In any organization, HR can be playing fundamentally different roles.
One is a kind of “administrator” acting principally as agent implementing processes on behalf of the top management. A second is that of a “moderator,” who seeks to be responsive to the needs of all stakeholders—managers, staff, shareholders; in this role, when HR refers to customers, it is usually referring to internal customers. And third is where HR is acting as “Agile business partner” in a role that is focused on delivering value for external customers.
In an agile organization, HR needs to provide the same services it’s always provided — hiring, professional development, performance management — but in ways that are responsive to the ongoing changes in the culture and work style of the organization.
In the article “Embracing Agile” by Harvard Business Review, the authors talk about how the spread of agile raises intriguing possibilities: “What if a company could achieve positive returns with 50% more of its new-product introductions? What if marketing programs could generate 40% more customer inquiries? What if human resources could recruit 60% more of its highest-priority targets? What if twice as many workers were emotionally engaged in their jobs? Agile has brought these levels of improvement to IT. The opportunity in other parts of the company is substantial.”
Agile organisations are inquisitive and eager to learn. They attract individuals with the same attitude and curiosity to continue to learn and adapt. That means training isn’t something that’s done to tick a career development box, or to top up existing functional skills. Instead, it’s part of the implicit contract between employer and employee, as organisations become ‘deliberately developmental’. People behave and learn in a different way. Therefore it’s the responsibility of HR to create practices/experiences that impact people and customer experience.
HR needs to partner with Marketing, IT and Operations to set up cross-functional teams to design an employee experience that’s linked to value. Technology, demographic shifts, an augmented workforce and artificial intelligence are challenging HR to understand that “one size doesn’t fit all anymore”. It is necessary to customize jobs, performance practices, learning and career paths.
Organizations will need to develop a stronger customer support function to design an excellent customer experience and achieve growth and profitability. This a great opportunity to create a culture of agility and innovation. One where new behaviors and values will need to be represented by leadership and align goals, technology, structure and talent linked to speed to market. This new culture should make everyone passionate about and obsessed with delivering a great customer experience.
The way organisations think and operate is radically changing, and people are at the center of this change. HR teams are fundamental to achieving greater levels of organisational agility – and therefore to companies surviving and thriving. But they need to radically re-think the way things have been done for years and embrace the new agile mind-set.
Is your organisation gearing towards an agile environment?