Are your HR Practices Lean Enough? - Scale Engagement Agility

In today's rapidly changing world of disruptive innovation organizations need to be nimble enough to support this.  We are asking our workforce to do this by becoming 'agile'.  We want the agility to quickly pivot and seize new opportunities.  We want to deliver to market sooner. We want our employees to innovate and deliver highly complex work more rapidly.  

Today's organizations are moving away from large transformational events and moving toward doing continuous change.  These organizations are flat.  How do we create a culture that inspire employee engagement to enable these organizations to thrive in this continuous change?

Agility is no longer just an IT or Engineering movement, it is something that the entire organization needs to embrace.  For this to be effective and long lived it needs the full involvement of human resources, organizational leaders, and change agents.  There is some thought leaders that are already forward thinking and creating events for all these disciplines to come together to align to this common purpose.  The Spark the Change event held in Toronto facilitated this movement.

"Individual commitment to a group effort--that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work." --Vince Lombardi

In my last blog post - Scaling Engagement Agility, I voiced my concern Agilists (change agents) to think beyond scaling frameworks and tooling.  As Agilists, we need to rethink and adapt our beliefs.  For example, in the 1990s and early 2000's we took a strong stand on co-located teams.  We said this was a critical for an organization to adopt agile.  Although, co-location is the highest fidelity for interacting, it does not match trends in the workforce of home offices.  The technology tools available for collaboration has narrowed the gap of communication challenges with distributed teams.  This can help support the workforce trend of working from home or in coffee shops.

HR traditionally believed it's function is to put order and structure to the organization, yet Agile believes in rapid change by breaking down structure and order. - James Cleaver

Human resource practices need to adapt to this new fast-paced environment.  They need to become 'lean', they need to become 'flexible', they need to become 'agile'. There is no longer a guaranteed long relationship between employee and employer.  The balance of power used to be with the employer. The employer would be their only one for the duration of the employee's career.  In today's world there is more of a balance between employer and employee.   

Our workforce doesn't look at getting a job with you and staying there the rest of their lives unconditionally.  They see their job as a reflection of who they are, not merely what they do to earn money.  Our employees will always desire to grow and evolve because of this connection between what they do and who they are.  They have more opportunities available to them.  No longer are they restricted by the geographic location.  They have an ability to work for any organization around the world.  

The average worker today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest employees is about half that.

Ninety-one percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers. That means they would have 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their working lives!

In this new equilibrium of power we need to treat our employees like potential customers.  I always hear the phrase that we need to make it easy for customers to do business with us.  I also contend we need to make it very easy for employees to work for us.  So how do we create an employee centric atmosphere in this new workforce?  We need to take a holistic approach in creating this employee centric environment.

Dr. Philip A Foster stated, "It was predicted that by the year 2000 that less than 50% of the working population would be in full time employment. In 2011 the number was actually less than 45%. If we play that trend out, by the year 2040 it is anticipated that there will be less than 30% in full time employment."

What are some things we can look at to connect with employees quicker and continually?

Job models.  How do we adjust this for the new rapid workforce?  If we want our organizations to innovate and change, how can we lock down long term career paths?  We still need some sense of how an employee will fit and grow within an organization but it doesn't make sense to make them so long and rigid.  Instead of projecting their career for the next 5 to 10 years we should shorten the horizon to 2 to 3 years.  We keep these as lean and flexible as possible.  As your organization innovates and changes new roles and job models will arise. Keeping open and flexible models allows employees to see themselves in a continually changing organization.

Training.  How do we training budgets closer to the employees?  How do we allow for more autonomy to the person of what they can choose for training?  If the training can only be approved based on today's goals, how do we open our employees minds up to training that might help the organization pivot to new opportunities?  We need to make these resources closer to the employee so they have more direct access.

Performance reviews.  In today's environment of rapid and continual change, I believe we need to accelerate from twice a year to continual performance reviews.  Continual performance reviews are just continual feedback loops.  These feedback loops are no longer just between manager and employee, but all the people that this employee interfaces with so they get this 360 continual view.  This continual feedback allows for continual positive reinforcement, frequent course corrections, and initiatives as needed.

Building a relationship with your people.  Your regular touch points with your employees need to be frequent and about them. This is all about them, not their projects or tasks.  Where do they see themselves? What's on their minds?  What are they dealing with.  If you are not doing this regularly, I guarantee that a recruiter from another company is. In today's connected world outsiders have access to our people and they know it's about them to steal them away.

The whole organization needs to work together to retain their best talent and keep them engaged.  No longer can there be disconnected independent initiatives working in silos.  We all need to work together HR, Leaders, Agilists, change agents and others.  I would love to hear your thoughts and what your organization is doing.

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." --Henry Ford

David Dame

Please join the LinkedIn Group to have discussions and share what your organization is doing on Engagement Agility

Scaling Engagement Agility

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” - Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup

To create Organizational Agility you need to find the harmony between People, Process, and Tools.  Agile speaks of putting people first, however from my experience, people are the poor step child to process and tools.  People should be the driver, not the passenger.  Creating Organizational Agility means scaling the employee engagement to have and maintain the culture of a start-up.  My experience in scaling agile across large organizations is that even when you put the right process framework and practices in place, you are still missing something.  People are going through the motions but there is a lacklustre of excitement.  They are 'doing' agile, but they are not 'being' agile.  They don't have that passion to innovate the product or how they're creating it.  

People are the heartbeat of the organization.  They are the ones who represent you to your customers.  They are the ones that define you.  Their skills.  Their talents.  Their passion. The intangibles that only they bring as a person.  

If you look at start-up they have very few processes and tools.  However they have a collective passion to get product or service into the market place.  This is because they have the people who are emotionally vested in a common goal.  They know the 'why' behind what they are creating. They know what they individually contribute toward that goal.

As organizations grow, or scale, they lose sight of this.  They spend less time recruiting for the right people (focusing on the skills rather than behaviours), reduce training budgets, don't invest in coaching, and merely just lose regular touch points with their people.  They try to replace this with process.  Process can help people go through actions in a similar way, but does little to nourish that passion that motivates them to do something a different way, a better way.  Why do we move away from focusing on our people?  We know it works.  Process can't scale the behaviours, talents, intangibles, or passion of employees.  We need to foster people engagement in order to get bottom-up innovation.  This will build the culture you need to support agility.  

Instead of process scaling, think of engagement scaling.  Engagement scaling is how you build within your organization mechanisms to keep people passionate and purposeful.  

There is no silver bullet. This takes a lot of time and work. You need to build a relationship with the people.  

You need help them understand the problems you're trying to solve for your respective customers or market space.  Building that customer empathy that helps them understand the "why" the company is doing what they're doing.  The more they understand the problem the more collaberation and ideas to learn different ways to solve these problems.  They get vested in the purpose.  This relationship will make them feel more comfortable to propose and create innovative products and services because they are getting more insight from you.

Continually share the organization vision.  Explain how the organization is going to establish themselves in the marketplace.  Build the excitement.  Explain the values of the organization so that your people understand how the organization wants to be seen to the rest of the world.  Connect the dots to how your department or team will contribute to achieve and embody this.  Share your challenges...be transparent.  This will help them feel connected to helping you solve these challenges.

Most importantly, create a bond with your employee.  Have a deep understanding and interest into their goals.  What is their needs as an individual.  How can you help satisfy those needs.


Build a culture of 'fail-fast', learn, and make adjustments.

Develop problem solvers.  Let them discuss the challenges they are facing.  Resist the temptation of giving them your answers to these challenges.  Actively listen and ask questions to help them get a deeper perspective of their challenge so that they can come up with options to solve them.  Your job as a leader is not to figure out everything, but to coach your people to figure out solutions to their own challenges. Help them reflect on what they learned when they tried something and it didn't work.  

When they have a win, share in their happiness.  When they accomplish goals give them time to reflect.  Have them reflect on what they've learned from the success.

There is been countless studies that show that people are more productive when they feel the organization shares in their development and success.  This is all on you as a leader.  If you don't have time for this, question your role.  Engagement Agility is developing leaders throughout the whole organization to create an ecosystem of continual engagement.

How do you do this? I will be doing a series of blog posts digging deeper into the topic of scaling engagement and employee development in the agile world.  I will share things I have implemented - pragmatic strategies to achieve this.  I am calling this topic Engagement Agility. This is my passion that is inspired me to start writing a book on how to build this within large organizations. 

“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” - Simon Sinek

David Dame

Please join the LinkedIn Group to have discussions on Engagement Agility