Why HR should lead the way in agile transformations

It’s often a thorn in the side for every HR professional in an agile project environment: HR gets involved late during the transformation process. According to Orpheo Ormskerk and Peter Turien of Towson, this is a missed opportunity – they explain why HR is not only involved from the start, but should have a prominent or even leadership role in the transformation team.

For agile transformations, it is not necessary for the HR organization itself to present its products in a short cycle (although it helps with this). However, it is conditional that you embrace agile values ​​and principles and then use them to re-engineer HR services, aligned with future business.

The relationship between Agile and HR can be viewed from two perspectives, leading to two disciplines: Agile for HR and HR for Agile.

When we look at Agile for HR, we’re talking about how HR organizations themselves operate and contribute in an agile way, and we’re looking at how they frequently deliver products and services. This, rather than trying to implement a complete solution for the entire enterprise at once from the idea of ​​​​the Big Bang. By working frequently for the HR function, items can be released from the service catalog more quickly.

Agile’s HR department revolves around the role of human resources as an essential component of the success of agile transformations. When organizations change to a fast-track operating model, the role of human resources is to ensure that behavioral and structural changes are supported.

As the core principle of agile work is the pursuit of creating self-managed teams, it is also about reinventing and reorganizing the relationship our HR administrators have with the rest of the organization. The services and products provided by HR should help the organization evolve towards an Agile organization and contribute to delivering sustainable value to the end customer as quickly as possible.

The pillars of human resources are the basis for the success of the transformation

The human resource organization provides guidance within the company on at least the following four topics:

  • Skills, learning and development
  • people’s performance
  • Development of Leadership Skills
  • The role of clarity and the role of purity

These are also exactly the four resources used from Rapid Transformation to enable the necessary change in attitudes and behaviour.

In order to take full advantage of the benefits of flexible working, companies and/or business units must organize and behave differently across the entire organization. They must, among other things, become more customer-oriented, act on data and strive for autonomy. This is only possible if appropriate support for this change has been created and that change is subsequently instituted.

Change is far-reaching and therefore requires a different attitude and relationship from leaders and their interaction with teams and individuals.

Creating support for this change, defining new frameworks, and facilitating desired behavior is now precisely the specialty of the HR team. So you can say that he is an indispensable part of the formation of the fast-oriented organization and that he should be a part of the transformation team from the beginning.

We already expect our HR department to take the lead in securing and facilitating the right skills. This is done, among other things, through a vision and interest in employment policy, establishing a company-wide training curriculum and facilitating personal development plans. These are skills and experience that will help you get off to a quick and successful start. Experienced people can be quickly and carefully recruited and a perspective is given to people within the organization with expanding knowledge and skills.

However, having the appropriate skills on board is only sufficient in the pilot phase when a limited part of the organization is still operating agilely. Once agile work is used more widely and this becomes an ‘operating model’, the need for role purity and role clarity emerges.

This is often the (too) late moment when HR organizations are asked to actively participate in a rapid turnaround. And then often with limited demand to facilitate this role with purity and clarity by providing clear profile descriptions that comply with all legal obligations. These profiles are very important because roles like Product Owner, Scrum Master, etc. are often new to the organization.

This cannot be viewed separately from vision development and implementation of new leadership and leadership development. For example, performance management will be approached quite differently and the decision-making process is expected to be more at the team level. This means that HR must develop new capabilities that support the new way of working and that are future-proof within the new way of working.

HR officer as servant leader and coach

Speaking of future proof – HR admins will also have to embrace and deploy the agile mindset. This can be done by positioning themselves as the so-called “servant leaders” (servant leadership). Because if people and teams are expected to take more ownership, those teams will also take on more HR tasks in the teams and align them among themselves.

In short, the HR Administrator will become more of a consultant and coach than he is today, which refers to the frameworks within which teams can work. This is an additional argument that the HR organization and the HR staff should have an intrinsic role in the rapid transformation from the start so that they do not continually fall behind on the facts and thus become a disincentive to change.

Now that many organizations have deployed the second iteration of rapid transformation to achieve the next recovery phase, it is advisable to think again about the formation of transformation teams and to immediately give the HR function the role that organizations deserve so that HR can deliver the best results contributing to the way they work new.

About the authors: Orpheo Ormskerk and Peter Turien are Agile Transformation coaches at Towson, an advisory and temporary agency that helps organizations adopt Agile principles.

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