3 Ways Agile is Impacting Human Resources

For an organization to effectively complete an Agile transformation, all departments need to be involved. And while the actual Agile frameworks may not have a direct impact on how day-to-day activities are handled within the Human Resources department itself, HR will definitely be impacted by their company going Agile.

As a matter of fact, in the most successful transformations, HR is a driver of the change and a key hub that steers other departments’ success.

1. Personnel Changes

As the department responsible for talent acquisition, periodic reviews, disciplinary actions, and firing, the Human Resources department plays a key role in making sure an Agile organization has the people it needs in the roles they are best-suited, and that everyone is carrying their load appropriately.

Skill Set Changes.

This is much different from the hiring and firing processes in traditional organizations because many of the necessary skill sets have changed. For example, individuals with broader experience and the ability to move easily between disciplines are likely to thrive more in an Agile environment than those who specialize in one skill only. Seeking out these “more Agile” prospects becomes important to an Agile HR team.


In a successful Agile organization, individual performance reviews should be based largely on the success or failure of the team as opposed to the individual’s sole merit. This dramatically alters the traditional periodic review process and places a much higher emphasis on how well the individual works within the team and how well the team coordinates and maximizes the input of each member.

Disciplinary Action.

For the same reason, standard disciplinary actions may need to be altered to accommodate the fact that one individual in a team may not be producing at the same level as another. If the team itself is consistently meeting or exceeding its production goals and creating quality products, there may be no basis for disciplinary action against the individual doing less.

Paradigm Shift.

In all these ways, the Human Resources department in an Agile organization needs to make personnel decisions based on who will most effectively fill the Agile roles needed for projects to continue being successfully completed. This requires a paradigm shift in how HR practitioners approach their personnel decisions.

2. Training and Development Changes

HR’s traditional role as leaders in training and development for the organization will be impacted by a move to Agile as well.

Cross-training and inter-departmental skill sharing are the norm in an Agile environment as this facilitates the kind of quick reactions to changing circumstances and priorities that an Agile organization is capable of.

To make this possible, HR may have to completely revamp their training and development process. Rather than moving employees down a pre-determined educational path as dictated by their job title and career path decisions, it may be more beneficial to establish a more open, self-managed access to multiple educational resources and allow the employees themselves to take control of their own development within strategic guidelines.

On the other hand, formalized training specific to the Agile transformation is beneficial to all members of the organization, from the production team to the C-suite. HR must balance the need for generalized training that benefits many, and individualized training that each employee may or may not need at a given time.

3. Rethinking Career Paths

When an Agile transformation is completed and scaled to the top of the organization, the entire idea of career paths changes.

It is no longer feasible to consider an individual rising from production to supervision to management to executive level primarily based on seniority or experience. In an Agile environment, roles are created, expanded, or eliminated based on the current needs and the strategic direction of the organization.

Some individuals’ skill sets are perfect fits for roles like Scrum Master, Product Owner, or as a member of the PMO. Others, despite decades of experience, may fit a production role better than anything else.

To keep everything running smoothly and maintain a well-oiled Agile machine, factors like compensation, recognition, and perks of seniority must be adjusted to account for the fact that some who deserve the compensation, recognition, and perks of a company executive may be adding their value in the programming team, and that’s OK.

The impact of Agile on HR is a complex discussion, and we’ve only covered the basics here. We encourage you to learn more by viewing our free webinar, “Move to Agile or Lose Top Talent” and the accompanying Agile HR Training program.