Embracing the change: Doubling down and diving into ‘Agile HR’

An agile HR provides a true competitive advantage in the war to attract and retain top talent.
By: | April 9, 2020 • 3 min read
agile workspace

Picture a workplace with happy and engaged employees who’ve been at the company for years, strategic partnerships between IT and HR, and a smooth digital transformation that has successfully integrated productivity tools for the workforce—this is every CHRO’s dream. These results are also the end-goal of an ever-growing trend in human resources called “Agile HR.” And,  now more than ever, it has the potential to change how HR departments operate forever.

So, what is Agile HR? Simply stated, agile removes the emphasis from outdated process and puts a clear focus on the user experience. In the world of HR, this means the emphasis is on employees and candidates. With an eye towards the user experience, Agile HR provides a true competitive advantage in the war to attract and retain top talent.

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According to a report from Deloitte, 94 percent of business leaders say a fast-moving, innovative HR department is critical to business success, and yet just six percent say their teams are “highly agile” today. This tells us that while the C-suite understands the business opportunity that Agile HR can unlock, many leaders are struggling to catalyze this significant organizational shift. Here is what CHROs need to keep in mind when implementing an Agile HR group.

The Ever-Evolving Role of the CHRO

CHROs will want to embrace Agile HR and be equal parts test and learners, champions for new processes as well as effective communicators across business lines to collaborate with other leaders. The most successful CHROs in this new paradigm will wear many different hats and be a bridge builder across the entire organization. They will guide other department leaders on how to interact with talent, and they will embody the employee experience that HR promises to candidates and existing employees alike. In addition to becoming an even more valued resource to the entire C-suite, CHROs will, in many ways, hold as much influence into the overall direction of the company as any other C-suite member.

Feathers Will Be Ruffled

The shift to Agile HR may ruffle some feathers as it asks HR employees to become generalists rather than specialized practitioners. In Agile HR systems, a “full-stack” HR professional has a wide swath of knowledge regarding HR systems rather than focusing solely on one aspect of HR. While this might initially cause discord among employees, organizations should continue to keep in mind that Agile HR systems are designed to ultimately improve the employee experience and the benefits will be seen soon enough.

To that end, while feathers may ruffled, agile processes are not a switch to be flipped company-wide; rather they should begin with small scrappy teams focused on clear objectives. Maybe it’s a small team of HR professionals focused on one group within the organization that is well suited for agile. As successes grow and HR professionals learn, the agile scope can simultaneously grow. In this way it is not a company-wide initiative on day one, but rather a program that slowly is so successful it can’t help but become the norm.

2020 is Just the Beginning

This movement might start small, but as enterprises continue to see Agile HR practices play out throughout the year, it won’t end that way. Agile HR ultimately represents a broader shift toward user-centered design and experience throughout the business world—we see it in customer service, retail, and many different lines of business. For example, with rapid changes happening across user experience, such as AI voice assistants for customers or mobile applications for employees, the technology industry is the natural place for these changes in HR to begin taking place.

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Given its positive impact on the employee experience, internal operations and recruiting flow, agile HR adoption will accelerate in 2020 and organizations of all sizes will likely seek to add workflows and expand these practices in the years to come.

Looking Ahead with Alignment in Mind

As organizations become user-centric, HR professionals need to align their departments with the same structure in order to remain efficient and relevant. Rapid-speed enterprise businesses, and soon all businesses, require their teams to move at the same pace in their attempt to minimize risk and attract top talent.

At the end of the day, embracing an agile mindset empowers HR to uncover the right problems and help solve those problems the right way. Approaching each of these trends and steps in the short-term will lead to ultimately winning the war for talent in the decade ahead.

Matt Parrish is director of Digital Talent Experience for ServiceNow.