With the workforce constantly changing, many professionals now prefer working remotely. The gig economy is expanding, and employees have different expectations from employers. As a result, attracting and retaining top talent depends on how quickly an organization can adapt to these changes. And this is when agile HR comes into play.

Agile methodology is derived from project management principles and prioritizes flexibility and adaptability, which is why it is perfect for today’s HR teams. So, this article will cover all you need to know about implementing Agile methodologies into your HR processes to help you deliver greater value to employees and, eventually, your customers.

What is Agile HR?

Learning session at work (Agile HR blog)


Before we explain what Agile HR means, let’s discuss the two words: Agile and HR. 

Agile, as in agile methodology, is an approach to project management that involves breaking down projects into smaller, manageable phases known as sprints. It is an iterative methodology where, after each sprint, teams reflect on areas for improvement for the next sprint. 

The University of Minnesota defines HRM (human resources management) as the process of employing, training, and compensating people, as well as developing policies and strategies to aid and retain them. 

Combining the two, Agile HR simply means adopting principles that will improve human resources management. So, these principles typically promote flexibility, collaboration, and continuous improvement — all of which make the HR process more efficient. 

Core Principles of Agile HR

Now, let’s examine what transferring these principles looks like in HR.

Iterative approach

Agile HR urges HR professionals to break down complex projects into sprints. Each sprint usually lasts one to four weeks, during which they can achieve set goals, receive continuous feedback, and make necessary adjustments. Therefore, this enables HR teams to create and improve initiatives that align with the evolving needs of the company. 

Employee empowerment

As an HR professional, it’s essential to give employees the tools to be self-sufficient. Agile HR ensures employees are involved in decision-making, values their input, and encourages them to take ownership of their development. So, this empowerment results in higher levels of motivation, engagement, and productivity. 

Adaptability and flexibility

Agile HR flourishes in dynamic environments, easily adapting to changes in business needs, workforce dynamics, and industry trends. In terms of flexibility, it embraces it in processes, approaches, and roles, enabling quick responses to budding challenges and opportunities. 

Collaborative decision-making

Agile methodology recognizes the value of employees’ and stakeholders’ collective intelligence. Thus, cross-functional collaboration is encouraged to solve problems, make decisions, and drive initiatives. 

This way, organizations can harness the diverse skills and insight of their workforce, fostering innovation and engagement. 

Data-driven insights

Data helps a company to understand and improve its business processes to avoid wasting time and resources. Agile HR uses data analytics to analyze workforce trends, enabling informed decision-making and strategy development. 

Traditional HR vs. Agile HR

Demonstration with white board


Traditional HR practices prioritize rules and standards within a stricter hierarchical structure. Agile HR, on the other hand, focuses on a much simpler and faster approach that promotes collaboration, feedback, and innovation. 

Here’s how they compare when executing different HR functions:

Recruitment and selection

With traditional HR practices, hiring and selection only happen when there is a need, such as when there is a vacancy. Agile HR takes a more proactive approach. 

They encourage the active participation of team members and leaders in selecting the best candidate and also introduce a simulation of a real work situation where the candidate performs an exercise related to the work they will do in their role. This way, the hiring team, and future teammates can understand how the candidate will fit in. 

Training and development

In the traditional method, employee training and development are treated as a box-ticking event since they are legally mandatory. Companies develop skills related only to the job role. 

An agile approach sees learning as a lifelong endeavor, regardless of the specific job requirements. 

This approach properly utilizes employees’ different skill sets. It is a concept that is related to the T career model and the notion of multipotentiality, which champions that we all have several areas in which we can excel, taking into account our diverse talents and abilities. 

People management

Attracting, developing, and retaining talent falls solely on the HR team in the traditional process. However, this is a collective responsibility with the agile methodology. Leadership, management, and HR professionals actively contribute to talent management. 

People management involves different elements and requires employees to take an active role through self-management and self-awareness. 

Benefits of Agile HR 

There are many reasons to implement Agile HR in your organization, including:

  • Greater flexibility: Agile HR allows companies to be more responsive to business changes. This means you can quickly adapt HR processes to meet the needs of the business and its employees. 
  • Improved employee engagement: One of the main goals of agile HR is promoting continuous feedback and learning. Through this feedback, HR can develop an engaging and inclusive work environment that recognizes employee input. 
  • Better collaboration: Implementing agile into your HR processes facilitates collaboration across teams. When HR professionals work in cross-functional, development teams, they can exchange knowledge and ideas, leading to better outcomes. 
  • Enhanced customer focus: Customer centricity is one of the principles of the agile methodology. Adopting it in HR enables HR teams to understand the needs of customers (employees), which leads to creating and delivering solutions that meet those needs. 
  • Continuous learning and improvement: A learning culture helps organizations remain competitive and boosts employees’ confidence. Agile processes involve regular feedback loops and retrospectives used to identify areas for growth. HR teams can leverage auditing software during this process to streamline data collection on various metrics, such as team velocity, cycle time, and bottlenecks. This data can then be analyzed to identify areas for improvement and inform future iterations.
  • Improved outcomes: Agile methodologies prioritize outcomes over activities. Companies can improve the quality of their HR services by measuring outcomes and continually improving processes. 

How to Implement Agile HR

Workplace learning session with white board.


Agile methodology implementation while slowly discarding your existing HR process may seem daunting. You need to learn these new terminologies and move away from what is familiar. However, the benefit of being able to quickly adapt to changes in HR trends and business needs outweighs the initial discomfort. 

Here are five steps to make your HR processes agile.

1. Assess current HR practices

The first step is to evaluate your current human resources management practices to identify the root of the problem. That starts with speaking with the people who are most affected by the policies: employees. 

Afterward, use the information you have collected to create a comprehensive roadmap of your existing HR processes. This roadmap should highlight every problem and missing step that prevents the HR team from cultivating a people-first culture. 

The next step is to get people on board. 

2. Get stakeholder buy-in

Adopting an agile approach to your HR process is a big change, so you need key players to accept it for it to be successful. This goes beyond talking to senior leadership and HR leaders. You also need to convince other department heads and the employees who will be most affected. 

Getting stakeholders’ buy-in requires you to make a business case for an agile methodology implementation. That means outlining the most pressing HR issue your organization faces—for instance, low employee engagement or slow time-to-hire. 

Then, you need to link each challenge to how agile principles can address them. For example, agile’s focus on iterative feedback can address low engagement by enabling continuous improvement of HR initiatives. 

Additionally, if you are in an industry with strict compliance requirements, you need to convince stakeholders that moving to agile methodologies won’t put the company at risk of non-compliance. Conducting a compliance auditing beforehand will go a long way toward reassuring them that the transition can be made without jeopardizing regulatory standards.

3. Educate your entire team

With everyone onboard, it is time to train your team. They will need to understand the meaning of different terms like scrum, sprint review, product backlog, and standups.

See if any members of your workforce have experience in agile methods or agile projects. If they don’t, hire an agile consultant or coach to train them. The Agile Manifesto can also be useful here. Encourage your team to read it and familiarize themselves with its principles. 

Also, prepare team leaders in your organization to become scrum masters. Scrum masters lead daily stand-up meetings, facilitate team collaboration, and help remove any obstacles hindering the team’s progress.

4. Formulate your agile team

In the context of HR, your agile team may consist of a scrum master, HR leaders, HR process experts, such as talent acquisition and people analytics specialists, employee representatives, and IT and legal professionals. 

The team will focus on setting objectives and planning the workload for the backlog. Your Scrum Master will be responsible for coaching the team and keeping them on track. Then, you will provide regular feedback for improvements. 

5. Create a backlog

A backlog in agile is a changing list of requirements based on customer satisfaction and (employee) needs. It shouldn’t be confused with a to-do list—rather, it is a dynamic document that evolves as priorities shift and new information comes to light. 

At this stage, you will encourage your agile HR team to create a list of work they’d like to accomplish within a short period—typically, one to four weeks. This could include tasks like refining job descriptions, developing training materials, or conducting employee satisfaction surveys. 

Ensure the backlog aligns with your HR department goals and has flexible elements that can be managed during sprints. 

6. Conduct your first sprint

Once you have created your backlog, decide what task you would like to work on during the sprint. Calculate the approximate time it will take to complete each item in your backlog. Your agile team must be mobilized and ready to collaborate during the sprint. During daily meetings, the team should assess the success and failure of the sprints.

7. Review and feedback

After completing your sprint, hold a retrospective meeting to analyze the highs and the lows. In this meeting, you must collect feedback from the team, as well as customer feedback (employees). After all, the whole point of implementing this methodology is to improve the employee experience.

These regular meetings will help you understand the issues the team encountered during the sprint. Was the sprint’s timeline sufficient? How will you plan the next standup meeting? Etc. Answer these questions to identify successes and failures.

Whenever your team manages to complete a sprint successfully, acknowledge their hard work to boost morale.

The Bottom Line

The fundamental concept of the agile methodology is continuous learning. So, if you want to transform your company’s HR processes to agile, focus on consistent learning and development. It is a time-intensive process, but the benefits are worth it. 

Follow the steps above to achieve a smooth agile methodology implementation in your HR procedures. As you experiment, remember failure is an opportunity to improve. Embrace review and feedback, and watch your organization grow stronger with each iteration.

by in HR Content