SilverStripe has embraced Agile as much more than just a methodology for running projects; we see it as a way of thinking about how we approach our work. Therefore, it made sense for us to try and make our HR processes agile as well.
Agile HR is a relatively new concept, but incorporates traditional agile values such as collaboration, incremental progress, experimentation, responsiveness and adaptive learning.
So what aspects of Agile have we incorporated so far?
Making the best even better
Staff development in both a professional and personal capacity is an important part of the culture at SilverStripe. In a competitive industry where great talent is hard to find, we know that employees are looking to work for companies who invest in their staff development and want to support ongoing learning, which is an area where our agile approach to HR definitely shines. SilverStripe has worked hard to make continuous learning part of our culture by using the following methods:
The creation of a professional development plan for every employee, broken down into SMART goals. These are reviewed on a monthly basis with their line managers.
Dedicated managers to oversee staff development and provide advice on goal setting
Each individual is responsible for driving their own development
Regular company events to assist with staff development, including Hackdays, Show & Tells and Lunch & Learns
Get up, Stand up
Our wider team (including accounts, office management and development managers) have implemented some Agile tools to assist with productivity and help with immediate feedback. We have daily stand-ups to get an idea of each team member’s backlog, as well as giving everyone a chance to ask for any help that may be required. We began having fortnightly retros to discuss achievements and areas in which we can improve. These also became a valuable forum for discussing other topics relating to the wider team, while also giving us time to brainstorm about upcoming issues or events. And who can forget trusty Trello, helping us organise our lives since ages ago. I personally use Trello to keep track of my own backlog, but it is also used extensively for onboarding new staff, and organising tasks for employees who are exiting.
Out with the old...
An area of HR that is increasingly being considered outdated is the traditional method of performance reviews. Reviews were generally held 6 monthly, but there are several reasons why having such a long time between performance reviews isn’t desirable, which is why the Agile idea of constant feedback is a valuable HR tool when considering employee well-being. At SilverStripe, all staff members have regular monthly catch-ups with their line manager. First and foremost, this gives each staff member a chance to regularly review their goals and discuss how they are progressing. On the flipside, it gives managers the opportunity to provide feedback on a regular basis, helping to ensure that goals and performance are on track and providing some coaching or guidance if needed.
...And in with the new
However, my favourite Agile process in the HR department is the way the interview process is run. Rather than hiring decisions being made by HR alone, there are multiple individuals throughout the organisation involved, to ensure that a range of perspectives can be taken into consideration. Our interview process has approximately 4-5 stages which range from a coffee meet, a technical interview (for all roles) to a team meeting and a final interview. This also provides the potential candidate a chance to meet with different people from SilverStripe and, hopefully, provide them with more insight into what it’s like to work here. The full process involves:
Screening & coffee process - HR Coordinator
Technical interview - 2x senior/intermediate SilverStripe developers
Team interview - 3-4 members of the team the candidate would be joining if successful, or 3-4 staff from various teams in the department in which the candidate would be joining if successful
Management interview - the Head of People and Culture/CEO and the candidate’s potential line manager
From my own previous experience in similar HR roles, I believe that having other people throughout the company involved in the interview process is beneficial for both the growth of the company and its staff, in that it shows that the company empowers other staff with decisions that affect the business, and values the opinions of its employees. It also provides an opportunity for staff to develop skills in areas that they don’t necessarily use in their day to day work.
Diversity = Innovation
An important aspect of Agile HR is continuous improvement, and one way to ensure this is achieved is to have a diverse workforce. This starts during the recruitment process. Having a selection of staff members with different backgrounds and skill sets is a good way to ensure that each candidate is considered from multiple perspectives, rather than just having the same people looking for the same exact set of requirements from every candidate, which could easily lead to the same type of candidate being selected for every role. Diversity is incredibly important for ensuring constant innovation, which is why the importance of a strong, inclusive and robust interview process cannot be overstated. Of course this isn’t without its challenges. The main one being that even though the idea is to include a variety of employees for the interviews, the process itself and the overall selection criteria do require some level of standardisation, which gets harder with the more people that are involved. While we’re not always perfect, we are always looking at ways we can improve on this.
Onwards & Upwards
As far as I’m concerned, improving our practices to be more agile is the best way forward for us to continue to innovate and produce long lasting and robust procedures. We have made a good start but there is still a little way to go before our HR team can call ourselves completely Agile. However, it is an exciting journey to be on and I’m looking forward to learning lots more and helping our team to improve our practices further.