Agile HR: How to Manage Small Teams
Organizations, both big and small, need direction and development. The Human Resources department is the conduit by which organizations are shaped and propelled forward. This designation has come to be known as agile HR whereas the Harvard Business Review describes, “HR needs to provide the same services it’s always provided – hiring, professional development, performance management – but in ways that are responsive to the ongoing change in the culture and work style of the organization.”
One of these responses is the intentional formation of small, high-performing teams that can be flexibly dispatched to address problems or challenges as they arise.
Companies, especially small businesses and start-ups, have a limited talent pool to assign to their ambitious goals and priorities. Small teams maximize employee contributions by enabling each team member to be a problem solver and direct contributor to the company’s biggest needs and most ambitious pursuits. Practically, this means that companies can operate with flexible assignments that forsake traditional divisional distinctions while allowing people to contribute to and collaborate with the best ideas in a company.
Structurally, this requires human resources to be strategic in their talent acquisition and philosophical implementation. This model equips companies to leverage their small size to compete at the product level with the biggest companies in the world who are unable, because of their enormous size and fixed work culture, to function in such an agile capacity. Regardless of size, there are a few things that companies striving to implement small, high-performance teams must do correctly.
How to Manage Small Performing Teams
1. Invest in the right leadership. Agile leaders will be fluent in their employees’ strengths and will be able to appropriately assign and reassign employees to appropriate groupings. More importantly, they will be able to imbue their employees with a shared sense of purpose and contribution. Dispatching and developing small, high-performing teams requires leaders that are managerially skilled and relationally driven.
2. Set clear expectations for contributions. Small, high-performance teams are not inherently more productive than other structures. They are intentionally structured in a way that maximizes the unique contribution of each employee. When Time reported on the benefits of small teams, they noted that “On a smaller team, people knew what resources were available and they felt they could ask questions when things went wrong.” In other words, these teams flourish from clear structure and access to collaboration, not because of ambiguity.
3. Model from the top. For employees looking to distinguish themselves from their peers, embracing a collaborative, team—oriented mindset can be a dubious proposition. Leaders at every level will need to model agile as a logistical and philosophical priority. Forbes reports that “A number of companies have reallocated 25% or more of selected leaders’ time from functional silos to agile leadership teams.” Of course, agility naturally requires flexibility and adaptability, so it’s most important that leaders are committed to the process and can adapt their time as needed.
For emerging startups, implementing small, collaborative teams is a dynamic solution to the more profound resources of established companies that are more fixed in their individualistic approach to the company. While both large and small companies can capitalize on the principles of agile HR, start-ups are best positioned to leverage its principles to attain a greater yield.
Large companies, especially Silicon Valley tech giants, are going to great lengths to develop functional workspace that embraces collaboration, communication, and cooperation, but they are so large that practically, they are not able to be truly agile in their practice.
With intentionality and precision, startups can leverage their talented staff to compete in rapidly changing markets against an indelibly fixed competition.
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