10 case examples of Agile HR – Agile is here to stay!

We at Agile HR Community are passionately building agile ways of working and training HR professionals globally to benefit from it. We hope to pass on some of the huge benefits and energy we have gained from Agile to our peers and colleagues. The next few years will be the era of Agile HR and agile organisations. HBR, Josh Bersin, and big consultancies are already writing about this, meaning the world is now ready for Agile HR.

 

Here you go – 10 practical examples of Agile HR – it works, that why it is spreading!

1. Agile in Learning: Using Scrum in a leadership development program as a learning framework (teams deciding themselves on what they want to learn, sprints, priority, reviews and retrospectives)

 

  • The managers created the learning backlog themselves: what do we need to learn? Why is it important? When can we say we have learnt this?

  • They prioritised the list of learning content.

  • We learned in sprints: every month there was a theme that they had decided or prioritised.

  • We had external trainers come in and train them on that theme.

  • We held reviews (what have you learnt, how have you applied it) and retrospectives (how can we learn better in this group) and changed learning methods along the way.

  • The managers re-prioritised along the way – suddenly there were layoffs coming in the organisation, so they prioritised learning about ‘Layoffs and employee negotiations’ as a new theme instead of another theme.

Agile helped the managers own their learning journey, prioritise according to value it gives to them, and breaking learning into smaller live and virtual events in a self directed way - not needing to travel and spend full days away from work. Everyone loved it!

2. Agile HR as an HR operative model: A team of five HR people using Scrum as their operative model for development work 

  • A small, international HR team of five people agreed to work with operative local tasks taking about 50-70 % of their time. With the rest of their working time, the team developed the organisation, processes or HR practices using modified Scrum as their way of working.

  • They booked three afternoons for this work, syncing the efforts and team collaboration through a Scrum-ish way of working.

  • They prioritise the development portfolio, work on one or two projects at the time, release them, and then move to the next projects.

This focuses the team's efforts towards bringing value to the users, and really getting things DONE (with feedback and validation that it is implemented) before moving on to develop the next thing. A limited time resource is directed to the most valuable items.

3. Agile for an HR project: HR/IS project done in an agile way instead of using the waterfall method:

 

  • Inviting managers and employees in to design the HR processes together.

  • Defining a roadmap for the project where the vendor is asked to build a demo system, BEFORE the system project is even started, so the project team can play around in the system when defining a process.

  • Agreeing on incremental releases of the system – instead of a big bang, releasing parts of the system to parts of the organisation. (In this case: releasing core HR first to two countries, then the next three. Then adding on Performance and Incentives…)

This was much more reliable and lowered the risk of the big bang implementation of a system that no-one really loves. The adoption was quick and it worked from a manager/employee perspective, because they were with us defining the practices from the very beginning.

4. Agile HR in an Agile Transformation: How to redesign line management for an Agile organisation – Leadership as a Service! (LaaS)

 

  • An organisation going through a major transformation from top-down driven hierarchical organisation towards a team-based self-organising organisation.

  • The question is: what is the role of line managers in this transformation or in the new networked team structure?

  • Line manager’s roles changed from being a line manager with a specified team, to becoming a team of managers offering management services and leadership services through ‘leadership as a service’.

  • When teams are stuck or need help with things a leader has done in the past, they can ask for ‘service’ from the management/leader team, and learn how to i.e. decide on pricing for clients, get coaching on a conflict, agree on priorities in the team etc.

The management model needs updating for Agile operative models. It requires co-creation and rethinking, because you should be careful with mixing a traditional line organisation with the agile operative model. That is like trying to mix oil and water. You will be trying for a long time without much success.

5. Agile HR in redesigning a process: Hacking the recruitment pipeline

 

  • Rethinking the recruitment pipeline from the perspective of user value. We want to find the suitable candidate, can we do it in a smoother way?

  • If there are 100 applicants, 99 are rejected. Why do all 100 have to send in their CV and cover letter?

  • Why can’t we rethink the pipeline of recruitment? Through digitalising and using lean principles in the recruitment process and through bringing in digital assessments as recruitment steps, we can cut off unsuitable candidates earlier, and only receive CVs and application letters from the most suitable candidates.

  • This way, we have less applications and CVs, but most of them are already suitable for the job!

This equals less non-value adding work by recruiters, and less wasted time for applicants (if you are found unsuitable you don’t have to send in your application and write a CV.)

6. Agile HR in organisation change: Culture change program

 

  • This is a true example of something that must be done in an agile, stepwise, iterative way. A CHRO prioritised where to start the culture change program (biggest value/effort) with the business leaders (this equals business value and customer-driven decision making, business centricity).

  • The team focused on influencing one unit first – instead of starting a cascading culture program all over the organisation with little or no impact. This unit was chosen according to biggest impact on customer interface, thus being the biggest impact on revenue and Customer NPS.

  • This enabled learning from the culture change work in the first unit for the ‘next release’.

Having employees and managers participate and drive the culture change work led to the people started owning the change when they were designing it themselves. They also became internal change catalysts and speakers for the next units in line for culture change.

7. Agile HR in a Company Value manifesto work

 

  • Company manifesto (values and behaviours) were defined through an iterative process with six iterations, hundreds of people, and validation across the 600 people organisation.

  • Prototyping used first, testing and validation.

  • HR was not owning this. It was an invitational process with employees and managers owning the work, iterating, clarifying, creating content and then releasing it as draft versions for the whole organisation to give feedback on.

  • After six iterations and feedback from the organisation the manifesto and values were starting to be approved.

  • Only then produce material, content, videos, storytelling on top of the values and manifesto.

This way, the creation of the company manifesto clearly took many months (a longer time than if a leadership team would have sat down to define it), but everyone who felt it was important had a say. The manifesto was manifested in thinking and behaviour and the change catalysing was done.

8. Agile HR in an Audit

 

Is there a more traditional initiative than an (strategic) HR Audit? Well, even this can be done in an agile way. Read more under: https://peoplegeeks.net/2019/04/hr-audit-agile-way/

9. Agile HR in redesigning a performance management system

 

  • A tech company wanted to redesign their whole performance management system, but did not know how to.

  • We took the hypothetical design principles and concepted a version 1.0 of the new performance management system. This was the prototype. This prototype was taken to several feedback sessions/circles (including managers, executives. We had several rounds – with all of their concerns considered). After the management feedback, version 2.0 of the concept was designed.

  • Version 2.0 was taken to a HUGE face to face and online demo – where the organisation’s employees were allowed have a say on the most important design principles of the whole system. We crowdsourced answers to statements, such as “I think an individual is responsible for their development plan themselves,” or “Every team can decide on the cadence of their target setting according to what makes sense for the business.” We gathered feedback of our proposal.

  • Over 300 people (out of 500) participated in giving feedback on the performance management system prototype (vs. 2.0). This was clearly important for them! Many of our assumptions were validated, some were busted.

  • Version 3.0 was created on the basis of this feedback. This became the pilot version of the performance management system. The prototype was then tested in real life, in two units.

  • After the two units had tested the pilot version of the performance management concept, the last version 4.0 was created on top of real life findings of what had worked and what had not.

  • Version 4.0 was implemented/adopted step wise in the organisation.

10. HR team writing a manager’s handbook in an agile way

 

  • An HR team needed to write a manager’s handbook. Pretty much about everything a manager needs to know. This team had learnt agile. Instead of trying to write the whole thing and release everything at once, they chose to do the following:

  • Ask managers what they need the most help in. Look at data on the most frequent mistakes managers are making. Start there.

  • The team chose a theme, got some managers in the room for two hours, wrote up instructions for managers while the managers were in the room, validating that they understand what is written and it is helping them.

  • The bit was immediately released as one release of the manager handbook into the intranet. This bit already helped managers with a prioritised or problematic issue.

  • This way the team could add value from the word GO, and managers basically pulled these instructions. Nothing extra was added, just the minimum amount that managers felt was enough.

  • This. Is. Beautiful. (by the way this was also @Fastems and @Timo Uusiprosi’s team)

See, it does not have to be difficult, when it can be developed with agile principles!

Agile HR is about understanding the underlying principles, mindset and values. Then, you can apply tools, methods, frameworks and rules like an artist, into a lot of your HR work. Join the community, follow us on agilehrcommunity.com and come try out our training.