Since the beginning of the millennium, software development teams started working on a series of values and principles named agile methodologies. For a while, the world lived under the belief that these methodologies were exclusive for them.
Let’s picture a treasure map where we have a starting point and a X that marks the spot where the gold is hidden. We want to reach for the gold in the fastest and safest way. We can trace a path and force ourselves to follow – from point A to B, B to C and so on (Waterfall method). But what if on our traced path we find a magic carpet? Should we use it and shorten the distance or get stuck with the idea and the process? What if it rains and the bridge we need gets ruined, do we stay powerless or do we find an alternative path and build a new bridge?
Are the development teams the only ones in search for the gold? In these teams the idea of an Agile methodology is to speed up deliveries, correct and detect problems more quickly. Reviewing plan, not being bound by processes or procedures, but rather the autonomy of the team and their need to meet a goal. This gives an empowerment to individual autonomy, individual creativity, and an idea of community where interactions are valuable rather than a structures process written in stone.
I believe that this idea of working in an agile way not only can but must be adapted to the reality of an HR professional. We should look at it as a foundation and allow HR teams to adapt them and create ceremonies that adopt the same principles. Limiting ourselves by looking at these methodologies as if they are constant and could not be adapted to other realities, well, is not being agile.
To give an insight on how to do this, let’s imagine a Talent Acquisition team that aims to double the number of working teams in the company which it is part of. How can this team become agile? The first step is to look at the end goal, for example hiring 80 developers in a year, and break it into smaller pieces, set small goals and tasks that get us to the treasure.
We start the planning phase here. We will divide this chunk into tasks and distribute them to the team. In this planning, as a team we will look at which roles comprise the first batch, we will understand and analyse recruitment patterns, response rates on LinkedIn, application rates, understand timings that each task will take up. We’ll also look at the time of year and validate if there are bank holidays in these weeks or if any team member has booked holidays… It is important that the plan is ambitious but realistic. Once the tasks have been aligned it is up to us to distribute them and it is not agile at all to think of this in an egalitarian way, i.e., twenty tasks to be divided by four team members. We will make an equitable distribution according to the effort and time we estimate each task would take.
Involving the teams in the planning of the tasks helps to create a sense of commitment to the goal and to have a 360º view of the needs and what will be everyone's goal rather than an individual goal. It is a way to ensure that everyone's concerns are heard and to anticipate some problems that we think may arise along the way.
After planning we start our sprint. It is common for development teams to establish 2-week sprints, however, in the case of a TA team, it seems easier to think in 1-month sprints considering the metrics and the time that recruitment processes usually take, since many of the processes have more than one phase and we can consider that a process could be started and finished in one month.
The tasks of a TA team are more than just closing positions. Different metrics can be created: send 100 messages on LinkedIn per week, put 10 candidates in process, improve the recruitment process, conduct 12 interviews per week, share 2 job advertisements per week, write articles on LinkedIn.
Another moment we must give importance to, besides planning, is the daily status meeting. The team's day must start with a short meeting where we share the status of our tasks, considering the same example above - how many interviews have been done, progress of candidates who are in the pipeline, difficulties or delays that may have happened in the process. This way, the team is able to track the progress as a whole and continue to have the peripheral view on the path to our end goal.
When we reach the end of our first goal, we should look back. That is, once again as a team we should get together and understand what difficulties we encountered and create improvement actions, which processes went well and must be replicated in the future. To simplify, divide a whiteboard into two parts: on one side we’ll have what went well, and on the other, points to be improved. Each element is free to add whatever they want and find relevant in those columns (you can do it with post-its, on Zoom whiteboards, in Excel, on a Trello screen). At this stage we can't expect to be discussing as a team half a day - we all know we would easily get lost, and the aim is to focus on what is the most important. In this case, I suggest that after everyone has given their input, each team member can vote for three points per column on what they consider the most important. The most voted topics will be the ones considered priority and this is where the team will apply their time. Improvement must be seen as a continuous process; we may not go through all the topics, but we will pay attention to the priorities and keep the focus.
Once this stage is complete, we return to our starting point: the next planning. We can look at what tasks we did not successfully complete, and which have been carried over to this planning, as well as those that we can fit in without having a negative impact on the team's routine. We must prioritize the tasks and see if it is feasible to fit them in here or if it is more strategic to leave something for the next planning due to the impact it has on the team members' time and priority.
Throughout this year I worked with a team that tried to find its way within Agile methodologies and create these moments. Besides believing that we improved the path to achieve our goals, we learned to work better as a team, we were able to be more consistent in our deliveries and manage our workload better.