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Agile HR: Starting the Agile Transformation in HR

Agile, the buzzword on every tongue and in every sector during the last decade, is successfully moving its way towards Human Resources. What started as a software development methodology, made it quick to organizations’ strategies and has become a trait of the winners for many reasons. Above all, its success is mostly due to the nature of today’s business environment.

In the recent years, the amount of uncertainty that organizations are facing is indeed noticeable: massive innovation, technological disruptions, global pandemic, or talent shortages. This has a significant impact on organizations’ dynamics, supply chains and their overall strategical planning. The key ingredient for thriving in these conditions, is to be resilient, reactive, and fast to reorganize own business priorities or even structure and operating model.

This so called VUCA environment (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) is leading more organizations to adopt the agile working mindset and methods. These were developed with the sole purpose of tackling the challenges of such an environment and to be proactively resilient. Looking back at our own industry, HR is no exception and is exposed as well to the same conditions. Therefore, modernizing HR and shifting to agile is indeed an opportunity, as well as a necessity to support the overall transformation journey that many organizations are going through.

HR’s natural evolution:

What we have seen in the last decade is the shift of the HR function, focusing on less transactional work and moving towards more strategical responsibilities and initiatives.

Indeed, technology played a major role for this shift, automating your HR admin tasks such as time tracking, learning offerings and management, performance reviews, or all kind of employees’ personal data management. The perks of using modern tools have resulted in HR having more capacity to get closer to and be an active part of more strategical initiatives and projects. This shift happened gradually, also with regards to changing the ways of organizing HR. Previously the function was perceived as an admin generalist. Afterwards we shifted to the concept of COEs and perceiving HR as a center for functional expertise. Fairly recently, we witnessed moving towards a more strategic role that HR has gained, as a business partner.

Nowadays, we cannot deny this inevitable evolution where HR sits as a strategical supporting partner for bigger projects, being digital transformations, market expansions or mergers & acquisition. Today, HR’s responsibility as a strategical support for the whole organization, is to turn agile and be as proactive and resilient as the business itself. On some occasions, HR has even the duty to be ahead of the business, or tightly close to the decision-making process in terms of strategical planning to support the underlaying operational goals.

How can we drive the transformation?

What we have seen and read between the lines of HR’s organization, is the gradual shift from the older HR setup (1.0) with its classic admin function, which has evolved with success in some organization to a shared service center concept (efficient centralized HR hubs) to our current landscape, HR (2.0) where HR started to conduct some aspects of its initiatives in a project mode. Our vision is that the only way to reach a complete agile HR organization, is by continuing down the road of projects driving HR, governed by agile principles: Moving from areas operated from time to time in a project approach, to constantly being driven in agile project mode. The next step is expanding the scope of these agile projects to cover more areas of HR, and more corners of our organizations (being geographical or sectorial). Thus, reaching a completely agile driven HR.

Theoretically, driving certain HR focus areas in an agile way might sound easy and straight forward. On practice this would require a shift in the way HR operates, sense for and deliver its solutions as well as interacts with its environment. The agile HR shift also requires a shift in its operating model. Supporting the transition requires reinventing the way HR is operating and the roles it insures, creating more space and capacity for strategic work. By target operating model we mean the service levels and interactions, with which HR orchestrates its function to insure the highest impact and value to the business. An agile operating model is essential to support the agile transformation within an organization, and to lay the foundation for a continuous agile project-based work. In other terms, driving agile projects and having an agile operating model are interconnected and the transformation in both sides happens in complete synergy: While scaling up an agile HR solution or project, we must think about the service levels insured locally by our HR team and how to scale them up to drive more solutions and reach the complete transformation. The agile projects and the agile operating model are the two vectors of HR’s agile transformation.

But what does it mean to run an agile HR solution? Where to start? How would an agile HR team be built and how does an agile operating model work?

We will dive deeper into this topic, via a webinar that we will host soon, explaining how the shift towards agile is possible for HR and sharing our best practices: Introducing how concretely to drive this transformation, to build agile HR teams and how to set off an agile target operating model.

Visit the webinar recordings here: Agile Transformation

Sascha Lutz

Hi ich bin Sascha und lebe seit 20 Jahren meine Passion für HR Tech und HR Transformation. Meine Fokus-gebiete liegen in den Bereichen HR Transformation, HR Digitalisierung und HR Automatisierung.  Im Rahmen meiner Projekte führen wir meist SAP SuccessFactors oder Personio, im Rahmen einer ganzheitlichen HR Transformation ein. Nach 18 Jahren in großen Beratungsunternehmen haben wir Reload HR gegründet, um uns voll auf das Thema HR zu fokussieren. In unserem Team legen wir Wert auf Agilität, hands-on Mentalität und Teamwork. Als HR-Beratung pflegen wir vertrauensvolle Kundenbeziehungen und legen Wert auf eine ereignisorientierte Umsetzung der Projekte für unsere Kunden in einem offenen und flexiblen Umfeld. In unserem Blog schreibe ich regelmäßig über meine Erfahrungen und Erkenntnisse rund um die Themen HR Transformation, HR Digitalisieung, Prozessoptimierung und Automatisierung.