3 Ways to Make Your People Management More Agile

We can only speculate what our future holds. We know that social distancing is the new normal. Managing your workforce for optimal productivity in this ever-shifting environment is a monumental task. It requires a continual shift towards embracing change and disruption through agility.

“At its core, agility helps people become comfortable being uncomfortable,” says Pamela Meyer, president of Meyer Agile Innovation, Inc and author of The Agility Shift. When we let go and stop trying to control our circumstances, we learn how to respond.

Agility helps your HR team act quickly to assess and respond to business needs. Here’s how to implement agile people management at your organization.

Anticipate and Learn

Adapting agility as a working method helps your workforce prepare for change management and allows your employees to react and adapt quickly. Experimentation is critical for HR teams to understand their workforce’s capacity. Disruption provides an opportunity to develop new agile processes. “Be intentional about engaging in iterative, learning-focused ways of working,” Meyer says. While remote work is entirely new for many of us, breaking our work processes into smaller steps can help us adapt to our new virtual environments.

“We often put people into fixed, rigid job descriptions,” says Pia-Maria Thorén, inspiration director at Agile People. “That leads to using only a part of their potential.” Recognizing their innovations and growth can lead to long-term change and increased capacity. 

Stretching your workforce’s capacity should not be at the expense of their well-being. As each iteration ends, encourage employees to reflect on the process, individually and as a group. Help them find the big picture so they don’t get stressed out by the details. Change is stressful.  Aligning small changes with big goals can help your workforce process change.

Agile Principles Over Processes

Historically, ways of working have been entrenched in codified processes. “A few people at the top created structures of micro-management that flowed down,” Thorén says. But rigid rules don’t always support the best outcomes. As needs and problems change, so must our ways of working. “Principles, values and mindset are more important than methods and tools, as they’re more adaptable,” Thorén continues. 

Agile principles — such as working incrementally, continuously improving and welcoming change achieve the right outcomes over following processes to the letter. “The ‘way we’ve always done things’ may be getting in the way of our ability to be as responsive as we need to be,” Meyer says. In times of extreme disruption, resistance to change is a luxury we just can’t afford. Overcoming barriers to change is essential for your organization’s survival.

Rather than a job role or integrating continuous feedback into remote work, assemble a small team based on the project.

Identify and Encourage Agile Behaviors

Reward and recognize agile behaviors into your performance management. “We’re really good at appraising how people do against planned goals, but not how they do against the unexpected,” Meyer says. “Include the language of agility in performance appraisal and give people the opportunity to tell stories about how they adapted.” 

Ask employees to describe a situation where they faced any type of work disruption. What did they do to overcome the disruption? “We tend to be action-oriented in times of disruption,” Meyer says. “If we aren’t intentional about reflection, we might miss out on growth potential.” 

Measuring and rewarding those agile behaviors will encourage and strengthen your workforce’s ability to respond in an agile manner to any disruption.