Agile in Human resources, what does that mean?

In most organizations, Human resources takes its place when the first employee joins the organization. It starts with the employee filling out an intake form. From the moment the employee’s information is entered into the system, the Human resources which is also known as People operations department starts to take shape. Human Resources assumes people are resources, hence People Operations sounds much better.  When you are dealing with opening a brand new, small or medium size Startup or you are already in a full fledged organization, new processes and systems have to be incorporated.

Sometimes, in existing organizations, change is required so that the department can function better. When you have to make a change, how do you do it? Identify the problem and formulate a plan to mitigate the problem and stop it from worsening. Let’s look at an example of transformation of process within an organization.

Transformation to Agile within an organization: When an organization decides to transform its departments into agile ones, plans are made to change things around, introduce new processes and delete a few processes. This may include adding new employees and changing the roles of certain employees. This could lead to mayhem and things can get disorganized especially in the first week. Agile HR can help with streamlining the process and making the transition smooth. 

The leaders and the department heads at the organization may refer to expert and time-tested ways of making this change happen. Now, there are so many processes, functions, manuals out there that can show you how to do this. Learn and utilize the existing guidelines but do try the Agile method which involves a few defined steps in a style where you can introduce change gracefully. Time boxes in the form of sprints or iterations will give you gentle deadlines in which you have to work and achieve your objective. The same work that happens in busy organizations can be done without all the stress and confusion, giving the employees a sense of direction. And while the change is happening, Employees feel like they are contributing, and this is a powerful tool to begin the change. 

There are a few agile values and principles that the Agile industry follows in all their processes.The Agile manifesto lists and defines twelve principles around which the Agile industry works and provides services.One principle is to build projects around motivated individuals, give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

This principle is used in Agile HR and you could incorporate this by finding out ways to reward success, show that you value people and their contributions over processes. You could use Tangible or intangible benefits or both to reward success and keep the employee morale going. Tangible benefits are those that can be measured by company business processes. They are quantifiable and measurable and include rewards like gift cards and gym memberships.Intangible benefits are those that cannot be measured in a mathematical way and include factors like Cooperation between employees, team work, collaboration, Job satisfaction and the morale of the company employees.

The following are the values defined by the Agile manifesto which forms the basis on which the Agile industry provides services.

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

One example of utilizing the first value mentioned above is “Individuals and interactions over process and tools”. In Human resources also known as People Operations,an example would be to focus more on factors of Employee inclusion, great communication and transparency (Not withholding pertinent information) and to not depend entirely on tools and standard processes to get required results.People factor is important. It is necessary to keep people working in the company engaged and productive. You can start by setting up expectations about what is to come in the next few weeks or months as you are transforming to Agile processes in the  human resources space. Foster open communication between team members. Encourage collaboration within team members and department leads.It is necessary for the people working to know that their work is valued.Monitor progress, document all the steps involved and all the results.Encourage timely feedback and status reports.This is where the use of tools and processes comes in based on the Agile value of People and interactions over tools and processes. 

While documenting important achievements, highlight success stories and talk about mistakes and how you learned from them.Document the mistakes as well as accomplishments.Teach employees that there is no shame in learning from mistakes. Sure, there will always be problems, resistance, inconsistencies and issues starting on Day 1 when you introduce change. Show employees that you can make it work despite the differences and inconsistencies.Make employees feel like this change is doable and show them that change can happen seamlessly and efficiently.

What we covered in this write up is about how Agile HR or People Operations can help drive organizational change in a way that helps transformation by making sure employees are at the core of this change. If you are interested to learn how you can use you people operations team to help shape policies and programs, reach out to

About the Author

Arati Vibhu

People Operations (HR) Leader,
Healthcare Professional

Arati Vibhu is an Agile consultant with a focus on HR within the IT services industry. With a track record of about seven years in HR, Arati has played a pivotal role in aiding an IT startup by implementing Agile values and principles in the HR domain. Prior to this, Arati career as a healthcare professional spans over a decade and includes experience as a retail pharmacist. She has worked extensively with patients and their recovery, which translates into invaluable empathy and compassion necessary for managing the human aspect within organizations.

Arati’s expertise encompasses the healthcare industry and extends into various facets of HR, including team building, the formulation and execution of HR Policies and Employment Handbooks, conducting Performance Evaluations, and spearheading Employee Engagement Activities.

You can connect with Arati on LinkedIn or write to her at