Before we start, I would like to emphasize that the topic of this article discusses the agile transformation of the HR department in progress, which means that the first phase of the organizational change in the company has been done. What exactly does it mean? It means fulfilling the basic elements of transformation like the appropriate life cycle of the company and its culture, both ready for change, a competent leader of change, and – last but not least – support from the management board. Only when these are met, we can introduce changes effectively, without the risk of failure of the transformation itself or damaging the company’s operations. The better set we provide at the beginning, the better chance we have for the success of our endeavours. After clarifying the assumptions, let’s get back to the HR department and what we can improve there during our agile transformation.
Defining a new role
In many companies, the HR department is treated as a department supporting the interests of employees. You will find there people with a soft approach towards others who like to help everyone around. Sadly, they are not seen as partners for leaders. Employees perceive the HR department as an addition to their work. Place, where they can deal with minor matters or complain about what they do not like in the company. What’s more, the HR team imposes their processes that no one has time for, but still, they have to be done. Often, the only positive aspects of HR work (except onboarding) are holiday, bonuses, and company-organized integrations. Should this be the only value the HR department brings to the company and its employees? Not at all.
Fortunately, agile transformation is the perfect time to change the role of the HR department in your company. From now on, HR departments should not prove their value by implementing the full range of HR processes or fancy measures of success. It is not about quantity and processes, it is about quality, people, and business. So how do you define the new value of the HR department? The value should always be defined by the business as the source of our inspiration, needs, and future changes. Start by consulting with management about the aspects above. Identify what market position your company wants to gain and how, as HR, can you help it. In the new system, HR does not just react to changes, HR creates them and takes responsibility for implementing changes, setting up new rules, leading by example and creating new expectations, regarding the classical role HR plays as such and towards other departments of the company. It iis a time when you can focus on empowering the people, teams, and interactions between them and monitor how it affects delivering the right value for the company and business. Inspect what the HR department can do to support business, departments, leaders, and people and adopt new concepts to the HR way of working.
Defining new values
Your company may have values that guide its daily work. Nevertheless, we must remember that agile values should drive all the changes during agile transformation. Earlier in the article, I emphasized one of them – focus on delivering the right value for the business. It is the most relevant principle that defines the work of the HR team. But how to do it? What else is crucial while designing a new framework for the HR team?
Let’s start with defining the agile values, rules, or assumptions that we should implement in our daily work:
- business orientation in every aspect of the work;
- continuous improvement of collaboration at every level;
- continuous inspection of our work and its results as well as adaptation of improvements;
- transparency, including the visualization of our work;
- focus on effective communication between everyone;
- focus on HR people empowerment as well as other people in the transformation process;
- empowering leaders and building a culture of leadership for each employee;
- building a company culture based on cooperation, feedback, celebration, and learning by experimenting.
In the next parts of this article, I will describe how in practice you can put the list above into the everyday work of the HR department.
Selection of new tools and framework
It is always worth starting the agile transformation with the visualization of teamwork. First, draw a Big Picture of HR responsibilities and define, where HR provides value to the company. This step opens the door for us to talk about the scope of our work and our
expectations. Basing on this, we can start improving our workflow and naturally begin the journey towards transparency. The most effective way is to work on the Kanban board. You can use a physical Kanban board if your team is working on-site or use tools such as Trello, Jira, or other team management systems. It’s good to verify if other teams in your company already use such applications. If yes, use the same tool rather than introducing the new one. Apart from monitoring our work, we should create a backlog, a list of current and future tasks that need to be done by the HR team. I recommend sharing the visualized HR task list with your management board. It will help you inspect the needs of the business and verify if selected tasks are going to bring the necessary value to the company.
With the tools already organized, it is time to establish a new framework for the HR team. Usually, the best option is to start with Scrum. Before you start, you need to organize the appropriate training for your team, so that each member understands the sense of the new framework and the principles of agility. Scrum defines new rules, roles, meetings, and team setup that contributes to team agility. If you do not know Scrum assumptions, start with reading Scrum Guide. Also, look for a suitable Agile Coach who can introduce you and your team to this new framework.
Knowing the specificity of the work of the HR department, I recommend monthly Sprints. HR tasks are recurring each month which is why this is the best choice. Remember that each daily meeting is an opportunity for inspection toward achieving the sprint goal. In conclusion, proper frameworks and tools will lead your team towards agility and self management. A team conducting well-structured communication and managing their work together is another important step towards empowerment.
Another additional meeting often used in agile teams is the 1 on 1 meeting. Such meetings should focus mainly on the employee’s development path – what is their vision for development? How can you, as a leader, help the employee achieve success? Remember that people are at the center of agile methodologies. Their development and empowerment are the main success factors in transforming your HR department.
Updating old processes along with the change in the company’s culture
When carrying out a transformation, we often focus on a new approach to work. New things often look better than the old ones, so we would like to implement them as soon as possible. However, we can not forget that cleaning up is waiting for us. Planning step forward, we must remove the anchors pulling us back. By doing that, instead of one step at a time, we will do two or three. That is why we should plan in parallel for future works and clean-ups. Review your HR processes and identify which need straightening, refreshing,
or adapting to a new agile approach. Go back to step one and mark them on your HR Big Picture map. Remember to keep the balance between the proper pace of development and cleaning up old processes. Each change has a chance to survive in our daily work if we improve the company’s culture at the same time. In Poland, we say that one swallow does not make spring, same goes for changes. Agile transformation should be a company-wide initiative. It is not only for the HR department but also for the rest of the company. It is a journey and not a one-time appearance. That is why you need to continuously build a company culture based on cooperation, feedback, celebration, and learning by experimenting every day.
Action plan in the nutshell:
- develop an effective way of communicating with the management board and consult both your plans for transformation and the current needs of the company concerning HR;
- communicate the new role of HR to each department or specific positions in the company;
- draw a Big Picture of HR responsibilities and define where HR provides the value to the company – this should be your focus;
- create a visualized system for managing the work of the HR team, make it transparent for everyone, consult the scope of work with the management;
- organize training on agile frameworks for the HR team, make sure that your team knows and understands the basic principles of agility;
- introduce the selected agile framework to the daily work of the team, in example Scrum, focus on team agility, empowerment, and self-management;
- add 1on1 meetings with your team members as part of HR new way of working
- keep the balance between the proper pace of development and cleaning up old processes;
- build a company culture based on cooperation, feedback, celebration, and learning by experimenting.
Head of HR in Siili Auto, Agile Transformation & Change Management practitioner. In management, she focuses on working with people, using CliftonStrengths in everyday work, and continuous improvement of communication. She loves to train and be trained, cultivates inspection and adaptation processes, and from time to time she is eager to extinguish company fires.