What Does It Mean to be an Agile HR?

Success Stories

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We keep hearing the term “agility,” and often enough bandied about in business conversations without so much context. It is what drives companies to transform digitally. It’s what businesses need to adopt to avoid digital disruptions. It’s what enables better decision-making in the workplace.

But what does agility really mean? Within the realm of HR, when can an HR department be fully called agile to drive business results? To realise its full potential, “agility” demands action rather than academic abstractions.

Agility: What’s in a name?

In his Harvard Business Review article, Jeff Gothelf asserts: “In an agile organization, HR needs to provide the same services it has always provided—hiring, professional development, performance management, and so on—but in ways that are responsive to the ongoing changes in the culture and work style of the organization.”

To be called agile therefore, HR must focus on building practices that can help companies respond quickly and flexibly to market volatilities and uncertainties.

So, how can HR drive agility in an organisation? Here are ways to consider:

1. Break down workplace hierarchies. Agility demands fluidity—and that certainly can’t happen within an organisation that’s heavily tied to a traditional command-and-control leadership.

Just as red tape gives bureaucracy a bad name, a company that is bound by rigid rules, customs, and standards won’t be able to adapt fast enough (or ever) to the demands of digital transformation.

An agile HR is fully aware of its history. As such, it must take the lead in espousing constant reflection and course correction in the workplace.

This is why HR must promote a cross-functional work system that values collaboration and creativity in the workplace. While this may initially present difficulties for Asian enterprises known to favour top-down leadership, this is precisely where HR can rise to the challenge of elevating workforce empowerment on the boardroom agenda.

How can HR do this? It must begin by updating the leadership roles in the organisation. An interesting pivot would be to give mid-managers greater leverage and authority to make decisions on their own, while gradually freeing senior managers from making too many decisions. This goes for rank-and-file employees as well who must be empowered to share concerns and ideas in their company’s business transformation.

2. Lead HR retrospectives. An agile HR is one that is fully aware of its history. As such, it must take the lead in espousing constant reflection and course correction in the workplace.

This pertains to the holding of sprint planning and reviews that allow new ideas to be tested. Through retrospectives, HR leaders and key stakeholders can determine if these new ideas are working. If not, then they can quickly come up with small-scale projects to pilot new initiatives and test their efficacy.

HR retrospectives also allow employees and management to come to a common understanding of particular company endeavours and how they can both discover issues that may affect the completion of project goals.

3. Build the right talent pool. Even before the advent of digital transformation, HR’s main function has always been to get the most suitable people to fill specific positions.

In order to make its recruitment operations more agile, HR must seek the help of agile veterans and make use of digital solutions to find hard-to-reach pools of talent. This makes a big difference in Asia where there persists a shortage of skilled labour.

An agile HR will be able to identify the right talent much faster and, therefore, lessen the downtime experienced when certain positions are not filled. The longer it takes to find the right person for the job, the longer it is that the job isn’t being done—a scenario that’s definitely not ideal for any company that wishes to successfully digitise.

digital HR

Why HR shouldn’t scrimp on talent

There is no doubt that HR agility will make a big difference in how companies embark on their digital transformation. A truly agile HR is one that builds enriching relationships with its people, so they can be inspired to drive a company’s business performance and sustain its growth momentum.

It’s time companies drive their business value with an HR that does not compromise on its talent. In the world of digitisation, people must be seen as an important resource, rather than a cost.

Digital transformation is an exciting prospect. But to keep it going, your company must prime your HR to take a leadership role in building a people-oriented culture. How can your company unlock the full potential of its HR? Click here to learn more.

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