that we can reach our business goals through our cultural values. So, HR will help identify those values and the organizational mission and communicate that throughout the organization. So they are not just…their work is not just limited to implementing controls and standards and processes, but rather, they facilitate programs and strategies that improve the organiza–organizational agility. Very recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work for a client where HR professionals were driving the Agile transformation by helping different functions improve the way they collaborate together, removing silos, nurturing networks of teams of teams, and coaching high performance across the organization, and that was just awesome to see. 

Karen Bruns  Oh, that’s amazing.  It was great to see you today and talk a little bit more about our love, HR.

Lucia Baldelli  Thanks. Great to see you too. 

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