Agile HR – Sort Of

An article called Are You Ready for the Agile Future presents a brief discussion about the role of HR in an agile organization. There are several very good ideas. The basic idea is that the HR function must adapt to the nature of agility. This in turn means, for example, hiring people that are agile, nimble, adaptable etc.

There are however some mis-steps in the article.


One is an ommission: the HR organization must itself become agile. In one organization that I worked, it took at a minimum 4 weeks and typically 12 weeks to get a contractor onto a project. Three months lead time!!! Now admittedly, it is not easy to bring an individual on-board quickly. However, it is possible. Some organizations I have worked at have lead times for getting new people into the organization that are on the order of 2 weeks including search, selection, administration and orientation. In these organizations, the HR organization maintains an attitude to their own work as service to the larger organzation… and the faster the service (without sacrificing quality), the better.

The article also misses the mark on employee performance. Employees should be measured on their sphere of influence, not their sphere of responsibility. In other words, if a person is a member of a team, their own performance should be judged by the performance of the team as a whole. This mitigates people’s competitive habits and positively reinforces collaboration. People should not be measured against their role description.

One of the recommendations in the article is to “Create selection, testing and hiring criteria that identify diverse, resilient, nimble people.” Unfortunately, there is no guidance on how to do this. Here are some ideas: look for people who have moved between projects, roles, employers and even locations frequently, look for people whose resumes contain lots of work that doesn’t fit their job titles, look for people who have hobbies and interests that are outside their field of specialization, look for people who have diverse volunteer experience, look for people who ask lots of questions.

(Thanks to Deb Hartmann for the link.)


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