What Can HR Learn from Tech's Agile Methodology?

A common frustration for an HR professional is to hear that HR is stagnant, never changes or is stuck in the past. Has HR outlived its usefulness? My years in the world of software development companies, and recent interaction with several agile advocating friends, have made me wonder…are there concepts that HR can borrow from our cutting-edge counterparts in the tech industry to increase our relevance and effectiveness?

In the competitive tech market, it is a matter of survival for software development companies to stay relevant and flexible. Survival instinct leads tech companies to divert from traditional development methodology toward agile methodology, rooted in collaboration, innovation, and continuous improvement.

Agile methodology is made up of four fundamental values:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan.

From an HR perspective, the agile methodology lends us a unique and innovative framework for managing employee performance and development. 

How would agile performance management differ from traditional performance management? 

The key to an effective agile performance management methodology is to create a collaborative environment where employees can continuously learn, improve, grow and produce. By being less focused on a rating or review and more focused on regularly optimizing performance throughout the development journey, you can cultivate authentic, meaningful relationships between managers and employees while boosting engagement, performance and desired outcomes. 

From a bird's eye view, taking an agile approach to people management means:

  • Prioritizing fluid feedback and communication vs annual feedback.
  • Setting flexible performance goals vs rigid performance goals. Expect change.
  • Encouraging collaboration and a team approach to the pursuit of goals.
  • Focusing on recognizing and acknowledging incremental growth.

How can I implement agile performance management?

By applying agile principles to your performance management strategy, you’ll improve individual performance and enable high-performing and collaborative teams.

1. Welcome Change 

For performance and development reviews to be successful, managers and employees must be able to identify when things are going off course and adjust based on real-time information. If both parties are receptive to a plan that changes and evolves, they will accomplish significantly more than they would by forging ahead on outdated and irrelevant information. 

2. Deliver Frequently 

Performance feedback that is delivered once per year is not worth the breath it consumes. Feedback and communication about performance, development, goals and progress should be fluid and continuous. Acknowledging incremental effort and improvement provides positive reinforcement and encourages employees to achieve more.

3. Work Together 

Performance management and development needs to be a team effort, with two-way dialogue and common goals. Failure to achieve performance targets should be viewed as a team failure rather than an individual failure. Conversely, performance successes should acknowledge team contributions.

4. Sustainable Development 

As the leader, be prepared to recognize when it is time to push and time to ease up. And be prepared to adjust goals to accommodate work priorities and life events.

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