“Agile has Nothing to Do with HR, right?”

HR is 100% compatible with Agile.  It is just a bit, different...

HR is 100% compatible with Agile.  It is just a bit, different...

This a common question Collaborative Leadership Team gets when working with an organization that is starting to work in an Agile way. Team members will always need compensation, benefits, safety, payroll, recruiting, training, and career development plans. But who should provide those items should be revisited.

Let’s take a look at a few of those HR areas through an agile lens.

  • Career Development Plans aka “Annual Assessments”: This is a big area of confusion in HR for Agile Teams. How can we compare a Business Analyst on a Scrum Team building a mobile application vs. a Business Analyst on a Scrum Team building a car? Our question to HR, is “why do you need to”? The typical answer is “because that allows us to force rank their contributions so we can provide higher salary increases to employees (not resources) that have contributed more to the organization”. That is a good, logical answer. But, in our experiences this has very rarely been seen as a truthful output of the annual assessment process. At the end of a very long, painful annual assessment process, 90% of the employees get 2-3% raises? Was that worth the effort invested? Check out this article from Harvard Business Review. Companies such as Adobe, Juniper Systems, Dell, Deloitte, Microsoft, and IBM have led the way in changing this antiquated approach. An amazing statistic shared by a Deloitte manager referred to the review process as “an investment of 1.8 million hours across the firm that didn’t fit our business needs anymore.” Just imagine how those 1.8 million hours could be used to create better products and services for the customers
  • Compensation, specifically salary increases: This is a challenging one for agile teams. Should all team members be paid equally? Should their salaries be transparent to each other? A recent Forbes article highlighted results from a survey conducted by The Cashlorette, a personal finance site run by Bankrate. It found that employees 18 to 36 years old are far more comfortable discussing their salaries with coworkers, friends, and family than workers in older generations. Here is our question for your HR and your Scrum Team to consider: “Is the question around team member salaries impacting the team’s ability to deliver value?” If “yes” a deeper conversation is needed. If “no”, keep on scrumming. Hey Scrum Masters, this might be a good topic for a retrospective.
  • Training: Traditionally HR helped create a career path. To go from a Developer I to a Developer II you had to have “A”, ”B”, and “C”. Did this help our organizations provide better products and services to our customers? Did this help with our attrition rate? If you can answer “yes” to either of those questions, keep going! And please share with us how you are doing that because we would love to learn from you. The beautiful (and scary) thing about Agile and Scrum Teams is that the team is cross-functional. Each development team member brings a core skill set that is critical to delivering a high quality product. But if during a specific sprint (the sprint is a time boxed effort; that is, it is restricted to a specific duration. The duration is fixed in advance for each sprint and is normally between one week and one month) a team member’s core skill set isn’t needed, that team member will work with another development team member around their core skill. It may even be their secondary or tertiary skill. Regardless, the development team members will train each other first. Sure, there will come a day when the skill needed is not on the team. That is when you would look into external training. But the training is in direct relation to what skill set is needed for the product or service. This is not an arbitrary training required by HR. The Development Team will be the first one to recognize a skill that is missing. They will work with each other, the Scrum Master, and the Product Owner to fill that gap.

Here is one real world story that our founder, Angela Johnson, CST, shares in most of her classes: At a credit card processing company, the CEO established a set of bonuses based on the achievement of team goals. When the team goals were achieved, he would provide the team with a cash bonus. Instead of dividing this up among the scrum team members, the CEO gives the bonus to the scrum team and lets them decide how the money is to be divided up. The CEO believes that the scrum team is in the best position to decide how to divide up the bonus!

Think about that. If you worked on a team, and in an organization like this, how would your behavior change?

Work is changing. Customers are changing. All functions of an organization will need to adjust to stay ahead of the competition.

Here is your opportunity to learn more. HRTechies is hosting a Certified ScrumMaster® class in St. Paul, Minnesota. Come get your CSM and have a conversation with the HRTechie Team Members to help you solve your biggest HR challenges.

Limited seats remain. Register here today.

About the Author: Tom Auld, CSP, is an Agile Coach and Trainer for the Collaborative Leadership Team (CLT).  At CLT we believe that organizations who can quickly adapt to change will lead their industry. To help organizations work differently, Collaborative Leadership Team provides customized training, coaching, and mentoring. This will build self-sustaining, learning organizations the can capture any opportunity and overcome any obstacle. Connect with Tom on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @CoLeadTeam & @tcauld.