As the digital age pressures organizations to rethink the way they design talent solutions, HR teams have begun adopting new, leaner practices already in common use in other business functions. The “agile” methodology, pioneered by software developers, is a highly iterative approach to design that relies heavily on end-user feedback. This approach can be successful in HR as well, but applying it requires functions to change not only their processes, but also their mindsets.
Most HR functions have traditionally designed HR solutions using the “waterfall” method, which includes an extensive requirement-gathering phase, after which a design team creates and implements the solution. A small group of users typically tests the solution only at the very end, shortly before wide-scale deployment.
The waterfall method (and the mindset that accompanies it) has historically served HR well because it’s ideal for an HR function aiming to solve as many employees’ problems as possible, for as long as possible. However, many HR functions are finding that their solutions aren’t as adaptable as they need to be to keep up with the rapidly-evolving demands of their end-users: i.e., employees. Employees want assurance that HR systems and processes will be personalized to fit their needs and will evolve as those needs change, but they’re also willing to supply detailed feedback to get there.
Enter the agile approach, which has gained traction thanks to its efficiency in responding to change. The workflow in an agile project draws a stark contrast from the waterfall method in that end-user feedback drives every aspect of the process. Whether an agile HR specialist is addressing issues in a payroll process, designing a new training series, or implementing a new HR information system, they collect employee feedback at every step along the way to guide their continued iteration, then continue refining products between design cycles until end-users are satisfied.
Of course, making the transition to an agile HR function and an agile mindset can be challenging. Here are six changes HR leaders can make to help embed the agile mindset in their teams:
Time management is a perennial challenge for any professional. As HR practitioners’ roles become more strategic, they find themselves under increasing pressure mitigate the time costs of non-strategic activities, as well as to figure out ways to improve time management throughout their organizations. A recent study led by London Business School professor Michael Parke points toward a possible solution.
Parke and one of his co-authors, Justin Weinhardt from the University of Calgary, discussed their findings in a recent Harvard Business Review article. Workers juggling competing demands on their time, they explain, can significantly increase their engagement and productivity at work by moving away from the traditional time management approach, toward a new approach they call “contingent planning.” In this type of planning, people “consider the possible disruptions or interruptions they may face in their work day and devise a plan to address them if they occur.”
“Contingent planning is less commonly used than time-management planning because individuals frequently make plans that overestimate how much they will get done and underestimate (or fail altogether) to account for how their work will be disrupted,” they add.
The researchers found that either type of planning positively impacted daily engagement and daily productivity in the absence of significant interruptions. However, when employees faced many interruptions in the course of a day, only contingent planning had a positive impact.
Talent Daily reached out to Parke for more ideas about how professionals can practice contingent planning in their day-to-day work, and he provided the following five tips:
It is not news that digitalization is forcing organizations to change faster than ever, and that organizational cultures need to equip employees to keep up with the pace of change. In fact, the average organization spends $2,212 per employee per year on culture management, and 82 percent of HR business partners say culture is very important to accomplishing their organizations’ strategies. To address these issues, a group of 57 innovative HRBPs, HR generalists, and other strategic HR professionals gathered with CEB, now Gartner, in New York on November 2 to discuss how to use best practices in culture management to arm their organizations for the digital age.
Our latest research on culture looks at the traditional strategies organizations use to manage organizational culture, what works well, and how organizations can shift their approaches to get cultures that drive business performance. This means throwing out the traditional people-focused playbook on culture management in favor of our research-backed, process-focused strategy. CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can see more insights from our culture study in the latest issue of CHRO Quarterly magazine.
Thursday’s meeting was a fantastic opportunity to learn how different organizations are enacting the key teachings of our culture research, through steps such as:
- Engaging employees to gather unfiltered feedback.
- Teaching employees to navigate culture barriers.
- Redesigning processes to support the culture.
Here are some of the ideas HR practitioners shared and discussed in our New York gathering last week:
Moving From Annual to Daily Culture Measurement
One organization shared that they moved from measuring culture once a year to asking employees daily culture questions as they logged into their workstations. The results are available to managers in real time as long as four people on their teams participate on a given day. Leaders then have the autonomy to decide how they will use the daily feedback, but based on our research, they will now consider empowering employees to be the ones who take action.