Agile HR: Systems of Transparency and Engagement
Technology is driving much of the innovation in the business world, and it’s the impetus behind the principles of agile HR. With this innovation comes new demands for organizations to develop a more agile approach to doing business, and this is made possible by, of all places, the human resources department.
In theory, an agile human resources department does more than set policy and file paperwork. They are the driving force propelling organizations to be more adaptable, efficient, and collaborative. However, agility is a reality, not a policy, and human resources department must be active in their implementation of agile HR. Specifically, human resources departments will need to generate and exemplify systems of transparency and engagement.
Establishing systems of transparency can be difficult. For the rule makers and direction setters, it can be tempting to expect your employees to be blind followers and loyal participants. Of course, that’s not how people respond, and it’s not the way to create a more agile company. The Harvard Business Review surveyed workers to discover what they really want in a company.
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Without question, employees across generations desire to make a positive impact on their organizations, and that requires clear direction and purpose from leadership. Moreover, employees need to understand how the company’s policies and decisions are intended to help the company, and by extension, the employees, flourish. As HR Daily Adviser reports, “As [human resources] make decisions about hiring, staff cuts, professional development, and performance management, our teams need to understand what’s driving those changes.” Transparency is meant to inspire clear purpose and unbridled confidence in the company. It’s the functional expression of a priority that ensures that all employees are stakeholders and that all leadership is accountable for the decisions that they make.
Still, transparency isn’t an end in itself. It’s a way to facilitate employee engagement. This concept is often lost in the push to be customer centered and outward focused. However, as TechPoint reports, “only 30% of U.S. employees are engaged in their jobs.” More staggering, according to Glassdoor, disengaged employees “cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion.” That’s a tremendous financial loss, and that doesn’t even account for the cultural impact that these employees are having on a company.
Engagement is particularly important for startups because they have a limited workforce, and the impact of a disengaged employee can cascade across a small company more quickly than through a major organization. However, while these statistics serve as an important warning, they also demonstrate a clear opportunity for all companies. It’s clear that most companies are not embracing transparency and engaging their employees, so those that do will have a competitive advantage over those who continue to try and find success with a stagnant workforce.
Outdoor goods company Recreational Equipment (REI), is seeking to maximize employee engagement. They have created a digital campfire where managers can post their ideas online and company employees can comment and participate in the conversation. By leveraging the availability of technology and embracing the importance of employee engagement, REI is able to give every employee a voice and an opportunity to share their opinions. Obviously, every employee doesn’t have the same authority as a manager, but engaging every employee in the process is an active way to invest in the value of the employees and to hear the best ideas from within the full expression of the company.
In order for companies to be adaptable, proficient, and successful, they must embrace systems of transparency and engagement. They can’t simply reside as stated priorities. Transparency and engagement must be active practices so that employees can buy into leadership’s vision and can participate in the process. Agile HR is a “do” thing, and companies that embrace transparent and that engage their employees will be doing the hard work of maximizing value and opportunity from within the company.