Lately we’ve been hearing quite a bit about the concept of Ãgile HR. While it seems to be an increasingly popular idea, Many HR practitioners do not  completely understand what it means.

Incorporating an element of agility into the HR function allows it to be nimbler and helps create an organizational culture that’s more responsive to the needs of customers.

 An agile organization is one that’s able to change direction quickly and easily, and HR needs to be responsive to the ever-changing needs of such an organization.

The Concept of Ãgile.

The whole idea of Ãgile HR likely originated as a result of the increasing popularity of Ãgile software development, a methodology being used to develop and enhance computer applications through a continuing, iterative and collaborative process that seeks to make incremental changes on an ongoing basis.

Agile development attempts to cut some of the red tape traditionally associated with software development projects by having regular (even daily) meetings between different stakeholders and making changes as the need arises, rather than being overly concerned about process, documentation or planning.

 The four values of agile development are adaptability, transparency, simplicity and unity.

Agile approaches to HR management

So what does all of this have to do with human resources?

For one thing the four values of agile development can be easily applied to the practice of HR.

 Incorporating adaptability, transparency, simplicity and unity can help improve HR service delivery.

Adaptability is important in the face of ever changing business needs.

Simplicity is important when designing HR programs and practices that don’t cause confusion, alienate managers and employees or try to accomplish too much. 

Unity applies with respect to HR working together and ensuring it isn’t working in silos or at cross purposes with the business. 

Transparency is important in gaining the trust of managers and employees and explaining why things have to be done in a certain manner.

An agile model incorporates feedback into any new project or program so changes can be made incrementally and early in the process. From an HR perspective, it’s important to work closely with other stakeholders and obtain their input very early on.

Agile versus strategic HR

At first glance, the concept of Ãgile HR would seem to contradict the whole notion of strategic HR. After all, isn’t strategy about looking at the bigger picture and the longer term, as opposed to being reactive and working on incremental changes?

From that perspective, Ãgile HR sounds like it might not fit in with the desire to make HR more strategic. However, an important aspect of strategic HR is understanding and being responsive to the needs of the business. An agile approach takes HR to a whole new level of responsiveness.

In an agile environment, it’s also important for HR to be able to help manage change within the organization. HR needs to be responsive in its approaches to staffing the organization and planning, developing and rolling out HR policies, procedures, systems and programs.

Agility requires a culture of empowerment where employees have the authority and independence to respond to the needs of customers. HR can help to create such a culture.

An agile organizational culture requires staffing the organization with flexible and adaptable people who embrace change. Agility also requires appropriate training, performance management and compensation structures.

This article is written by Brian Kreissl and Originally Published in Canadian HR Reporter. It’s been edited with Approvals.

© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

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