An Agile State of Mind: Where we’re at in HR

Remember when we said it’s time to think about HR and Agile as two inseparable best friends? It was just before we had our Q&A with Tom Haak from the HR Trend Institute in November last year. He said he’d heard a lot about agilisation, but wasn’t seeing that much of it in the HR sector yet. He also pointed out (correctly) that talking about agile isn’t going to change anything if the industry doesn’t start to behave in a more agile way. This leads us to the question: did we speak about inseparable best friends too soon or not? Which is why we wanted to take a closer look at the current state of Agile affairs in the HR world. Today we are in an Agile State of Mind, finding out where we’re at.

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A Quick Recap

First off, let’s refresh your memory, November is a little while ago after all. The Agile method dates from the early 2000’s and started with a bunch of top developers coming together to find a more efficient way of creating software. Before, projects used to be separated into 4 different stages: analysis, design, code and test. An important downside of this system was that if delays occurred, people would try to make up for the lost time by cutting short the test phase. This in turn had a not so great impact on the quality of the software.

Combined with other inconveniences linked to ‘old way’ of doing things and a rapidly changing world, this led to the arrival of Agile software development. Instead of dividing a project into individual stages, analysis, design, code and test are on-going activities. The main benefit of this approach being the fact that testing starts right from the beginning so that developers can correct things immediately if necessary. Since it’s first introduction almost 17 years ago, the Agile success story – faster, cheaper & customer orientated – has been picked up by numerous other industries. HR (eventually) included.

Facts & Figures

Now what do we know for a fact about Agile HR? That it has over 10 million hits on Google for example. Which may seem like a lot, but when you look up HR you get over 1 billion hits, so all is relative. If we dive a little deeper in the Google stats, we see that slowly but surely the interest in ‘Agile HR’ as a search term has risen. There was a big initial peak in 2004 – probably because someone yelled something about Agile HR for the first time back then – but since mid 2011 there has been a constant (modest) increase. Below you see the Google Trends ‘interest over time’ graph from 2012 till now.

Something a lot of people seem to agree on however, is that 2017 is the year that will see HR transform to be Agile. One HR Trend list after another speaks about how HR will ‘embrace Agile’ this year. Right, it should be noted though that this agilisation has been on similar trend lists before…

So what else is there? Do we have examples of companies actually using Agile techniques for their HR activities? Yes we do. In her top trends for 2017 article, Jeanne Meister mentions an Agile approach to recruit and develop employees and gives us a couple of real-life illustrations: a former global head of talent acquisition at GE Digital that applied Agile techn