Agile in HR

Helping to empower HR leaders to reduce lengthy people processes from months to just a few weeks

The Situation

The IT Department had been doing agile for a while when the HR Department came knocking.

ZXM had coached IT through its agile transformation and had reduced lead times and improved throughput by over 200%. Now, HR wanted to understand whether it could also achieve the same results with agile and test it in a large upcoming piece of work.

The organisation’s enterprise agreement had been finalised, approved and signed-off — the wage contract for all staff in the organisation outlining wage and working conditions for the next 5 years. Now the entire suite of written policies on pay, leave entitlements, holiday pay, career progression, and other work conditions, needed updating. Their forecast was 12 months to completion. With agile, they wanted this lead time decreased with support documentation available to staff within a matter of weeks.

The Solution

ZXM recognised that the HR Department’s existing services to the organisation needed to continue relatively undisrupted. We formulated a roadmap for them, starting with simple agile principles and visual management, and helped them through their first steps.

ZXM recognised that the HR Department’s existing services to the organisation needed to continue relatively undisrupted. We helped them to visualise all of the work in-progress to see where the bottlenecks were, and then determined how much of this new work could be accommodated at the same time.

Visualising with Kanban

Kanban was a key tool here. In a few hours, we had visualised the work that was known and the rules for progression through HR’s steps of assigning, approval, and sign-off of work. We then introduced a backlog to manage the incoming work that included all of the new certified agreement documentation and coached the HR manager on prioritising the work based on cost of delay.

Working with Cost of Delay to prioritise work

Cost of Delay is described by Don Reinertsen as being the “one thing” to quantify when prioritising work.

For HR, the cost of delay translated into the impact on the organisation’s staff and the risk of not having the right information available about the new pay and entitlement arrangements.

This enabled HR leadership to consider all of the work being done and make logical trade-offs regarding what should be done now and what to leave for later.

Using Scrum

While much of the HR teams work tended to be just-in-time, and process driven, a significant amount (like the new pay arrangements) was plannable. Shortly after implementing Kanban, they introduced Scrum’s key events to create structure around plannable work:

  • Setting goals each week.
  • Setting time aside each day to work on “planned work”.
  • Allowing just-in-time, service delivery work to be done around the planned work.
  • Inspecting progress toward weekly goals on a daily basis.
  • Reviewing work completed with stakeholders at the end of the week.
  • Assessing improvements that were needed to the quality of their documentation and the way they worked.

The focus created in Scrum’s events enabled the whole department to reduce time spent in meetings and start to identify where red tape was slowing down their processes. Continuous improvement quickly became an important aspect of how they worked over ticking if the recruitment process had been completed.

Working in this way, HR leadership and their teams:

  • Identified key areas of the new documentation that needed to be produced.
  • Worked through smaller batches of work and not only saw results faster but also gained feedback from staff faster.
  • Coupled delivery with smaller, targeted strategic comms that was tied to the work in-progress over general comms about the entirety of the new arrangements.
  • People had greater transparency of what support documentation would be available to them and when through working with a Product Backlog.

The Results

Forecasts for completing the new documentation on pay and entitlements were 12 months based on how long it previously took. Kanban, coupled with Scrum, delivered sign-off, high-quality, updated documentation in their first Sprint, and the entire batch of work in 3 months.

Kanban is now used extensively with Scrum throughout HR teams to continually optimise their processes, from recruitment and onboarding, to supporting staff throughout their tenure at the organisation.

Faster delivery

Delivered the intended outcome in 3 months, not 12 months.

Less red tape

Less time spent in meeting. Less time documenting and reporting on non value adding tasks. More time to spend on HR delivery outcomes.

200% Improved productivity

As throughput increased, the amount the entire department could achieve increased by 200%.

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