The business landscape of today is rife with technological innovation, and the current nature of the market means that organisations are having to work more efficiently than ever to maintain competitive advantage and satisfy their ever-demanding customers.
Technology businesses seem to be moving away from the traditional methods of software development (such as Waterfall) and are adopting more iterative and Agile methodologies (such as Scrum) to allow for better collaboration, quality, transparency and flexibility within projects.
These are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest Talent Think Tank (TTT) held on Tuesday 1st November 2016 hosted at Bloomberg by Claire Parkhill (EMEA HR Business Partner) & Michael Davis (Technology Recruitment Partner) titled ‘Adopting Agile Working Methodologies Within Technology Businesses’
The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior HR and Talent professionals from leading national and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’
You’ve heard the expression ‘Agile’, but what does it mean to you?
Agile is undoubtedly one of the hottest buzz words out there and is on the whole driven from a technology perspective relating to collaboration between teams. The more common and historical approach to project management is to perform the task and take stock of its success at the end; while the Agile approach has the ethos that ‘it’s OK to get it wrong’ as you test, learn and develop along the project journey by offering maximum flexibility and minimum constraints. This empowered approach is suggested to optimise performance and aims to deliver ‘best in class’ value and customer service.
What support can HR provide to ensure the smooth running of Agile projects?
How involved does HR need to be?
As HR we are typically not technology experts (of course with exceptions!), so we have to be careful of how we aim to influence this working methodology, however it’s suggested that neither side should drive Agile. HR is perhaps better placed to act as a ‘thought-partner’ to enable what is required of the project.
As HR do we have to practice Agile?
Agile is unlikely to work within every business, depending on style or industry. However, being aware of more contemporary approaches is incredibly useful from an HR perspective, even if HR doesn’t adopt the methodologies themselves.
There is a danger that an Agile team can cocoon themselves as self sufficient. So we need to find a way to educate and influence these teams to the cultural ways of the business.
What strategies need to be in place to recruit these new types of hires?
Agile offers more of a real time working process. When interviewing these types of candidates it seems that the selection process leans more toward assessing real life scenarios and providing technical challenges that require the applicant to use key project members in the roles of colleagues and clients. This is often being coupled with online games.
What does a great hire look like for your organisation?
Different teams require different skills, so how do you articulate what a great hire looks like for your business? An interesting approach is to create a recruiting panel built up of members across the teams in addition to key HR colleagues, who are collectively in agreement of what good looks like and who can ensure a common approach to recruiting. HR can support and lead but it is the technical team that come up with the core competencies and behaviours needed.
What on-boarding is required to get these new hires up and running?
Once a new hire has been appointed, the responsibility does not stop there. On-boarding will play a significant role in the success of the hire and the individual’s overall contribution to the business. An Agile working style means the sands are constantly shifting so it is often beneficial for the most recent appointment to act as a mentor and ambassador to the new recruit, as they are best placed to share relevant information with them from their own experiences.
- Have we done enough at interview stage to understand the needs and style of the new employee?
- Do we need to build a bespoke on-boarding process for each individual entering an Agile working environment?
- Is this feasible?
How can we monitor and assess the performance of individuals and teams working under the Agile methodology?
With Agile being so fluid it is often the approach to remove obvious and rigid timelines and introduce a more flexible review process – this, however, of course needs to be balanced with the more traditional management styles that exist in your organisation.
The starting point surely needs to be ‘what does good look like’? Agile projects are an ongoing build-up of data that can be used for continual assessment; so would more regular feedback result in better quality output? The challenges of HR and a business delivering this ultimately comes down to an organisation having the required systems in place, the time to conduct it and of course the budget.
So how do you build a business case?
The business needs educating in what Agile actually is, the difference to the more contemporary approach and how the business will benefit by building data, saving time, improving revenue and increasing client satisfaction.
From a workforce planning perspective it is important to challenge what the business actually needs against what it wants.
- Just because everyone is talking about Agile working, it may not be best for your organisation
- HR doesn’t necessarily have to adopt Agile working approaches, however we should certainly understand the methodology to be equipped to support teams in our organisations who might be using it
- Rather than being truly Agile, perhaps it’s a case of being more ‘adaptable’ in certain situations
- With Agile there is constant movement – we need to be aware of how this will affect HR as a business partner
- Focus needs to be placed on accountability when operating a ‘flat’ structure
- Utilise your existing Agile team(s’) experiences and expertise when recruiting and on-boarding these types of hires.