Why HR needs an agile mindset


At a time when being fast, nimble and connected, can ‘make or break’ a business, can HR as a function afford a rigid mindset? The answer to that is undoubtedly, ‘No’!

It is pertinent to recognise that agility is not about how we do things, but rather a mindset. The more agile leaders are; the better is their ability to build a team which is able to navigate the challenges of a dynamic environment. The same holds good for those practising HR too.

Here are a few of the practices that I believe should be reinvented to make HR more agile:

Employee satisfaction: Let’s begin with employee satisfaction surveys. It is an annual feature for most organisations. I believe it’s a sheer waste of time, energy and effort. Conversations with people, or what we call the pulse checks, should be continuous—a daily affair! Bottom-up communication has become mandatory for organisations to function smoothly. Multiple platforms are generally built to hear from the ground and move fast to resolve areas of derailment, and sustain strengths. But one should not underestimate the importance of constant listening. It can help to act quickly, which can make all the difference.

Advanced sourcing tools: The agile world is hitting HR harder than we can imagine. This percolates down to our recruitment teams as well, who are now expected to act as talent advisors. For example, sourcing today is done in nanoseconds using advanced tools. 20 seconds is all it takes to scout through the entire World Wide Web (www) to find almost all eligible candidates along with their comprehensive backgrounds. This, of course, frees up time that can be utilised elsewhere. Be agile enough to use tools for sourcing and enable your team to move up the value chain.

Talented recruiters: Recruitment teams now need to possess talent, think beyond the obvious, have the aptitude to identify candidates who fit the culture and also be capable of taking the organisation forward to meet its goals. In a digitally connected world, it is evident that we need people across levels who are both strong in the left and right brains. The business head should be clear about what he wants: someone strong in analytics and powerful storytelling. To identify a talent like this, imagine how much the talent finder should evolve. It’s no more about number crunching. The business models are changing and our customers are predominantly going to reward us on the outcomes and not bases of the number of people we place.

Sindhu S

Culture of engaging with employees: The hard work starts the moment you spot a talent. You ought to have agile processes where you engage with them on a daily basis, without really boring them — feed in information relevant to their context and likes. Technology has evolved to the extent that it lets you customise content. Use technology to understand who you are communicating with but retain the personal touch of connecting. Chances are the real talent of today will ignore organisations that are not evolved in their approach towards customers, people, society and all other key stakeholders. Every event of interaction with the candidate should reflect this quality of the organisation(s). One should have the courage to show who you really are and that can be done only if you have a culture which is worth showing. Be swift in changing your culture if it is not aligned to today’s talent.

Rewards and retention: Another area that has traditionally been seen as the topmost priority of organisations is retention and rewards. However, in today’s world, old ways of rewarding surely do not work. It’s all about need-based and agile rewards systems now. Build benefits based on the life cycle of people. Don’t give them anything which does not make sense in their context. As part of designing a medical benefits programme recently, one of the things that we ensured was that the benefits directly matched with the life cycle of the employees and the needs of their families.

Flexible approach: Bring in flexibility everywhere. If we still think flexibility is tough and not scalable, then we are working against the theme of building practices for our people at the speed and at the time they need. Break the organisation into smaller groups, understand their needs and localise the rewards. Give people what they want. Do not stick to the theme of scale and uniformity because uniformity is really dying. It’s individuality or uniqueness which wins, and brings the ‘wow’ quotient.

Constant dialogue: Last but not the least is connecting with people on what they are doing, how they are doing and what they could do next. What millennials look for in their leaders is constant dialogue on their performance, which will help them build a strong future. The expectation is of informal and frequent communication — almost every day. The challenge here is how quickly we understand this need and adapt to it.

There are many practices and processes that touch the different points of our professional journey, where agility is mandatory. If we build the mindset, it will become the ‘mantra’ for the future.

(The author is India HR head at Brillio.)


  1. Very well conceived and articulated article & themes on the importance of agile mindset in HR.. Keep sharing Sindhu. The message is loud and clear. Either you are agile or become irrelevant!!

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