Maturing the Agile HR model and practice stories from Orange Belgium

Agile HR Case – pick up some tips from Orange Belgium’s Agile HR transformation

In September, we had the honour of discussing the journey of maturing the Agile HR model in Orange Belgium’s HR team with Jelle Jacquet Deputy Chief People Officer.

Agile HR started as an organic initiative among HR professionals who were facing the need to deliver a cross functional project, and realised they would not succeed if they continued working on it from their traditional HR silos. Instead they wanted to setup a more agile way of working and pitched it to their leaders. Off they went and through a lot of testing, experimenting, piloting and application, Orange Belgium’s HR team, with around 30 people, is now fully in an Agile operating mode.

The HR professionals are now organised in Agile HR Squads, larger pools of cross functional HR professionals. They allocate their time between RUN activities and BUILD activities, and prioritise how to allocate time according to the prioritised portfolio planning happening across the full HR team three times a year. (RUN as in keeping up operations, and BUILD as in improving or developing something).

Some lovely insights that we picked up from this conversation:

You can start developing your (agile) ways of working in the team without a lot of external involvement from the business. Orange Belgium’s HR team saw the value of agile in improving the way they work. They wanted to redesign their own work, capacity management, forecasting and planning. This was done before starting to involve users or customers too much, whereas the next step for Orange Belgium’s HR team is to involve users or managers more in early stages of their development and value deliveries.

When building agile coaching, it’s good to have focus on three perspectives: (a) The practice and qualitative part of agile – for example how to plan, forecast, estimate, build backlogs, prioritise, evaluate capacity and so forth; (b) the collaborative and communicative part of agile – what events and meetings to set, how to facilitate those, how to collaborate, what tools to use, what roles to have; and (c) the human-centric part – human to human interactions, emotions, heath, wellbeing, feedback and growth. Find support that can help you with all three aspects. Orange Belgium’s HR team has coaches in these three different roles, who could then step in and help teams with their specific needs.

Implement a funnel through which new initiatives are evaluated to be pulled in to development. Is the initiative clear enough? Jelle shared their SUN-framework for evaluating if a project is ready to be considered for prioritisation. It has to have a clear Scope, its Urgency must be understood and the specific Need for the solution has to be clear. Practically, WHY would we do this (what’s the impact/outcome), HOW do we know we are done (scope) and WHEN is this needed? We also touched upon the challenges of incoming requests around what is the minimum deliverable that is needed, and what is “nice-to-have”.

Portfolio planning takes time and effort. You have to stay true to the agile values while doing it. Believe the team when they allocate capacity, understand that there is a limit of what we can deliver in the next increment. Use pull, not push. We loved how Jelle said, “People have to see the payoff for investing time in proper planning. If we just would keep on pushing all the items into the planned period anyhow, no matter what they said, they would not commit to the planning”.

When HR moves into agile portfolio management other teams might find it very reassuring. Jelle shared that they have got feedback that the HR team has increased quality and predictability of its operations.

You can watch the whole meetup in the video on our YouTube channel and be inspired by Orange Belgium’s journey towards Agile HR