Embracing organisational agility as a CHRO: five key behaviours – Personnel Today

People leaders’ ability to be agile can impact performance. Photo: Jamie Roach / Alamy

The pandemic forced the chief human resources officer to make decisions about personnel, recruitment and furloughs in a matter of hours. Mark Judd examines how, after the initial shock, fluctuating economic conditions and ongoing lockdowns, HR teams became used to operating in a climate of continuous and unprecedented change.

In the face of change, the most resilient companies are those that remain agile. In fact, a recent Workday study on organisational agility highlighted that the top-performing companies were 10 times more likely to react quickly to market shifts, verifying that agility is more often than not synonymous with performance.

And it starts with the CHRO. Implementing agility successfully, requires the c-suite to lead the charge. The CHRO, in particular, has an essential role in establishing an agile culture across the business. After all, an organisation cannot be agile if its people are not on board.

The challenge is that, while a lot of CHROs recognise the importance of agility, creating a culture of agility is easier said than done. In fact according to the study, a third of CHROs still don’t think their company’s strategy enables them to respond to market change. And, for a lot of organisations, the pandemic has put a strain on their culture and operations as people cannot communicate in-person and access systems, data, and information as easily remotely.

It all starts with a frictionless foundation; the sort that you can only get from a fully cloud-based technology. With that, you can start to develop a clear picture of your financial, people and operational data. Data is always live, easy to understand and secure. Organisations can start to benefit from technologies such as machine learning, conversational assistance, and data-to-data point analysis.

Capabilities, such as these, help large organisations, with multiple sites, and thousands of employees, to standardise practices in areas such as recruitment and training procedures – which we know can be a vital asset to maximise workplace performance.

With this foundation in place, the CHRO is in a position to start building a culture of agility. There are five key behaviours identified by Workday’s global organisational agility and digital growth survey:

  • Be responsive — Companies need the ability to plan continuously and in real-time to overcome uncertainty. This means CHROs have to implement real-time scenario planning so they have the agility to manage ongoing challenges such as fluctuating team capacities. Fail to implement real-time scenario planning, and CHROs could face staff shortages, unsupported employees and a workforce that is not equipped with the right skills to transition out of lockdown.
  • Be adaptable — Enterprises must create flexible organisational structures and processes that enable both the business and leadership to pivot quickly in the face of change. Opening discussions across departments, in particular with finance and legal, can help the CHRO adapt at speed and feel supported.
  • Be skilled — Companies have to plan for upskilling the majority of their workforce and increasing employee engagement. In fact, 50% of organisations are already planning to upskill their workforce by 2024 to adapt to the changes in the working environment. The CHRO is central in initiating the right recruitment and training to equip the organisation with the future skills required. With organisations easing out of lockdown, it is integral that CHROs are preparing their organisation with the right talent if it is to succeed post-pandemic.
  • Be empowered — CHROs must empower decision-making at every level by equipping employees with the information and data they need to innovate and make independent, and yet informed decisions. This is also a core component to maintaining strong employee engagement in a remote setup. Organisations can build trust with their workforce through enabling more access to data which, in turn, helps maintain a good culture under these challenging times.
  • Take control — CHROs need to be able to recognise failure and act on it. They should understand if something isn’t working, switch gears and try a different approach. Finding ways to measure performance and pivot to avoid risk are essential traits in keeping agile, in particular during the pandemic, and should be embedded into the organisation’s culture.

Last year’s challenges, from furloughs to remote working, taught CHROs the importance of being able to rapidly adapt to change. This year, CHROs leaders have the opportunity to consolidate their learnings from the pandemic by fully embracing agile ways of working for the long-term. This starts with building an agile culture across the organisation. Those that take the time to invest in the right behaviours will lead their businesses into a position of stability and opportunity.

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Mark Judd

About Mark Judd

Mark Judd is vice-president, HCM Product Strategy, EMEA at Workday.

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