what exactly is agile hr?

In today's rapidly changing workplace, HR professionals are exploring the prospect of using the Agile Methodologies to the people management processes. Since its inception in the early noughties the agile software movement has emerged as probably the most widely used approaches, with 90% of software companies claiming to adhere to the agile methodology.

The success of agile methodology lies in the reality that it promotes faster, cost-effective, customer centric software. Thus, it garnered attention in nearly every industry, including marketing, manufacturing, and accounting to name a few. In a similar manner, Agile HR is gradually increasing popularity as an effective means of keeping the organisation aligned with the latest talent requirements and to remain on trend.

A bit of background on Agile HR

During a Deloitte HR conference, Josh Bersin managed to draw people’s attention specifically towards the reality as to the way the HR function can contribute towards building an agile workplace. As indicated by Bersin, the principles of Agile Methodology is able to aid in the process of continual learning, having transparent HR processes using which organisations are able to develop, attract, and engage talent efficiently, under continuous talent acquisition.

Global markets are characterised by the VUCA vortex. The term VUCA vortex was initially used by the armed forces in the United States. The acronym is used to describe volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) that characterise present day global market scenarios. As per the VUCA vortex, it’s vital for companies to be prompt in response and fast on their feet, as the market scenario is governed by unexpected and frequent changes. If business plans are not adaptable and hierarchies are stringent, they won’t work in the VUCA vortex, as such characteristics will surely wind up wasting time, preventing innovation, and restricting organisations from taking advantage of new opportunities.

When agile principles are applied to the HR function, it promotes a change of focus from imposing controls and standards to fostering enhanced collaboration and innovation. Let’s have a look at a comparative analysis of traditional HR versus agile HR to determine exactly how agile methodologies can influence key areas of HR.

Traditional HR…

  • follows a remedial approach to learning – Based on traditional HR practices, when an employee underperforms in their current role, or perhaps prepare for an upcoming new role, they’re assigned to training which will enable them to achieve a certain level of performance
  • is stuck in a recruitment mindset – As per traditional HR, the moment a job becomes available, they start the search for candidates to fill the position. As soon as they get the best candidate, the talent acquisition process ends there and then.
  • has opaque talent processes – As per traditional HR, the talent acquisition and development processes are inaccessible and are considered proprietary IP.
  • is typically built around siloed objectives – Traditional HR jobs are considered unique entities within a complicated system. It believed that job requirements pertain to specific workplace tasks.
  • is known for implementing systems – Traditional HR carefully researches, resource, and deploy large scale technology systems over a length of many months or years.
  • focuses on record keeping – Traditional HR relies on the files of staff and the records of HR initiatives to monitor the progress of employees and make a note of issues. They evaluate the success of HR based on the completeness of the documentation of records at their end.

Whereas Agile HR…

  • adopts a continuous learning environment – According to Agile HR best practice, a wide range of opportunities are provided to staff so that they can learn and stretch their limits outside of any goal about their job.
  • offers transparent access to talent information – Agile HR facilitates talent management which empowers employees to remain in control of their development. Staff members are given equal scope to be active participants in talent acquisition, evaluation processes, and development.
  • believes in continuous talent acquisition – Agile HR continually invests in the employer brand and continuously cultivate the present ongoing talent relationships across a variety of channels.
  • has a unified mission and values – All positions are directly aligned with the mission, vision, and values of the organisation. It stresses the need for all the employees to understand how their on-job performance supports these elements regarding the overall organisational culture.
  • is known for piloting small initiatives – Agile HR is known for testing small scale initiatives within a business unit or perhaps a certain team. They gather early feedback from staff members to determine if the pilot initiative needs to be expanded or perhaps even scrapped altogether.
  • focuses on employee engagement – HR focuses on employee engagement, across all engagement pillars, to encourage collaboration and enhance the level of self-motivation of staff members. It measures HR success in terms of staff member retention, innovation, level of employee satisfaction, and overall sentiments of organisational trust and goodwill.

Once Agile HR is embraced, the HR function steers a far more flexible organisation with the necessary amount of openness and agility needed to safeguard against the realities of the VUCA vortex. Nevertheless, this transition from traditional HR to Agile HR really is significant change so before implementing Agile HR, it’s important to think about the following factors:

  • Do you have the organisational culture that believes in prioritising employee engagement and has full trust in its employees?
  • Is your HR department ready to give up control?
  • Are you digitally ready with HR tech including employee centric HRIS with development, goal setting and engagement systems, readily available by all employees anytime anywhere?

If you could do with some help, WINC consultants really shine in employment arenas. We pride ourselves on being our clients’ most valuable partner in the attraction, retention and engagement of their current and future staff members. We offer quality end-to-end strategies and solutions including resource managment, hr operations and change communications within the Employment Branding space. Find out more about what we’re up to on the WINC website – and keep up-to-date with our latest news and views on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.

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about the author


Karl Wood is a global HR and employment professional who has an impeccable record in delivering HR solutions for industry leading firms. Known for his charachteristic creativity, Karl champions ideas that promote growth, profit and a positive organisational identity.