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Revathi V Gopal
Written by :
Revathi V Gopal
February 19, 2023
16 min read

How can HR leaders promote organizational agility

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From continuous labor market shifts to inflation and an impending pasta bowl recession, many drastic changes and disruptions are occurring around us. Most organizations face the worse of these situations as they haven’t brought any development in their organizational structure since their inception.

For striving through these challenging waters and attaining business growth, it is essential for companies, regardless of their size, to focus on organizational agility.  

Now the question is, what is organizational agility?

Well, we will answer this in some time.

Along with answering this question, we will also explore agility in HR and five ways HR can promote organizational agility.

So, why don’t we move forward with our discussion on organizational agility?

What is organizational agility?

organizational agility

Organizational agility refers to how a company adapts and aligns with the labor market and business field changes. Your company can stay ahead of its competition while making the best out of different opportunities, enhancing customer relations, and improving employee engagement.

According to Aaron de Smet from McKinsey, agility is closely related to stability and dynamic capability. He adds that an organization with a stable foundation can act as an anchoring point, remaining constant even when different factors change. Another point to consider from Aaron de Smet is that several elements, such as globalization, volatility, and uncertainty, can lead to dynamic change. One such example of an uncertain change that disrupted businesses recently is the unprecedented pandemic.

Therefore, if your organization has to stay intact during such difficult times, it must focus on organizational agility to bring sustainable growth. However, it isn’t possible when your employees work in silos, and there is a lack of employee engagement and productivity.

So, to harness organizational agility, it is pivotal to have a positive work culture where employees are productive, innovative, and working with their full true potential. To achieve that, the HR department has a crucial role to play. Why don’t we look into it?

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Five ways through which HR leaders can promote organizational agility

From focusing on building a skills-first organization to removing any form of biases, there are different ways through which HR leaders can enhance organizational agility. Let’s now explore some ways you can promote organizational agility in your company as an HR leader or professional.

Five ways to promote organizational agility

Focus on building agile leadership practices in your company

To be honest, the glorious days of traditional top-down management approaches are slowly fading away. Although many organizations continue to follow a boss or reporter relationship with a hierarchical structure, a shift would soon come in to enhance adaptability and organizational and business agility. The transformation we refer to is bringing in agile leadership within your company.

Agility in leadership will focus on communication, commitment, and collaboration, where these leaders would help build strong and high-performing teams. This will also bring shifting roles, where each team member shares leadership responsibilities. Such leaders will be in a better position and well-equipped to help other employees and create employee performance plans for those within their team who need to enhance their performance.

As an HR leader, you can take the initiative to bring agile leadership practices to the foreground for achieving organizational agility. For that purpose, you can initiate cross-training programs (for adjacent skills) and other approaches too.

Endeavor to build a skills-first organization

skills first company

Remember that skills and their dynamic nature are crucial factors causing changes in the labor market and business fields. Therefore, to attain organizational agility, HR leaders must ensure that their organization takes a skills-first approach. This can be achieved by relying on tools and software to facilitate workforce agility. They include tools for:

  • Recruitment and onboarding: This can be a recruitment microsite, a bias-free skills assessment platform to conduct pre-skill assessments, ATS, etc. Along with recruitment, it is also essential to use various tools that can make the onboarding process easy and less of a hassle for both the new joiner and the HR professional.
  • Talent Management: It is essential to use intelligent talent management tools to ensure that your employees are enhancing their skills, updating themselves, and aligning themselves with the skills required for your company to attain business growth. One such tool available today is a skills intelligence platform that can help enhance employee lifecycle and their journey. Want to know more about the different use cases of skills intelligence? Click here!
  • Learning and Development: There are several L&D solutions available nowadays, ranging from learning management systems to course authoring tools. By relying on such tools, HR professionals can assist employees in selecting the right programs suitable for improving their careers and skill-proofing their company.  
  • Employee engagement and communication: Although this isn’t related to enhancing skills, relying on employee engagement and communication solutions like an internal communication system, Microsoft Teams, and Slack can help improve employee experience, satisfaction, and retention rates.

Thus, to achieve organizational agility, HR professionals must focus on skills and building a skill-first company by relying on the best tools available.

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Prioritize flexibility for building agility in HR and your company

As per a systemic literature review published in the Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, flexibility and agility were used interchangeably until the 1990s. However, the shifts in market trends and increased dependence on speed paved the development of the agility concept, focusing on strategically attaining long-term visions. Flexibility, from then on, became an agile capability, helping organizations achieve agility.

Flexibility can be brought into workplaces in different ways. And as we all know, HR is vital in creating and implementing them successfully. One of the ways to do so is by moving away from having straight-jacket job structures and roles. Instead, organizations can provide employees with the ability to explore, learn, and grow within the company.

Facilitating opportunities for internal mobility is yet another way to bring flexibility to any company. Similarly, offering different career trajectories and development plans based on each employee’s performance and interest can create a flexible work culture suitable for building organizational agility.

You can also bring flexibility through flexible timings, 4-day work weeks, remote and hybrid work opportunities, etc.

Make data-driven decisions

According to a global study entitled Organizational Agility at Scale: The Key to Drive Digital Growth from Workday, availability of data can enhance the speed of decision-making. 84% of CEOs who participated in this survey said that data could play a vital role in adopting agile decision-making practices. Through this, your organization can attain a competitive business advantage.

Therefore, instead of opting for intuitions, preferences, or any biased forms of decision-making, it is best to make data-driven decisions. By doing so, your company can stay strong even when business scenarios change drastically.

When it comes to data-driven decision-making, different sections within your organization must focus on technologies and operational tools that help them make such decisions accurately.

Six benefits of data-driven decisions using organizational agility

With these many benefits in store, let’s explore how you can promote organizational agility via data-driven decision-making as an HR professional.

  • While recruiting candidates, you can rely on bias-free skills assessment platforms to analyze and shortlist candidates based on the data facilitated.
  • Regarding talent management, you can conduct performance appraisals based on the goals achieved, self-assessment reports, and feedback facilitated by managers.
  • You can make data-driven decisions regarding internal mobility based on data available on a talent management tool like a skills intelligence platform.  
  • You can perform career pathing, talent benchmarking, and attain skills insights of your employees while using a skills intelligence platform, which will further help make data-driven decisions regarding upskilling your employees and so forth.

Work on removing any form of biases within the company

removing biases

Biases can hinder your company’s smooth functioning and agility. Therefore, as an HR leader, you can bring in tools and initiatives that can reduce all forms of systemic, unconscious, conscious, or institutional biases that may be present in your company. You can avoid biases by bringing diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) policies and approaches into your company.

There are different ways through which HR professionals can enhance DEI. One such method is making data-driven decisions instead of intuitional or biased ones. Now, let’s explore other ways to remove biases to foster agility in your company.

  • By opting for bias-free recruitment channels, like a bias-free skills assessment platform, Applicant Tracking Software that filters candidates based on their skills and qualifications required for concerned job roles
  • By conducting awareness and training programs, creating policies that would help regulate any form of biased activities
  • Having performance evaluations within the organization by following clear criteria and methods
  • By bringing transparency as an essential element throughout the organization

Final thoughts

Thus, by focusing on these aspects, you can enhance organizational agility, leading to business growth and stability. So, consider these approaches, and why not start building an agile organization, workforce, and business?

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  1. 1. McKinsey (2021, February 21). The new possible: How HR can help build the organization of the future. McKinsey & Company.  
  2. Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management (2018, August 22). Flexibility and agility: Evolution and relationship. Emerald.  
  3. Workday (2019, November 14). Organizational Agility: Making Informed Decisions with Speed.
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