Agile HR: How HR Can Become More Agile to Improve Company Culture

Karina Corona

Agile is a project management methodology created to develop software in short cycles (or phases) of work. Agile methodology prioritizes a single goal: adding more value to the final product by reducing delivery times. 

This is achieved with a problem-solving framework that maximizes speed, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility. This phased style of development breaks down big projects into smaller projects that allow teams to continuously evaluate and improve the final product as it’s being completed. By adapting to changes or needs as they arise, bureaucratic bottlenecks that come with traditional development are eliminated. 

This prioritization of flexibility over bureaucracy is why the agile methodology is a perfect solution for HR departments striving to be more responsive to change and deliver more value to employees.

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What is agile HR?

Human resource management (HRM) is a strategic approach to overseeing, supporting, and managing the people that make up a company. The purpose of HRM is to create a workplace culture that encourages productivity and overall alignment with the company’s mission, values, and goals. Agility is the ability to move, think, and make decisions quickly. Working agile is delivering more value in less time. 

Agile HR applies the agile methodology and mindset to HR functions to effectively improve organizational performance and competitiveness by responding to problems quickly, strategically, and in a way that drives value for both employees and the company at large.  

Why is agile HR important? 

In business, agility is the difference between staying competitive and becoming irrelevant. Organizational agility is needed for success and agile HR is a key partner in creating that. 

By tackling large problems (like employee retention/turnover) as smaller, more manageable tasks similar to short cycles of work, HR teams are able to adapt plans as obstacles and new needs arise, and develop and deploy solutions that have a direct impact on employees. 

Business, department, and employee benefits 

Human resources departments are one of the most vulnerable to bureaucracy, excessively long processes, and top-down solutions. Over time, this taxing cycle can have a negative impact on the company that may take the form of:

  • Problems with employee morale
  • Poor employee experiences
  • Long time-to-hire windows
  • Communication silos
  • High turnover rates
  • Under resourced departments
  • Tedious employee management, rather than strategic empowerment and support 

By making the agile methodology the foundation of your company’s human resources management, HR associates and specialists can become better equipped to handle rapidly changing company needs by continuously identifying problems, solutions, and improvements — a win-win for all employees. Other tangible benefits include: 

  • Motivated employees
  • Higher employee satisfaction and engagement
  • Improved workplace culture
  • More strategic collaboration between HR and leadership
  • Better final product or service
  • Shorter time-to-hire
  • Improved employee experiences

During a time when employees and candidates want and expect more from employers, finding ways to get ahead of business challenges and cultivate a work environment that attracts qualified talent and retains top-performing employees is key. Agile HR can help with that.

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5 ways HR can become more agile

HR departments are easily bogged down by bureaucracy, which can lead to a fragmented, tedious, and inefficient experience for all stakeholders, both internal and external. To become more agile, HR teams, along with other leaders within a company, should seek to deliver more value in less time and provide talent with the best possible employee experience. 

When applied to HR principles, the agile methodology gives HR teams the flexibility to test new, innovative ways of running processes in order to become more responsive, adaptive, and people-centered.

Here are five practical ways to guide your HR department toward a more agile way of working:

1. Connect with employees to define problems and create solutions 

Before really diving into improvements, it’s important to first understand what the problem is. As a starting point, go to the people who are affected by HR processes: the employees. 

Whether you want to conduct 1:1 interviews with managers or share a feedback survey with employees, solving the problem(s) begins with creating a detailed roadmap of existing HR processes and highlighting every pain point, bottleneck, and missing step that keeps the HR team from cultivating a people-first experience and being an agile and strategic partner.

2. Streamline and standardize workflows with low-code BPA

Low-code business process automation (BPA) software makes it easier for users to build, modify, and standardize their processes, all without any coding experience. Low-code automation resolves the familiar tension between the HR team’s need for agility and the IT team’s need for control of security. 

With low-code automation, business users can set rules and events that trigger specific actions in a process as a way to streamline high-volume, repetitive tasks. For HR teams, this can be a significant relief and an opportunity to refocus the time and energy spent on admin work toward more strategic, people-first work. 

BPA also reduces risk by standardizing HR processes, making it easier for HR to enforce company policies and for IT to ensure security and compliance measures are met across the entire org. 

Here are 10 essential BPA features and benefits HR teams can leverage to help streamline and standardize HR workflows: 

automation features

3. Focus on continuous employee development

At a non-agile company, employee development programs are obscure, infrequent, and lack standardization which can leave employees wondering whether they’re doing a good job or not – or worse, leading them to start searching for a new job. 

Data shows that employees that receive constructive, frequent, and focused feedback are more likely to remain engaged in their role and be motivated to do better. But in order to receive this sort of feedback, it’s up to HR to create a clearly defined, frequent, and standardized feedback evaluation process that focuses not on the thing that employees are doing wrong, but on how they can strengthen the things they are doing right. 

Agile HR is all about growing in real-time, so motivating employees to take personal ownership in growing the company by developing themselves and taking on opportunities to upskill is a win-win for retention and engagement.

4. Don’t forget to valorize all employees 

A primary function of HR is making sure that all team members are aligned and working toward the company’s goals. An agile HR takes that idea and brings it to life by making every single member of the company aware of their contribution to the final product or service offered. Everyone should work toward the same goal and it is agile HR’s role to encourage this. 

5. Execute, evaluate, improve, and repeat 

The agile methodology encourages teams to bring the most value to the final product by continuously evaluating and improving throughout each phase of a project. Agile HR teams should do the same. 

By maintaining the flexibility to analyze, improve, and adapt to company changes, HR teams become more people-centered and are able to cultivate an engaging employee experience. 

Find out how low-code automation helps make HR teams more agileTry Pipefy for HR
Written by
Karina Corona
Jr. content writer @ Pipefy. I write about process optimization, digital tools, and how teams can leverage automation to free themselves from hours of boring, repetitive work.

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