Agile HR and the hybrid workplace with Natal Dank

“There is no point in embracing agile unless you know what problem you’re trying to solve”

We now live in a complex world and we’ve got to be able to operate in a different way to stay competitive, and every context is different but everyone is facing similar challenges. 

Natal and I delve into Agile HR and how it is evolving in the more hybrid workplace. Agility is inextricably linked to digital and transformation strategy and we need to modernise and enrich the employee experience, add value, demonstrate impact, and take a multiskilled approach to solving complex problems. 

Organisations need to unpick legacy (IT and human legacy) and build a more agile mindset and ways of working to be more constructively disruptive. Agile doesn’t need to be called “agile” but it does need to be anchored in understanding of the overall business purpose and create the environment and leadership for the system and the culture to adapt accordingly. 

Natal shares her insights and experience from working with businesses big and small across the globe on defining the best approach to stay competitive and constantly meet customer’s evolving needs. 

The main insights you’ll get from this episode are :

–       Agile HR for the 21st century must ensure that a company is great place to work and enable business agility through people practices – understanding where business is at and dealing with complexity and constant change.

–       Agility is inextricably linked to strategy in terms of transformation and digitisation and HR must lead by example – modernise and enrich the employee experience, add value, demonstrate impact, and take a multiskilled approach to solving complex problems.

–       The Agile manifesto cites people before process – HR must follow best practice, transpose talent frameworks and understand the context: examples can be borrowed but each company must have its own system/approach that can adapt and evolve.

–       Agile tools don’t work without an agile mindset/culture (cf. Simon Powers’ 3 beliefs: complexity, people, proactive) but this can be a chicken-or-egg scenario, e.g. if a company’s purpose requires agility with regard to reskilling the workforce or changing the supply chain.

–       Everyone faces the same problems, such as disrupted markets and a drive towards business agility, but agility must be individualised: change management, project management and consulting (one size fits all, top-down) must be replaced by continuous evolution.

–       Disruption is the reality, but measurement is still necessary although targets will change and may be wrong. Agile HR should use a tracking/understanding dashboard and data-driven decisions to see both the bigger picture and the crossover between HR and other functions.

–       Job descriptions no longer define one particular skillset or role, and agile organisational design must bring people together in a multiskilled way to solve problems as they arise by scaling up and down within the network, understanding different capabilities and gaps.

–       A T-shaped approach provides the general capability to navigate different business scenarios with specialisms where required; T-shaped teams can undertake multiple projects with a combined collection of specialised skills to provide more stability.

–       Company-wide, there must be a good understanding of how to use skills, offer holistic career development and improve the employee experience. There should be no proprietary rights to team members; people should be helped to find their place in the new ecosystem.

–       Recruitment should be based on both a T shape and what is good for the organisation as a whole, but not at the cost of belonging to a specific team served by its manager. Many scenarios require a collaborative team approach; the disconnects under the surface must be discussed and resolved with a strong vision.

–       Post-pandemic, there are tensions between the hybrid approach favoured by workers and leaders wanting in-person working – this is the true future of work and agile working requires careful selection of tools, open communication, and trust from leaders.

–       The digitisation of work is profound and we must adapt. It has empowered people to say what they feel about the system, which changes the identity of leaders, who are called upon to inspire in a complex environment; we must all hold ourselves to account and HR can ensure that the company purpose is intact and honoured.

–       Not all hybrid models suit everyone, and companies must take an agile approach to developing their own model by engaging people in the solution. Agile is a disciplined way of working and the discipline of the agile cycle builds adaptability and drives purpose.

–       Companies can’t afford to miss the market opportunity: values must be authentic, lived and linked to the purpose of the business, and strategy must reflect the purpose and link back to delivery – this holistic view is essential.  

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Suzie Lewis

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