HR leaders can best support the empowerment of agile teams by thinking of employees as customers and expanding their focus on employees to include teams, writes Jeff Mike
In Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey, an overwhelming 90 percent of the respondents – 10,400 business and HR leaders across 140 countries – told us that creating organisations of the future was “important” or “very important” to them. In fact, they identified building new organisations as their most important challenge. Agility and agile teams play a central role in the organisation of the future, and as companies race to replace structural hierarchies with networks of teams, they are looking to HR for capacity and support.
Agile teams – nimble, entrepreneurial, cross-functional groups of employees that are already becoming ubiquitous at every level of organisations – are an essential component of tomorrow’s workplace. Fast-acting and purposeful, agile teams can not only navigate the vagaries of the marketplace, including volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), but also mine them for opportunity.
Inside the makings of agile teams
What do agile teams need to achieve the empowerment necessary to operate at their maximum potential? They require a supportive culture and high levels of trust, inclusion, and accountability. When teams are imbued with trust, their members are better able to identify and act on opportunities for improvement, development, and innovation. Employee inclusion, both in teams and in the company as a whole, engenders an overall sense of belonging that helps enable employees to better connect with one another and to share their best ideas. And, high levels of accountability are necessary to help advance organisational strategies, with each successful encounter encouraging team members to seek out and accept more responsibility for their work.
“As companies race to replace structural hierarchies with networks of teams, they are looking to HR for capacity and support”
What can HR do to create agile teams
HR leaders can best support the empowerment of agile teams by thinking of employees as customers and expanding their focus on employees to include teams. This approach to enhancing the employee experience in agile teams can be accomplished by adopting a design-thinking mindset, creating personas, and mapping the employee journey.
- Design thinking helps HR leaders to more intently focus on improving the experiences of team members – a fundamental break from the function’s traditional emphasis on compliance and processes. Design thinking studies the behavior and working scenarios of employee segments and then designs solutions that enhance their work lives. Design thinking is powered by empathy. By walking the proverbial mile in employees’ shoes, HR professionals can better understand, engineer, and deliver positive experiences.
- Personas are constructed narratives that portray a typical employee’s experience on any given workday. Originally conceived by consumer marketers, personas give HR professionals a better understanding of what team members do by bringing their work to life through story. HR can use personas to identify and improve key attributes of effective teamwork that are embedded in employee attitudes, expectations, work habits, and goals.
- Journey maps provide a step-by-step graphical depiction of the different aspects of a team member’s journey. They can be used to identify key moments in the work processes in agile teams. In turn, HR can use the insights derived from mapping those key moments to create experiences that maximise the engagement of team workers.
As companies strive to transform themselves into organisations of the future, HR is uniquely positioned to help. Through the adoption of a employee-as-customer mentality and the tools of design thinking, HR leaders can better design the programs and solutions that agile teams need to become more engaged, more empowered, more challenged, and ultimately, more successful.
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