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How HR Can Go Agile to Keep Pace with a Digital, Mobile World

Kintone logo We’re now living in a largely digital and mobile world one in which job postings almost always occur online, networking happens in the context of social media, and many candidates prefer to search for jobs on their smartphones and tablets. Even employee onboarding can now be carried out almost entirely through online platforms.

In today’s rapidly evolving business world, the role of HR teams and professionals is changing. That’s a good thing, of course—it means that HR leaders are embracing the needs of their companies and organizations, while continually finding ways to add value and drive momentum. But it can also make the role of an HR pro significantly more complicated—and in such a quick-moving, digital world, it can sometimes be a challenge just to keep up. These changes have occurred so rapidly that many career HR professionals haven’t fully caught up to them yet, but there’s no doubt that digital technologies will continue to drive the future of the working world—and human resources will certainly be no exception to that rule.

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Once dominated by policies and paperwork, human resources now include everything from talent acquisition to digital tools, company culture to diversity and inclusion. As the role of HR teams continues to grow, new tools and approaches have become necessary to manage the diverse responsibilities.

Remote Work and Flexible Arrangements

One trend that impacts businesses, with mostly positive results, is the growing population of remote workers. With as many as 43% (and growing) of Americans now spending at least some of their working hours outside of the office, flexible working arrangements—like remote work or flexible scheduling—are only becoming more important and more commonplace as time goes on. And because these arrangements are often considered part of employee agreements, it can fall on HR professionals to manage them.

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According to one recent study, most hiring managers believe their companies have the resources to support remote workers, but their companies have yet to put an official policy in place. As these arrangements continue to evolve, it will be up to HR teams to ensure that their organizations can smoothly and functionally employ remote workers as core members of their teams.

Internal Work Cultures

From boosting worker engagement to ensuring that employees have what they need to perform well and remain in their roles over the long term, HR professionals certainly have their work cut out for them in today’s workplaces. Not only do HR teams need to ensure the productivity and happiness of their organization’s talent, but they must also constantly contend with shifting trends—from ensuring the right cultural fit to developing initiatives that improve diversity and inclusion.

These are all important and worthwhile goals, but taken together, they add up to a lot of different roles to be taken on at any given time.

Adopting New Technologies to Meet New Demands 

It’s not just the role of HR that continues to evolve—the types of available HR technology continue to march forward at a rapid clip. But for many HR professionals, the larger question is whether these tools will be able to adequately address the changes taking place in teams around the world.

Moving Beyond Automation

Josh Bersin of Deloitte Consulting LLP identifies one of HR’s core challenges as one of moving from tools that support automation toward technology that can effectively meet the challenges of increased productivity.

Technologies for automation are meant to make life easier for HR pros—supporting everything from completing and storing paperwork to onboarding routines—but while these tools can be useful, they often fall short of sparking the kind of team-oriented productivity that’s become so important in the modern workforce.

“The big topic in business today is productivity,” writes Bersin, for Forbes. “We are now working on Agile, team-centric organizations, and we are overwhelmed with too much to do. Burnout, focus, and employee engagement are all issues. Can we build HR software that really improves productivity and helps teams work better together? That’s the next challenge.”

So far, HR technology has mostly focused on the automation of common HR tasks, from managing payroll to administering employee benefits to organizing applicants and job candidates into searchable databases. These tools have made common HR processes much easier and faster to implement in many respect—and in turn, that’s helped make it possible for HR to embrace its evolving and expanding role in today’s working world by affording more time for higher-level projects.

But in a 24/7 global cycle, HR leaders must also look toward the future of technology and digital tools. While today’s software might support the automation of processes, its future likely has more to do with productivity and agile methods for supporting more engaged, flexible, and responsive teams.

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Changing Methodologies: HR Goes Agile

Today’s HR professionals wear many hats, from recruiting and onboarding to developing and maintaining company policies—and their work requires not just the support of tools and technology, but of entirely new ways of viewing productivity and performance. Originally developed for software development, the agile methodology is an iterative approach that has transformed organizations in recent years, particularly in Silicon Valley and the tech industry. Though it’s commonly practiced by engineers and IT professionals, its reach now extends to HR, too.

Though the details of Agile (sometimes capitalized as “Agile”) can be complex, it focuses on collaboration within small teams and shipping products quickly, with an emphasis on flexibility and responsiveness. The shift towards agile is a function of the working world’s larger, continuing trend toward digital tools and software. As even non-technical organizations move toward a cloud-based, software-driven ecosystem, the methodology of software developers is never far behind.

For teams looking to improve their productivity and efficiency, in other words, Agile methodology is generally considered the default way to go. The Agile set of principles are employed by small startups as well as some of the biggest companies in the world, like Microsoft, Google, and Apple.  But even though HR’s role is so critical, its very nature can make it difficult for HR professionals to work in truly agile ways.

Of course, technology and tools are at the forefront of these methods. While HR teams won’t transform into IT professionals overnight, tools like no code or low code application development platforms can help them to harness the power of digital tech. These platforms don’t require any coding ability or software development experience to build responsive, fully customizable apps that can meet and anticipate a wide variety of needs and processes. Even better, because designing a new application is a code-free process, HR doesn’t need to rely on a backlogged or nonexistent IT team to get their software needs to be met. Everything can be done by the user thanks to an intuitive drag-and-drop interface.

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HR can “go agile” to create a lengthy list of applications to make their jobs easier, from those that track job applicants and job openings, manage new employee onboarding to creating surveys to gauge employee feedback, and more.

Despite its ever-growing role in business, HR doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right technology tools, HR professionals can tackle even the most global of workforces, keeping up with a fast-moving increasingly digital world.