SVP strategy and consulting Workhuman
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The benefits of agile during crisis

8th Apr 2020
SVP strategy and consulting Workhuman
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Agile methodology was around long before the phrase was ever adopted by HR leaders, making its first appearance in 1970s computer software development. Today, ‘agile’ refers to the many ways in which organisations are adapting and learning to keep things consistently moving forward.

With workplaces of every kind currently being upturned, and more people than ever before working remotely, traditional office structures seem like a thing of the past. Consequently, learning how to adapt to this new world of work will be key to many companies’ longevity after the coronavirus pandemic passes. From exploring new technological ways to recognise and empower colleagues, to defining new avenues to make and maintain human connections in these unusual times, agile methods in the workplace have never been more important, and the benefits of having an agile workplace are more pertinent than ever.

A more human workplace

With everyone separated from colleagues, friends and families, bringing humanity into the virtual workplace is not only the right thing to do, but also ensures that everyone remains connected even though they are physically apart. Not having the usual day-to-day interaction with colleagues can be difficult, both on a work and a personal level, especially for those people who are currently self-isolating and who may feel the pangs of loneliness.

Keeping human connections alive at the moment is an essential to both maintaining working relationships and safeguarding people’s wellbeing, and knowing what to take action on and how that action affects employees and the work environment is key. The trick is to start simple, with small gestures that have a big impact. For example, even though usual celebrations are currently curbed, it’s important to recognise the key moments in your colleagues’ lives – plan a virtual baby shower, or video birthday drinks. Recognising these human moments that matter to your colleagues is key to building a foundation of trust and creating connections that improve every aspect of business, including the bottom line. Per Workhuman research, 59% of new hires would leave their job in under a year for a different company with a more positive work culture, so being there for your colleagues is no small matter.

Empowerment through regular recognition and reward

As workplaces change rapidly in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, knowing how to still recognise employees and colleagues can be challenging with everyone so dispersed. Even outside of a crisis, the modern workplace with its fluid, cross-functional teams doesn’t necessarily lend itself to traditional annual performance reviews and yearly bonuses.

Indeed, Workhuman has found 55% of workers believe annual reviews do not improve their performance – employees want more transparency and the ability to check in with their managers on a more regular basis. To satisfy these changing employee expectations, and to adapt to recent changes, organisations need to to embed opportunities for feedback, mentorship, and coaching into the formal and informal team infrastructure.

Frequent recognition is a good place to start, with recent research finding that regular recognition leads to higher engagement and lower stress levels, especially relevant in these worrying times. Ongoing peer-to-peer recognition is also a fantastic way to empower employees, allowing colleagues to praise their co-workers for good work and further build on those foundations of trust and connection. What’s more, by uncovering and recognising individual skills, abilities, and connections, people become empowered by what makes them unique, leading to greater efficiency. In addition, through this crowdsourced information, managers and leaders can check in on productivity and performance, even though they can’t be physically present.

Crowdsourced pay can be another enabler for agile ways of working, and in today’s uncertain world, companies should empower managers and peers to add a monetary component to recognition to build trust and boost morale on a more frequent basis. Indeed, putting just 1% of payroll toward a social recognition programme where people can recognise each other with gratitude messages and micro-bonuses delivers significant impact across the business, from engagement to retention, and keeps those human connections strong while everyone adapts to the new normal.

Better, data-driven insight

Agile is all about continuous feedback and improvement – try, learn, deliver, iterate, try, fail, learn, deliver, and so on. Having a technological, analytic aspect is key to any successful agile programme and a truly modern, agile workplace is one that can balance both human and technological aspects, bringing them together to make the workplace better for everyone.

Many companies are now leveraging predictive analytics in conjunction with recognition data to discover untapped leadership potential in real time. Succession planning can often be a traditional, closed-door meetings process, but technology now makes it possible to highlight hidden gems within an organisation and find future leaders in a more democratic, less rigid way. This is a particularly useful practice at the moment, allowing leaders who are separated from their teams to still keep track of their progress.

Of course, it’s crucial to avoid dehumanising the workplace with a technology overload; it’s about finding the balance and letting technology support the creation of a more agile, human workplace. Indeed, all agile practices are designed to improve the workplace for everyone, and as we continue to adapt to new ways of working during the coronavirus crisis, a helping hand is a friend indeed.

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