How HR Can Become Agile in 2020: 14 Ways To Support an Agile Strategy

How HR Can Become Agile in 2020: 14 Ways To Support an Agile Strategy


In the last few years, there has been a huge push for companies to become more agile. The reason being that it provides a competitive advantage when there is a big change in the market. This has never been more true than in 2020 considering the impact that COVID-19 has had across all industries!

With more teams working remotely now than ever before, it can be difficult to determine the best way to implement an effective agile strategy. That is why we sat down with 14 HR professionals to learn what they are doing to ensure that they are maintaining their businesses’ agility!

Moving Quickly, Without All the Answers

HR has historically had the reputation of a control or policing entity. HR is well positioned in the current COVID-19 crisis to emerge with innovative strategies to advance their organizations. It will require moving quickly—often without having all the answers. In addition, HR can be front and center in the strategies to address racial inequities. Failure to move assertively forward will position HR in the background & shadows vs. the forefront at this critical time in history.

Rachel Schaming, Executive Coach

Vary Communication Styles

Personalize it for extroverts who prefer telephone or web conversation for energy. For introverted employees, e-mails may be their preferred communication. Vary the communication to address both personality styles. Different approaches to engage a remote workforce will also be necessary.

Shelley Williams, Arizona SHRM

Listen in on AZSHRM “Agile” Sessions

Take a look at the AZSHRM conference agenda and you’ll see that the word “agile” is was mentioned in several sessions (including a keynote). Why is agility an important topic for Human Resources? Because agile strategies are being implemented from the top down on a global level at companies of all sizes. Agile is a word that captures what companies are going through in 2020. Implementing remote work. Firing and hiring. New policies to capture the new normal. The list goes on. The world around us has shifted to an agile environment. To support this shift, Arizona HR professionals should pay close attention to the conversation happening around agile in the upcoming state conference. 

Brett Farmiloe, Scottsdale SEO Agency

Take off the HR Hat and Be an Employee Advocate

HR professionals focus on how to balance the employee experience and the organization’s strategic vision. In order to attain this goal, we have to adapt to an ever-changing environment, however, we tend to lose sight of one of the best resources available to us; ourselves. All HR professionals are first and foremost employees, and this crucial piece of the agility puzzle can be overlooked as we try to navigate the new employee experience and organization operations during the current crisis. 

Taking off our HR hat makes an HR professional determine what they need as an employee to continue moving through this unprecedented time, and ultimately how the HR function and the organization can meet those needs. Without understanding employee needs there are no employees, and without people, there is no organization. In order to survive and thrive through this time HR must not forget their agile role of being an employee and an employee advocate. 

Rachel Barr, iSolved HCM

Virtual Presentation About Policy Changes

HR professionals are learning to navigate the new normal just like everyone else. A great way to show support for staff is to hold a virtual presentation letting staff know of any policy changes, the best way to get in contact with you and your plans to keep morale strong. The best way to adapt is to share what you know and make employees feel cared for and in the loop as far as company policy goes. Giving them as much information as you can will ease concern and hopefully eliminate miscommunication. 

Rex Murphy, Montauk Services

Design, Serve and Support a Solution

In HR, like software, there are two parts to solving problems. The first is “designing” a solution – the second is “serving and supporting” the solution in the market. Application of agile principles will radically change service delivery models.

Mark Christensen, Arizona SHRM

Adopt “Normal” Work Life Into Virtual Settings

HR professionals have to think quickly and adapt to the ongoing changes within their organization. Being able to take aspects of “normal” work life like team bonding and company gatherings and adapting them to a virtual setting where employees can still enjoy those things, along with a sense of normalcy, is a crucial skill that will keep morale high despite the unprecedented times. Without HR pioneering these efforts, company spirit will begin to fade. 

Francesca Yardley, Threads

Create a Safe Virtual Space

Creating a safe virtual space for employees to go is crucial during the midst of the pandemic. Many companies are working from home and while incidents are probably lower, HR professionals still have to deal with behavior and conduct issues – in office and working from home. With that being said, HR professionals need to implement a safe protocol that allows for employees to air their grievances and come to an effective solution despite not being in the traditional work space. 

Jon Schneider, Recruiterie 

Implement Small Pieces of a Core Agile Mindset

Human resources is just like any other department or business unit in a company.  They have people, processes and tools. The agile frameworks work in all environments, and HR is no exception.  My advice to HR professionals is to start small, get some training in Agile and start to implement small pieces of the core agile mindset.  For example: recruiting can be considered a project. Why not break this process up into smaller, more iterative batches of work?

Debra Hildebrand, LurnAgile

Actively Seeking Strategic Partnerships

HR can become agile by first removing this phrase from our vocabulary: “that is how we’ve always done it.” In addition, HR team members should actively look for ways to build stronger strategic partnerships with other business units to unlock potential through innovation across the organization.

Niki Ramirez, HR Answers

Celebrate Now While Paying Attention to Future Goals

The world has never felt more uncertain than it does now and it’s important that we adjust our expectations specific to planning. Some people think “agile” means working without a plan but I disagree—I think it’s about finding a way to celebrate short-term accomplishments while still keeping an eye toward long-term, aspirational goals. By adopting a combination of short-term (think 30-60-90 day) goals and long-term (think 1-2 years, not 10 years) goals, you leave yourself the ability to evolve your tactics as the world continues to change, increasing relevancy and hopefully, ability to achieve those long-term goals.

Christina Zurek, ITA Group

Learn on the Fly  

The ability to pivot has become essential to the HR function since COVID-19 hit. They must be ready to shift priorities and focus on immediate needs. Timelines and projects have been changed at a lightning speed pace. Staying visible, leading with purpose, having constant communication, and accepting accountability are all crucial currently for agile HR leaders. There is no playbook for our current circumstances so the ability to learn on the fly and make needed changes has become core to HR.

Tyler Butler, 11Eleven Consulting

Be Adaptable, Flexible and Resilient 

HR needs to first align with leadership to decide where its alliances lie. Will they align with employees, or the company, or both? And what stand will HR take? Is the company in it for the long term or short? Being agile means being adaptable, flexible and resilient. But compassion is also key. Is that the type of person you have in an HR role? And does leadership truly walk the talk here. A company, and its leaders, need to think about what they want to be known for once the current pandemic is over.

Melissa Lamson, Lamson Consulting

Move Away From a Start and Stop Mindset

Breaking HR down into micro-functions is one of the best ways to adopt an agile structure. Smaller units within the department can respond more quickly to needs, both internal and external. Teams can offer more relevant and individualized support, plus benefit from less bureaucratic hoops to jump through. 

Also, review how HR decides which projects to take on in the first place, as well as the timing of project workflows. To be more agile, project workflows need to move away from a static, “start and stop” mindset and into something that’s ongoing and frequently reviewed, tweaked, updated, and tracked for success. This new model should be applied to all HR projects the department takes on.

Ty Stewart, Simple Life Insure