Agile working methods started life in the world of software development but quickly migrated to other sectors. Companies looking to gain a competitive edge through innovation began adopting the agile project management practices of Silicon Valley. So out went top-down, long-term planning. In came small, cross-functional teams working through short cycles or “sprints” to meet fast-changing customer needs.
Agility is now changing the structure of organisations. In fact, the most important trend identified by Deloitte’s latest research into global capital trends is the need to break down functional hierarchies and build more networked, team-based organisations.
Agile working practices are impacting on everything companies do - including how they manage their people. But the transformation is proving more difficult for HR than for other functions, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article.
‘You could say HR is going “agile lite,” applying the general principles without adopting all the tools and protocols from the tech world,’ say the article’s authors, Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School, and Anna Tavis, associate professor of human capital management at New York University. ‘It’s a move away from a rules- and planning-based approach toward a simpler and faster model driven by feedback from participants.’
Since feedback is so critical, the way it’s collected can make or break an agile transformation. Annual employee surveys, like annual appraisals, were fine when they supported long-term workforce planning. But with companies no longer able to predict what skills they will need next month – never mind next year – they have to listen to their people all the time. Frequent surveys can highlight both changing skills needs and any issues bothering employees right now. Managers are then able to act on the feedback before these issues escalate and start damaging team performance. Bureaucratic exercises don’t go down well in an agile working environment, so the surveys themselves must be quick and easy to complete. That’s exactly how users describe the VibeCatch Quality of Work Life (QWL) survey.
How the VibeCatch QWL survey supports agility
Based on many years of research into the link between employee engagement and productivity, this online tool consists of just 15 questions, but can be broken down into smaller chunks.
The survey works by sending out regular messages inviting employees to answer a few questions. Automatic analysis of their responses then generates recommendations for improving the quality of employees’ working lives – and therefore their productivity. In organisations seeking to become more agile, these recommendations are likely to focus on team performance and dynamics.
As Professors Cappelli and Tavis point out in their article, peer feedback is essential to ‘course correcting’ mistakes, a key agile principle. ‘In agile organizations, “upward” feedback from employees to team leaders and supervisors is highly valued too,’ they add. To encourage employees to say what they really think of their peers and supervisors, VibeCatch have just introduced a new feature that facilitates anonymous conversations between respondents and relevant stakeholders, including HR managers and supervisors. These stakeholders can engage directly but anonymously with survey respondents to ask for clarification of any responses or raise issues that have not necessarily come out of the survey.
The respondents, for their part, are able to submit anonymous comments about a work related matter and get an answer from the relevant manger. A follow-up chat with the same employee, again conducted anonymously, will show if things have improved as a result of the first conversation. We believe that making these things anonymous encourages more people to participate in the discussion.
To find out more about how VibeCatch can make your HR team more agile, book a free consultation with us.