Gartner: How Agile HR can make a strategic impact

By Janet Brice
Agile HR has emerged as a new software tool which will empower HR leaders and redefine the workplace, report consultants Gartner...

Agile HR has emerged as a popular new software tool to empower HR leaders, report consultants Gartner who has provided a guide to this product management methodology. 

Demystifying Agile HR is a comprehensive report aimed at HR professionals around the world and outlines how this methodology is helping to redefine the workplace. 

“Agile HR has emerged as a popular tool that can empower HR professionals to better manage volatility, enhance adaptability and strengthen the organisation by applying Agile methodologies to their talent management processes,” commented Gartner.

“As a proven effective software development methodology, agile has become a common working method for functions throughout the organisation. With this rise in popularity, HR leaders are considering agile HR as a new way to make a strategic impact.”

What is an agile approach in HR?

According to Gartner, an agile approach is a collaborative way of working that embraces change, drives efficiency through customer testing and measures success through outcomes rather than inputs. 

“In practice, agile principles grant teams more flexibility to make decisions about how best to work to achieve their goals, which is especially important in today’s rapidly changing business environment,” commented Gartner.

“Agile in HR is gaining recognition as a means of helping the organisation stay current and aligned with today’s talent requirements.” 

In a recent Gartner survey, 63% of HR leaders reported the use of agile methods and principles in some capacity within their functions - however many lack clarity on what agile means for HR.

“Agile represents a set of values that HR hopes will enable the function to quickly provide relevant products and support for its customers, employees, managers and leaders. 

The mechanism to deliver and apply agile values to HR is two-fold:  

  • HR projects - individual projects that create a new, or improve an existing, HR solution (process, tool, policy) 
  • HR operating model - the formal and informal ways in which the HR function works to deliver value to the business quickly with impact

How to translate agile value to HR

Agile methodology is a set of guidelines rooted in the four original values as defined in the Agile Manifesto for software development. “We at Gartner translated the core values of original software manifesto, which guides agile teams, into four HR values.”

The four values of agile methodology outlined by Gartner:

Value 1: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

HR should make it easier for people to collaborate within the organisation and reward it. There should be a shift from enforcing rules, policies and systems, to ensuring employees have the best experience at work. For this to happen, HR needs to move from a compliance-oriented function to a more strategic, developmental one. 

There also needs to be a move from a function of “service delivery” to a driver of strategic talent and business outcomes. HR’s operating model needs to undergo transformation to achieve this which will enable strategic thinkers to focus on solving customer problems

Value 2: Working software over comprehensive documentation

“Working software” in HR can be easily translated to “working processes”. In an agile framework, the primary goal of HR is to create relevant products and solutions, not a 50-page document describing what they intend to produce or how it will be implemented. 

HR should test and deliver the new process in iterative steps rather than driving to deliver them as fully designed products through rigid rollout procedures.

Value 3: Customer collaboration over contract negotiation 

HR needs to co-create with their customers — employees, managers and leaders —continuously during the design of a product or solution and release a working prototype at set intervals. These releases enable customers to give regular feedback, increasing the likelihood of meeting customer needs. 

Value 4: Responding to change over following a plan

Change is a reality of product and solution creation, a reality that HR processes and structures must reflect. HR needs to respond quickly and easily to change. 

“Overall, the Agile Manifesto values for software development when translated into HR values, provide useful direction to HR on the design and delivery of high-quality HR processes. Furthermore, these values enable HR to transform into a function that is more responsive and adaptive to business and customer needs.”

Gartner concludes for HR leaders to successfully adopt Agile methodologies, it is essential they clearly understand the agile approach, its core values and how the agile values can be applied to HR processes.

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