The term “agile HR” refers to a way of organizing HR functions in small steps, which allows businesses to be flexible and adaptable as workforce demands change.

Small business HR managers that follow traditional HR practices face the following challenges:

  • Inability to hire candidates with diverse skills. A traditional one-size-fits-all recruitment approach won’t yield a wide mixture of candidates.
  • Ineffective employee feedback. The traditional practice of delivering employees annual feedback to employees doesn’t allow for continuous development.
  • Failure to attract and retain top talent. A lack of transparency and flexibility in the recruitment process is all too common in traditional methods.

Following agile HR practices will help businesses to shift their focus from long-term strategic plans to quick feedback-driven, iterative learning loops.

Small business HR managers who adopt agile HR practices in their operations will not only achieve transparency and flexibility in their business processes to become more responsive and adaptive, but will also outpace their competitors who still follow traditional HR practices.

The 3 agile HR practices

Here’s an overview of the three agile HR practices that we’ll cover below. There are many more, but these represent the highest-impact practices you could implement:

image breaking down the 3 agile HR practices

1. Implement a continuous feedback management system

HR managers conduct performance evaluations annually. There are three reasons why this doesn’t help employees improve their performance:

  • Employees might work on different projects at differing levels, frequency, and efficiency; as a result, their performance fluctuates throughout the year.
  • Annual performance evaluations result in fixed goals for employees across a whole year and do not account for any changes that occur in the process.
  • Since unforeseen changes are not considered during goal setting, annual evaluations don’t provide a proper sense of business objectives to employees.

As a result, there is a need for a continuous performance management practice that can evolve and adapt according to a changing business environment.

Continuous feedback management is a collaborative performance management approach involving peers, supervisors and HR managers to provide regular feedback.

Adopting a continuous feedback approach will help employees understand their strengths and weaknesses and focus on specific areas of improvement rather than receiving a generalized end-of-year review.

Did you know? Forty-two percent of millennials prefer continuous feedback for improving their performance.

Here are some of the ways you can adopt agile performance management practices in your business:

  • Provide continuous feedback: Replace annual performance reviews with continuous—either weekly, monthly, or quarterly—feedback to provide a comprehensive overview of employees’ strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to communicate with your employees in case they require additional skill training and coaching resources that can help them enhance their performance.
  • Monitor performance goals: This helps HR managers revise performance goals based on the recurring performance evaluation results. Additionally, managers can set benchmarks for employees to ensure they are progressing in the right direction.
  • Facilitate peer feedback: Receiving continuous peer feedback provides employees a more accurate view of their performance. This further increases their efficiency and lets those that work directly with them provide context for their performance.

How software can help

Small business HR managers need to have performance management software to implement an agile approach to deliver meaningful feedback. Performance management software helps HR managers to continuously track, manage, plan, and develop the performance of employees in an organization.

Some performance management software features that can help small businesses implement continuous feedback management

360-degree feedback Enables employees to review feedback from managers, peers, HR managers, etc. and view rating parameters/criteria of their feedback evaluation. This removes any subjectivity and bias in the evaluation process.
Goal management Allows managers to create employee goals for a specific time duration and track status of goals in real time. Monitor feedback obtained from multiple sources to analyze KPIs and compare with supervisor feedback reports.
Performance statistics Compare an organization’s performance appraisals across departments, managers, pay scales, and type of employment (full-time or contractor). Also help to identify performance trends, issues, and forecast workforce budget for next year.
Training management Evaluate employee performance reports and compare them with peer-to-peer feedback to identify key strengths and weaknesses, and create personalized training development plans for employees.

2. Adopt agile recruiting practices to hire quality candidates

Sixty-three percent of hiring managers can’t find suitable candidates who fit the job requirements, because they lack an agile process to recruit perfect candidates and instead use traditional manual methods of recruitment.

On top of that, 55 percent of HR managers spend about eight hours a week on manual, repetitive tasks involved in hiring, such as screening candidates and resume filtering, which consumes a lot of time and fails to guarantee results.

Agile HR practices help HR managers have more control over the hiring process—and their time.

Adopting an agile strategy for recruitment means prioritizing hiring projects in short sprints or steps. Divide your recruitment process in the following six steps:

Step 1: Define the job role clearly

With the help of supervisors, hiring managers list out the core capabilities and any additional skills required in a candidate for a particular job.

 Agile tip:  Ensure that all the job roles support your business objectives, and help candidates understand how organizational culture supports employee performance.

Step 2: Source resumes from social media

Populate resumes from various sources such as LinkedIn and Facebook, then store candidate information from these websites in an internal database.

 Agile tip:  Recruiters can uses hashtags to attract more candidates, as well as search for specific topics to find candidates who have experience for a particular role you are hiring. For example, adding #research in your job posts will attract candidates who are already looking for a job or interested in discussions related to that keyword.

Step 3: Shortlist candidates with cross-functional skills

Identify and engage candidates with a proper balance of qualifications and enthusiasm to work in a small business environment—but keep an eye out for additional skills that might serve your business.

 Agile tip:  If you hire a graphic designer with additional knowledge of UI or UX, you end up with more productivity at a lower cost.

Step 4: Keep the hiring process simple

Sixty percent of candidates rejected the job offer due to the lengthy recruitment process. Keep the entire recruitment process short and simple.

 Agile tip:  One way is to automate the manual and repetitive tasks such as resume sourcing, screening candidates, etc. which consumes a lot of time. Consider implementing recruitment software to automate the repetitive tasks.

Step 5: Manage candidate workflow

Creating an applicant workflow helps managers track applicant status starting from resume submitting, screening, interviewing, and finally selecting the candidate.

 Agile tip:  Creating an applicant workflow with hiring managers, supervisors, and senior executives looped in helps them remain updated at each stage of the recruiting process and make informed decisions related to hiring.

Step 6: Quantitative analysis

Leverage hiring analytics to track, measure, and analyze applicant data so that HR managers select only high quality hires.

 Agile tip:  HR managers should use analytics to forecast hiring budgets and implement changes to improve the hiring process.

By dividing hiring projects into small steps/sprints, hiring managers have better control over the recruitment process and provide input to the recruiting team to enhance the hiring process.

How software can help

Small businesses that use recruitment software to automate time-consuming tasks such as entering candidate data into spreadsheets or screening and scheduling candidates will save time and money, as well as boost candidate engagement.

Some recruiting software features that can help small businesses move from traditional HR to agile HR

Real-time candidate source tracking Auto-extract candidate information from multiple job sites into your database. This helps recruiters maximize their time and energy promoting jobs on the right portal.
Customizable email templates Use prebuilt templates—which include company information, location, and date and time of interview—to send job invitations to multiple candidates and save time.
Predictive recruiting analytics Helps HR managers measure the success rate of hiring by comparing parameters such as cost to hire, time taken to hire, candidate retention rate, etc.
Automated candidate sorting Automate the process of sorting candidates based on their answers in a prebuilt questionnaire or phone interview. This saves time taken during manual resume parsing, screening, and scheduling interviews.

3. Focus on employee coaching—the ‘scrum’ way

Traditional HR practices can limit your organizational growth because they focus on measuring siloed employee growth paths, like their individual goals and performance. According to Gartner, this often undermines the building of versatile teams (content available to Gartner clients).

On the other hand, an agile HR environment demands versatility. In other words, HR managers are not just responsible for implementing policies and managing people in the organization, but also for building agile teams that are optimized for flexibility, creativity, innovation, and productivity in their business.

As a small business HR manager you should focus on focus on leveraging scrum practices to coach employees.

Scrum is an agile framework to manage complex projects. Coaching employees in a scrum environment will help to create an atmosphere of fast-paced learning while engaging employees at the same time.

Shifting to an agile environment by adopting scrum practices will help small businesses deliver more value to their employees and ultimately provide the best services to their customers.

The scrum methodology enables managers to use short iterations called “sprints” for completing routine tasks. These sprints can be implemented across HR departments in the following way:

  • Identify employee needs, challenges, or roadblocks that they face in day-to-day routine tasks. Through daily meetings with detailed task timelines, scrum helps employees convert daily tasks into tangible goals.
  • Encourage a culture of learning through scheduled sprints where all employees can learn new skills on the job and expand their capabilities beyond their elementary level.
  • Appoint a Scrum Master from within teams to manage the process flow (planning, implementation, and monitoring) of scrum practices in your business.

How software can help

There are various software solutions that help HR managers implement agile/scrum solutions for helping employees learn new skills in a small business environment.

Some of the software features that help small business adopt scrum frameworks in their business

Planning tools Create a dashboard to visualize employee challenges and then plan your sprint iteration—list the skills required, then prioritize and assign the task to employees.
Monitor sprints Track employee progress, identify obstacles, assess leadership, and provide insights at regular intervals.
Graphical report Create graphical reports to review employee performance during sprints based on real-time and visual data, then implement measures to improve their performance.

Difference between non-agile HR and agile HR

Is your small business already on an agile HR path? Are you still lacking agile HR practices in your day-to-day HR operations? Here is the list of differences between non-agile HR and agile HR practices to understand where your business is and what you need to change or adapt to change to become truly agile.

Non-Agile HR Agile HR
Scope of responsibility Expect employees to learn about their roles from day one. Train employees to achieve goals in small steps.
Employee focus Focus on just recording employee activity (issues, progress, etc.) in files. Focus on enhancing employee engagement to foster self-motivation, collaboration, and boost employee satisfaction.
Recruiting objectives Job roles are narrowly defined by prior convention. Align job roles with the business mission and vision through constant review.
HR forecasting Focus only on current employee needs and requirements. Implement a plan to determine skills, education, and experience required for future roles.
Troubleshooting employee issues Action taken only when there is some employee behavioral issue occurs. Prevent breach of company policies or violation of rules and educate employees about expected workplace behavior.
Consistency in process Repeat conventional methods of recruiting, performance management, and employee engagement. Deploy innovative tools and methods to improve employee engagement and retention.
Learning environment Provide training to underperforming employees to achieve a set performance level. Provide multiple opportunities for employees to be independent and enable them to develop through self-learning.


Small business HR managers should apply agile HR practices in their day-to-day operations to enhance adaptability and transparency in a fast-paced, volatile environment.

Here are some of the recommendations that you should start implementing now to build an agile organization:

  • Communicate with your employees about which skills and competencies they require to achieve business objectives.
  • Provide continuous feedback that helps employees understand areas of improvement and focus on enhancing their performance equally.
  • At the same time, enable employees to collaborate with peers rather than competing with them to improve individual performance.
  • Hire candidates with cross-functional skills to encourage multitasking.
  • Create opportunities for highly skilled individuals through rewards and recognition. This will motivate employees to be consistent with their performance and continue to deliver results for the business.

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