Can HR become agile 1

How the HR department should position itself in an agile company

It is time for HR to adapt to the agile company principles and to become an enabler for other departments, for example in terms of recruiting. For companies this amounts to a paradigm shift - but also for the personnel function itself. A food for thought.

More and more companies are relying on agility. This presents companies with new challenges, because when hierarchical structures are broken up and agile interdisciplinary teams give way, this has far-reaching consequences. However, one area usually continues to work as if nothing had happened: the HR department. There is a lot of potential for the change management process here. After all, HR works with the most important raw material for agile companies: the employees. According to a study by the HR service provider Hays from 2016, 58 percent of all HR professionals already see the management of the increasing complexity in collaboration (project work, etc.) as the most important topic in HR.

Human potential management instead of human resources management

But for this, the HR department has to completely change its mindset. A statement that I often come across: The HR department is responsible for the quality of the employees. My answer: No, it is not in an agile environment. She is responsible for ensuring that teams are productive and if the Scrum Master, Product Owner or the team members are not delivering quality, the HR department will talk to the Scrum Master about how he can keep his team productive. The responsibility for their own actions and for their own performance goals always lies with the employee himself. It is only the task of HR to support the employee in recognizing where he stands, which role he fulfills and to be able to take on this. So more like human potential management.

In my opinion, HR has always been there to empower people in organizations and to strike a balance between the requirements of management and the interests of employees. At this important interface, his main aim should be to accelerate the company's change to an agile organization. This includes the establishment of new values, the development of corresponding beliefs in the organization, the development of sustainable role identities in the company (e.g. the manager as host), the imparting of agility in management work as well as the development of new process and salary models and maybe also developing new career models.

This makes the work more demanding, but not necessarily more, because HR has many supporting agile HR people in the teams - the agile coaches or Scrum Masters. In every team there is someone who is responsible for the productivity of the team. This reduces the operational workload and makes it possible to approach and implement HR strategically - depending on the size of the company. Because the smaller the organization, the sooner HR also has to work operationally here in order to be able to relieve the teams.

Assisting the teams with specialist knowledge

How can the work of an agile HR department look like? Let us take the example of hiring new employees. The HR specialists must enable the agile (development) teams to hire their colleagues themselves. In other words, the HR department shows the teams that may have little experience in this area what is important. She develops a transparent process of how the teams can hire their new colleagues, reminds them to invite applicants as early as possible and, for example, draws up sample contracts that the teams only have to adapt and fill out - depending on the position. She knows where and how to find suitable people for the company and how to organize the onboarding. In short: It helps the teams to find the transparency that the company needs, it supports the teams in all personnel issues - but does not hire itself. The agile HR department benefits here from their enormous specialist know-how. It is the knowledge hub that employees can consult.

For companies, this is a serious paradigm shift and also a real challenge for HR to manage this in the overall context of the organization: For example, conventional line managers have to learn to trust the teams and to accept whom they can choose when it comes to HR. Attitude has fallen. And the role of the CEO is also changing. Even in an agile company, he still remains responsible for the vision and aligns the company. In really agile companies, he will only have one right of objection in personnel issues, which ideally is only exercised in an extreme emergency. Understanding and living this requires a change in thinking and the resulting behaviors must first be learned by everyone involved. HR plays a key role in this process.