As the economy, markets, technology, and consumer preferences change, businesses must change and adapt, as well. And, as those businesses change and adapt, so, too, must the business units that support them. It’s easy to conceptualize this in terms of “traditional” functions like operations and marketing, but what many people don’t realize is that the HR function has learned to effectively adapt to changing business environments, as well.
This is the subject of a recent article in Harvard Business Review by Peter Cappelli and Anna Tavis titled “HR Goes Agile.” The article has a lot of great real-world examples of how HR departments in major corporations like P&G and BMO Harris, among others, have demonstrated agility in their HR practices. The authors look at six specific areas: performance appraisals, coaching, teams, compensation, recruiting, and learning and development. Over the course of three posts, we’ll look at each, two at a time. Here, we start with performance appraisals and coaching.
The authors note that for years, a traditional performance appraisal had been done annually and was focused top-down on how an employee’s performance contributed to the goals of the company and its business units. “As individuals worked on shorter-term projects of various lengths, often run by different leaders and organized around teams,” they write, “the notion that performance feedback would come once a year, from one boss, made little sense.” Instead, innovators in the HR function now use more frequent reviews and tools like 360-degree feedback.
“The companies that most effectively adopt agile talent practices invest in sharpening managers’ coaching skills,” write Cappelli and Tavis. They point to companies like Cigna as examples of organizations that have complemented the supervisor’s traditional role of manager to include a role as a coach to help aid the development of employees.
Coaching skills aren’t typically taught in school. They need to be learned and developed while on the job. Training can help. Cigna, for instance, has supervisors go through weekly video training sessions that can be viewed whenever they can fit 90 minutes into their schedules. They also participate in learning sessions that are akin to the “leaning” and “sprints” used in agile project management.
Businesses don’t exist in a vacuum, and neither do the business units that support them. HR is no exception. In this post, we reviewed how Cappelli and Tavis show HR’s ability to adapt to new realities through performance appraisals and coaching. Next, we’ll look at the same topic but focus on teams and compensation. (Part 2 will appear in tomorrow’s issue.)