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How to Ingrain Agility in HR

by YOSS Community Writer, on July 16, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Startups go hand-in-hand with the terms “lean” and “agile” — these small companies have quickly earned a reputation for being responsive, fast-moving, and dynamic. 

agile board with sticky notes


For the unfamiliar, the term “agile” refers to a philosophy focused on delivering results in bite-sized chunks on an iterative basis. “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “
responding to change over following a plan” are key tenets of the original  Agile Manifesto. A company that implements agile methodologies regroups often, gives and asks for feedback regularly, and is comfortable with change. Likewise, a “lean” business is one that follows a “learn, measure, build” cycle, conducting frequent tests on deliverables and keeping a focus on project values. 

These concepts can work wonders because they allow companies to constantly rethink and refine processes, always striving toward something that works better than what they were doing before. When agile methodologies are working for a business, it leads to faster decision-making and a more flexible organizational structure. Its constant movement, but its also constant improvement. 

These performance philosophies arent limited to startups; enterprises can fold these dynamic processes into their own operations, too. Becoming fully agile might take a bit longer for an enterprise due to its size, but large companies can still reap the benefits of agile methodologies from department to department. One of the best places to start? Talent management. 

Envisioning Agile Talent Management  

Talent management — recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and retaining top talent — is ripe for a transformation to agile methodologies. Its traditional rules-based methods are due for an upgrade, and theres no better corner of a company to make more iterative and dynamic than its talent management. In fact, a  Deloitte survey  showed that 79% of global executives saw agile performance management as a top priority. 

Here are five areas of talent management you can start making more agile today:  

1. Performance Reviews

Feedback is key in agile methodologies. You cant innovate if you dont know whats working and what isnt. Thats why lean startups check in so often with teams and customers. The same should apply to an enterprises employee reviews. More feedback means more growth, so ditch annual reviews in favor of smaller meetings with employees throughout the year. Is one of your workers struggling in a particular area? Set aside a few minutes to chat with him and talk through strategies for improvement. Is another employee demonstrating stellar work? Pull her aside as well. Encourage her to keep it up and see if she has any advice to pass along to other workers. 

2. Employee Pay 

Similarly, when you give an employee a raise at the end of the year and cite how much she impressed everyone on a Q1 project, thats a lot of time between the win and the reward. No doubt she appreciates it, but its likely not creating the greatest impact it could. Agile philosophy would suggest the employee see a raise or spot bonus as soon as possible after excellent work, as the instant affirmation will make a stronger impression. 

3. Training and Development

Industries, technologies, and market trends change in an instant. If a companys learning and development practices are outdated or too inflexible, theres a good chance that employees arent getting much value out of it. Make training more dynamic by understanding new concepts and how they relate to employees.  

Some companies implement peer-to-peer skill-sharing and feedback for a quick, informal, and effective method of learning. For long-term development, newer agile programs implement data analysis to identify skills for jobs and stack them against employees own skills and interests, creating potential future paths for them that align better than a one-size-fits-all corporate ladder. 

4. Team Management

Traditional talent management is all about each individuals performance. Agile philosophy, on the other hand, pushes organizations to focus on projects one by one and iteratively (as opposed to set-in-stone overarching goals), so work becomes more team-focused. Progress evaluations should also be more team-centered. Try letting your teams lead their own regular evaluations. You might find that its a better way to identify their areas of strengths and weaknesses.  

5. Talent Sourcing

The recruiting process is a long one — about  24 days  on average, in fact. Thats a lot of time and resources to sink into finding someone you hope will be the right fit. One of the best ways to implement agile philosophy is to work with individuals on a project or contract basis before bringing them on full-time. This process allows you to test a candidates potential more thoroughly than the interview process typically allows without making a permanent commitment.  

If it doesnt go well, youre free to pivot to another candidate. If it goes well, youve established a foundation for hiring them on future projects or bringing the talent on full-time. Hiring flexible talent such as freelancers or independent contractors is an excellent way to organically adapt agile principles. You can responsively fill in skills and knowledge gaps to strategically address critical business challenges as they arise. 

Lean and agile philosophies have immense potential for any organization, whether its a brand-new startup or an established enterprise. With all of the processes and tasks involved in talent management, its the perfect place for a large company to begin adopting these principles in action. Finding ways to break down and iterate within processes and hiring agile talent will transform this portion of your organization into one thats dynamic, values-focused, and, above all, able to grow and improve with momentum. 

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Topics:Business StrategyWork CultureTalent ManagementCompany ValuesBusiness Insights

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