Agile Performance Management

Prepare your Human Resources Team for the Future of Work by integrating Agile HR Management Software

Performance Management often refers to the processes, rules, and policies that companies put in place to develop a productive and engaged workforce. These policies which may include the annual performance review, are the rigid backbone of employee performance management. But a well-balanced human resources strategy includes more flexible elements as well, like culture-building employee appreciation software. Successful companies with healthy workforces strike a balance between rigidity and flexibility.

Agile HR: Putting the Human Back in Human Resources

As it grows past a certain size, if a company or organization does not have flexible elements built-in, it will collapse under its own weight. Monoliths, or gigantic pillars of stone, crumble all the time. They are cold, rigid, and dead. The same holds true for businesses, so much so that the word monolith has become a metaphor for a “large and impersonal corporate structure regarded as intractably indivisible and uniform”.

In contrast, a living organism like a tree can continue to grow forever. The reason for that is because trees are living things made up of smaller living components. They have leaves that eat sunlight, branches that sway on the wind, and seed pods that can lie dormant for eons until the right conditions allow them to proliferate. And even the biggest tree is able to survive the turbulence of high winds and earthquakes not because of its strength, but because of its flexibility.

While you may not consciously think of your company as a living, breathing organism, it is one because it is made up of living organisms—the humans who work there. Even the word company means a group of people. A company that is too rigid in its processes or too structured to alter its course faces devastation, especially in today’s environment of rapid change. If your company doesn’t have the flexibility to adjust to new situations or the agility to move in a different direction, it will not survive.

Remember Blockbuster video? For a brief, golden time, it offered consumers a new form of affordable, short-term, at home entertainment. But as a new digital disruptor, Netflix, entered the market, Blockbuster stayed firm in its non-digital approach, and subsequently, went bankrupt. What’s particularly ironic is that in its beginning, Blockbuster itself was the disruptor, but at some point, it became rigid, unwilling to anticipate and unable to adjust to changes in the digital technology that would transform the entertainment industry.

Organizational Growth Leads to Decreased Flexibility and Hinders Employee Development

Flexibility is not just about business decisions and responding to the marketplace, it also involves agile performance management and agile HR strategies. For example, Netflix has grown into one of the largest and most profitable companies beyond their original model of serving movies because of the flexibility built into their HR strategies and organizational culture. The Netflix Culture Deck has become a legendary example of agile human resource management, so much so that Harvard Business Review declared that they “Reinvented HR”.

That reinvention consisted of providing the best environment for employees to thrive and for employee development to occur at a rapid pace; by minimizing rules and allowing employees the latitude to be creative and use sound judgment.

Netflix also manages employee performance by setting clear goals, with the manager and employee having frequent work performance conversations as a natural part of the job. By creating a collaborative, continuously improving, agile performance management and employee development approach, Netflix maintains a healthy, motivated workforce even during rapid growth.

As companies grow, more structure is needed to ensure processes are scalable and policies are consistent. If the organization doesn’t ensure that as it grows, flexible elements are built in, it can become rigid—unwilling to change, eventually leading to the inability to change. This is not an exaggeration or a view into the distant future. This shift, like the one that affected companies like Blockbuster or like the ridesharing apps that are disrupting the traditional taxicab model—is redrawing the business landscape right now.

In 1950, the average lifespan of the S&P 500 used to be 60 years. Today, that number has plummeted to less than 20. Technology has challenged companies and industries to change their performance management strategy or to fail, and many have submitted to the latter.

Agile HR Solutions for More Flexible People Management

An organization becomes more flexible when both its people and processes become flexible. In addition to a change in processes and HR tech, today’s organizations must incorporate an agile people management strategy.

Businesses use performance management systems and policies to create uniformity for good reasons; collecting usable data points, avoiding employment litigation… But if you don’t celebrate what makes each individual at your company unique you’re calcifying the very flexibility that you need to survive and thrive.

For example, in an agile HR environment, where projects and teams are constantly evolving, an annual performance review is hopelessly behind the times. Annual goals are outdated no sooner than they’re typed out, and performance feedback—12 months after the fact—is useless.

Agility includes responding to the changing needs of employees over time, providing them with tasks that challenge them and allow them to work in their zones of genius—their highest talents. Agile HR knows that their job is not to keep an employee at the company, its job is to get that employee to their next job no matter where it may be with an informed employee development plan.

How to Implement Agile Human Resource Management

Technology and other factors like an emerging Millennial workforce have fundamentally increased the pace of business. Old ways of managing performance like annual performance reviews don’t work in this new “normal.” Information must be delivered quickly and frequently so it can have impact on the next decision to be made.  Businesses searching to motivate and support their teams require new employee development methods, like agile performance management, to ensure teams stay on task with evolving projects and continue their growth trajectory.

Through agile employee performance management, managers and employees create clear goals and ways to measure them, frequent feedback is shared that encourages collaboration, and performance reviews are designed to help employees evolve personally and professionally:

  • Objectives and Key Results like 15Five’s Objectives that provide employees with a clear view of their individual goals and progress, the team’s goals, and how those goals support the overall company strategy. Making this connection not only helps employees stay on track, it also helps them stay engaged by understanding how their role fits in the big picture.
  • 15Five’s Weekly Check-in for Performance Feedback also allows leaders to customize questions to team members, creating an opportunity for a deeper, more individual weekly discussion. Weekly qualitative feedback creates timely communication between employee and manager. This performance management software makes it easy to address concerns on either end, and re-align goals as needed.
  • Implement quarterly 360° performance reviews to capture the full picture of an employee’s performance. Our Best-Self Review is a customizable process that incorporates the employee perspective and adapts to an individual’s growth trajectory.

For HR, a function that often has to fight for a seat at the table, developing an agile HR performance management mindset can be the key to gaining ground and influence, leading the transformation to a more flexible and agile organization.

Today’s organizations must be able to change, to pivot and adapt to survive. As you consider your organization’s viability, look at how agile methodologies, including agile HR strategies such as agile performance management, can help your company be flexible and lithe as you grow.

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