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Meaningful Careers and Growth (Agile HR – Q&A Series Part 4)

20 December 2016

This post is part of the Q&A Series: Agile Leadership Webinar «Agile HR | People Operations»

We recently hosted Agile HR expert Fabiola Eyholzer for our Agile Leadership Webinars. In response to the high interest, Fabiola is answering an aggregation of the great questions we received from participants during the webinar.

In this part, Fabiola answers your questions on careers and development for Agile teams. If you have a question you would like featured in our Q&A series, please submit to chudson@scrumalliance.com.


What are the ways in which HR/managers can promote people in Agile?

The meaning of promotion is changing. Modern careers are more about personal choices and meaningful growth than climbing a (fast-disappearing) hierarchical ladder. Every person has a different understanding of growth. For some people, it is taking on a leadership role, whereas for others it is to deepen their T-shaped skills. In an Agile enterprise, we respect individuality. We strive to make the best match between individual aspirations and corporate demands. Consequently, career paths are becoming more fluid, multifaceted, and individualized than ever before.


What is the career path in Agile?

Instead of a predefined career path, we offer an adaptive growth model. Naturally, there are career paths that are more common than others. A programmer is more likely to become a senior software developer than a ScrumMaster. But the opportunity is there.

A catalog of prospective role-based career paths illustrates the most typical growth options. But it does not limit the options. And HR combines that with a continuous dialogue about growth and opportunities. That way you are aware of your options and can keep them open. Some companies even mandate a rotation of teams at least every three years.


Roles in Agile teams are limited. How does HR help motivate a team member without any change in the role?

Obviously, we acknowledge experience. Our reference roles reflect various seniority levels (like senior Agile coach). But the motivation does not come from promoting people. Instead, we create an inspiring and engaging work environment with great learning opportunities. We offer exciting work, amazing colleagues, and meaningful growth.


Who is responsible for a career?

You are. Agile is all about the principle of self-management. But employees are not only empowered when it comes to their work. They are also in charge when it comes to learning and development. HR and leaders provide the necessary platforms and support, but employees decide for themselves how they want to structure and approach their learning and growth path according to their own understanding and needs.


What do you do with older employees almost ready to retire?

We engage with all employees in the same way, no matter how long an employee has served in the labor market. Everyone in the company is valuable, otherwise we would not employ them. We still discuss where they stand, where they want to go, and what they need to get there.

Naturally, the growth profile will differ depending on a person’s circumstances. A new parent may want to take on a role with limited travel needs and a highly flexible schedule. And someone with an upcoming retirement may want to switch from a leadership to a mentoring role.


How can HR be more knowledgeable about the work an employee has accomplished, so as not to have to blindly depend on feedback from managers?

We previously argued for a shift from traditional performance management to iterative performance flow. Part of that is eliminating employee appraisals and decoupling HR instruments (like compensation and promotions). We no longer rate people and document results on outdated goals. Instead, HR engages in career coaching to help employees create and improve their career and growth profile.


How can HR be a career adviser to an employee?

Career advisers act as trusted mentors, consultants, and representatives of people within the organization. They engage in a continuous dialogue with each employee individually. They collaborate to create and manage a personal career and growth profile.

This equips HR with a completely new knowledge and understanding of their current and potential talent pipeline. HR no longer depends on a rating from an annual appraisal, because they know people’s talents on a personal, authentic level.


How does Agile workforce planning and talent scouting work?

Workforce designers collaborate with the epic leads to assess current and upcoming allocation needs. They know what new initiatives are coming up or if others are being canceled. They partner up with talent scouts, who identify and connect talents across the organization.

In other words: Workforce planning is about understanding and meeting the needs of the organization. Career coaching is about understanding and boosting the growth of employees. And talent scouting is about matching the organizational needs with the aspirations of people. The three go hand in hand and are the key to building a successful talent pool and offering fluid careers.



About Fabiola:

Fabiola Eyholzer (CSPO, SPC 4.0) is an expert and thought leader in Lean/Agile People Operations — the 21st-century HR approach — and CEO of Just Leading Solutions, a New York-based consultancy for Agile HR.

Feel free to connect with Fabiola on Twitter (@FabiolaEyholzer) or LinkedIn (linkedin.com/in/fabiolaeyholzer).

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