Competency-based approaches for Agile HR

April 26, 2016 Kelly

Agile HR is gaining recognition as a means of helping organizations align with the realities of today’s talent requirements and manage an increasingly complex business environment. But rolling out an Agile approach to HR successfully requires the organization to have the right competencies and technologies in place first.

In last week’s blog post, “What is Agile HR? And is it right for you?” we looked at the rise of Agile HR—an approach to talent management that focuses on greater transparency, deeper engagement, and a swifter feedback loop. Based on a methodology for developing software quickly and efficiently, Agile has since gained traction across a range of business disciplines, including HR.

While Agile methodology prioritizes change management over long-term planning, any organization planning to make a shift towards Agile HR will still want to put a plan in place first. Agile HR requires a different mindset and different tools for both the HR professionals leading the Agile approach and the employees who will be asked to take greater responsibility for their own development and progress.

How can HR professionals prepare the organization to embrace Agile HR? Here are two key ways to lay the groundwork for success.

Support an Agile mindset

Agile methodology is more than a set of processes to be learned, it is a mindset that recognizes the importance of team dynamics and individual responsibility. It requires every employee to be ready to take the initiative and become involved in the HR function, whether that takes the form of self-directed learning and development, referral-based recruiting, or embodying and promoting organizational values internally and to the outside world.

These roles can be encouraged by revisiting the organization’s core competencies or those at the job-family level to ensure Agile-supportive competencies such as “teamwork,” “problem solving,” “interactive communication,” and “initiative” are reflected.

For those involved in developing and administering HR within the organization, one of the biggest challenges is the need to relinquish control and place greater responsibility in the hands of the employees. As Bersin describes the Agile method of HR, it involves redefining the HR function as a means of facilitating and improving organizational agility, and not as a control center and enforcer of standards. Here, too, integrating the right competencies into the HR job family can help to effect a shift towards a new HR model. So, where competencies such as “enforcement,” “project management,” and “information management” may have been priorities in the past, moving forward, competencies such as “motivating others,” “fostering learning,” and “motivating others” may need to be prioritized and developed.

Identify the right tools

Agile HR is characterized by greater transparency and a commitment to ongoing and continuous engagement. For example, a growing number of organizations are recognizing that the traditional, once-a-year performance review takes up inordinate amounts of time and energy without yielding enough valuable and timely information. An Agile solution to the issue might involve providing channels through which individuals can receive feedback with greater immediacy and frequency.

The right technology can be invaluable in helping the organization to support this level of engagement. For example, software such as 7Geese provides a means to set goals, earn and give recognition, and provide feedback. Business gamification technologies can also help to support the type of instant feedback loop that has been proven to be highly motivating and engaging when applied to everything from rote tasks to big career goals. As a bonus, these systems that provide immediate input and reinforcement are particularly appealing to and beneficial for Millennial workers, according to business author Daniel Pink and others.

Technology can also help the organization demonstrate greater transparency around key HR functions. For example, traditional HR practices keep job descriptions and competencies gated, with employees receiving access only to those materials that pertain to their own jobs or those for people they manage. An Agile approach might make every job description and competency profile accessible from a centralized platform, so that anyone can see the requirements for any job in the organization. Going further, Agile HR could empower employees to evaluate their own competency profile against those required for various jobs, see where there are gaps, and access a range of self-managed development options, including direct portals to web-based training options on Lynda.com, Coursera, Udacity, and others.

At a time when responsiveness, flexibility, and engagement are valued qualities in any HR practice, Agile principles can offer tremendous value. Shifting from annual reviews to continuous feedback, from ownership of HR functions to employee trust and empowerment, and from inflexible processes to those that support experimentation, learning, and change can help HR stay ahead in a volatile and fast-moving business world.


Learn More:

Previous Article
Performance reviews: the end of an era?
Performance reviews: the end of an era?

Long considered a necessary evil, the efficacy and value of performance reviews has recently been called in...

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What is Agile HR? And is it right for you?
What is Agile HR? And is it right for you?

Can software development principles be applied to the development of human talent? A growing number of HR p...

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