What does a more agile HR look like?

Asking for and receiving feedback from employees is critical to creating high-performing organizations and individuals. But for a long time, feedback processes - particularly engagement surveys - have been weighed down by process, clinging to antiquated ideas of ‘best practice.’ This approach is now at odds with what organizations want and need from a more agile HR.

As many organizations look to become more agile and customer-centric, HR risks being seen as an internal hurdle to high performance. HR leaders have been searching for a way to meet this challenge.

In our recently released ebook, An agile approach to employee feedback: Why the world’s best organizations are taking people analytics into their own hands, we looked at how organizations can take a more agile approach to HR.

Agile defined: an iterative approach to developing initiatives and solutions, structured around experimentation, integration and review, and supported by a trusting and collaborative culture.

Agile HR lessons from the tech world

Agile’s natural habitat is software development, where it was introduced as a way of working to meet rapidly changing and complex customer demands. For HR, agile will necessarily look and feel different. The question is: what can HR learn from software developers’ experiences?

The answer is probably not surprising. As with all major cultural changes - and agile is cultural - the difficulties have often come in implementation. These challenges have led leading businesses, like Spotify, and agile thinkers, like Alistair Cockburn, to refine their approach to agile HR over time. In both cases, it was about taking agile back to its key imperatives - deliver, collaborate, reflect and improve.

For HR teams in the early stages of their agile journey, these lessons are important. HR needs to address its evolving role and consider where it needs to focus on agile value creation for its customer – the organization – over the perceived certainty of ‘traditional’ processes.

How the feedback loop has evolved to become more agile

An agile approach to feedback can underpin this transition in thinking. But what does it look like in practice? Over the past few years, we’ve seen feedback processes evolve away from the traditional consultant-led model towards bringing feedback in-house.

While consultant-led models, characterized by dependence, lack of internal ownership and high cost, can hinder an agile HR, in-house ownership empowers HR to support an agile business.

How agile hr teams approach employee feedback

An agile strategy for feedback

Bringing feedback in-house is just the start; implementation is where the the real work happens. HR professionals should think about how bringing feedback in-house can support a more agile approach to feedback and, more broadly, a more agile HR.

We looked at how this can play out through the lens of four key tenets of agile:

  • Responsiveness: Agile is all about speed to market, but speed for the sake of speed achieves little. Rather, organizations need feedback that’s responsive to business needs. Bringing feedback processes in-house helps tighten this loop and gives control back to the organization.
  • Experimentation: Agile feedback focuses on ever-improving better practice, rather than antiquated ‘best practice.’ For the feedback process, this may mean experimenting with aspects like cadence. More broadly, agile feedback processes facilitate timely pulse checks to gather real-time feedback on how new initiatives are being experienced on the ground.
  • Validated learning: Agile thinking is fueled by science and technology. An agile approach to feedback is transparent about the model it uses and enables the organization to gather evidence on how initiatives are tracking.
  • Trust and collaboration: Putting feedback results directly into the hands of managers and teams helps create the high levels of collaboration and trust essential to a successful agile environment.

HR departments are ready to adopt an agile hr strategy. If you’d like to learn more about how to get started, download our latest ebook.

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