Gone are the days of certainty and long-term plans. As the last year has shown us, you need to expect the unexpected, making agility a core characteristic of any successful learning team. But becoming an Agile learning function requires a much more holistic and integrated approach to supporting your people, which means working much more closely with your engagement and performance teams.

Ensuring that the entire human resources (HR) team is on the same page, aligned in their activities and in common goals, will leave your organization far better equipped to deal with the challenges of today’s workforce — whether that means remote working, managing growing skills gaps or facing a talent shortage.

What is an Agile HR Team?

An Agile HR team takes an iterative approach. While plans need to be made, they are not set in stone and blindly followed. They respond to challenges as they arise, building contingency and flexibility into their solutions and initiatives.

Agile HR teams are multidisciplinary and often cross-functional, so every member of the team at least understands what the other specialists are doing, thereby moving from T-professionals to Pi- or even M-shaped professionals, with multiple specialties. Agile HR teams communicate frequently and clearly to maximize the potential of the entire team. Bringing together specialties such as learning, employee engagement, performance management and coordinating the combined talent experience offered to employees, will help reduce friction, duplication and counterproductive outcomes that can arise when operating in siloed isolation.

Why Should Your HR Team Embrace Agile?

Put simply, an Agile HR team will be faster and more effective at adapting to change. Let’s take the COVID-19 pandemic as an example. As governments worldwide announced lockdowns, an Agile approach would have allowed HR teams to work together to communicate the switch to remote work, set everyone up with access to the necessary systems and would have arranged for all employees to receive the right equipment and technologies needed to work remotely. They would also would have been able to quickly move learning online, set up spaces for digital collaboration and knowledge sharing, and prompt managers to maintain their performance management check-ins.

Conversely, a traditional HR team would have likely struggled to cope. For thousands of organizations worldwide, workforces were not equipped to work remotely at the start of the pandemic, leading to days of downtime as HR teams scrambled to get the right access to resources and systems, and to communicate effectively. Employees felt isolated and uncertain, and conversations between colleagues, managers and direct reports dried up, leading to communication chasms and a severe drop in productivity.

How to Build an Agile HR Team

Building an Agile HR team relies on a combination of skills, behaviors and technologies.

Skills required for an Agile HR team include adaptability. HR teams may consider discovering their adaptability quotient (AQ) to better understand where they are now and where they need to improve. Additionally, resilience and stress tolerance are vital for HR teams wishing to become more Agile. In fact, they are highlighted on the World Economic Forum’s list of 10 skills we will need by 2025.

In terms of behaviors, HR teams must constantly listen to employees. Pulse surveys and regular manager check-ins are essential to understand how employees are feeling — and beyond this, HR must be prepared to respond quickly to what people are saying. An anonymous online feedback or suggestion box can give employees the confidence to suggest ideas or concerns even when working remotely, and the HR team should review and respond to these regularly – transparency and responsiveness are key tools in any agile HR team’s arsenal.

Technology use, monitoring and control are also included on the World Economic Forum’s list of skills, and selecting the right technology is fundamental to any successful HR strategy. Adaptable, open technology is the secret weapon of any Agile HR team, giving them the freedom to move with the times instead of being held back by proprietary technology.

Adopting a learning experience platform (LXP) is a great way to maintain communication and team work across the organization, keeping employees informed and engaged no matter what is going on in the wider world. Your HR team can create, curate and share content across the platform to foster collaboration and shared understanding, and everyone can weigh in on the challenges facing your organization’s talent management as a collective.

The More You Know …

The way for HR teams to improve their agility is to gather, analyze and act on meaningful data and metrics. Every HR sector should have a deep understanding of its data domain, whether that’s learning, compliance, employee engagement, performance or anything else.

While this data is valuable separately, it’s especially powerful when considered by the HR team as a whole. Instead of having each sector siloed within the HR team, bringing everyone together to pool data and ideas will help you reap the benefits of a united team revealing shared insights into the full talent experience you offer your people.

Collecting organization-wide data will help Agile HR teams answer key questions, including:

  • Is a drop in compliance related to a decrease in employee engagement?
  • Has your new learning initiative led to a greater-than-expected improvement in performance?
  • Are the teams which are engaging in the most training reporting the highest well-being levels?
  • Are the trending topics your people are sharing content on or discussions pointing to training or communications gaps that you can address more broadly?

Bringing your HR team together will ensure that everyone has a full understanding of your organization and its people, giving them the agility to respond and make iterative improvements — no matter what challenges you face over time.