HR’s Role in Developing An Agile Organization

Smart Integrated talent management system

Written by Benjamin Tan for iqDynamics

Agility is much more than just another management buzzword. It is in fact, the key to the long-term relevance of HR management in today’s fast-paced world. Defined as the ability to respond quickly and effectively to external circumstances and business disruptions, HR agility could be the most important development in 2020.

 

This is by no means an exaggeration as technological advancements and changing economic conditions have turned up the heat on the war for talent. Hence in order to remain relevant, HR professionals have to ensure that they are equipped with the right set of skills to respond quickly to an ever changing world.

 

Agile organizations emphasize the value of continuous learning, open communications and long-term business management as part of their structure. Hence from an HR standpoint, HR professionals are required to provide the same type of administrative support whilst also being able to drive a spirit of continuous development within the organization.

 

Dutch banking group ING exemplifies the benefits of adopting an agile management approach. Instead of working within a fixed structure, ING broke down barriers and divided employees into tribes made up of individual squads. Each squad consisted of no more than 9 people and was made up of representatives with different functions.

 

This flexibility allowed ING to build up a team of well-rounded individuals who were skilled in a variety of areas. By removing self-imposed departmental restrictions, this allowed silos to be broken down and ensured the smooth flow of information between individuals.

 

Rather than the rigid and hierarchy-heavy management structure found in many banks, ING had more in common with tech startups such as Netflix or Spotify. And the benefits can be seen, with higher levels of productivity, better customer response times and improved employee engagement.

 

In the middle of all this, the organization’s HR team played a pivotal role in this miraculous transformation. As the stewards of manpower, ING’s HR team had their work cut out for them but all of that hard work has been most definitely worth it.

 

So with all of that in mind, we take a deeper look at how and why HR is a crucial part of agile organizations

 

  1. Building the right people for the right job

 

Having the right people in the right place is a crucial part of succession, but it is also equally as vital when driving change within the organization. This is because employees whose goals are aligned with those of the organization are more willing to work in the same direction. On the other hand, misaligned employees are far less cooperative and may not share the same levels of enthusiasm.

When ING was looking to restructure their ways of working, the HR department assessed and interviewed all of the nearly 3500 employees at HQ. This was a monumental task that resulted in a shocking 40% of employees interviewed moving to new roles or parting ways with the organization. Despite being highly-valued for their skills, these employees did not have the right mindset needed to thrive in ING’s new environment.

 

From an HR standpoint, this highlights the important role that HR professionals play as not only gatekeepers of an organization but also drivers of change. Whether it be recruiting the right individuals or aligning the goals of employees with that of the organization, HR professionals were pivotal in ING’s transformation.

 

  1. Inculcating a spirit of continuous learning and development

 

While there were no financial imperatives for ING to make a change initially, members of the senior leadership team recognized that changing market conditions and technological advancements meant that the organization had to adapt or risk becoming irrelevant.

 

This is particularly relevant today with organizations looking to constantly get ahead of each other in the war for talent. From AI to HR analytics, the role played by HR professionals has moved far beyond that of an administrator.

 

In the case of ING, the organization’s HR team focused on building up teams of well-rounded, competent individuals with high-levels of autonomy. For this to be achieved, silos had to be broken down and barriers to efficiency such as bureaucracy and handovers needed to be crushed.

 

A spirit of continuous learning and development both empowers employees and instills a sense of pride in them. Training programs introduced by the teams at ING ensured that employees were involved in a variety of roles and exposed different business functions.

 

HRMS systems such as iqDynamics include learning management systems that allows managers to identify key areas of improvement and develop custom-designed programs designed to address these weaknesses. Through this, employers can develop a team of competent and driven individuals just like those seen in ING.

 

  1. Having the right performance management tools

 

Bringing about an organizational change is no easy task and pushback is inevitable. This is why the HR professionals at ING took special care to ensure that new metrics for performance management and employee incentives were implemented.

 

For example, instead of gauging managers on the resources under their control, their performance would now be based upon their ability to deliver results. Hence ensuring that key performance indicators are relevant to the organization’s new direction.

 

While it was not explicitly mentioned, all of this would not have been possible without the right HRMS system. iqDynamics’ features a 360° Performance Management System that enables employees to configure specific appraisal templates to meet business requirements. This allows for organizational goals to be aligned with those of employees which improves productivity and engagement levels.

Committing to a change at an organizational level can be a daunting task. However with the support of management and the HR department, this monumental task can be quite possible.


Having a system that can help you adapt quickly to changes in top management strategy is key to creating an agile organisation. If you are interested in exploring the possibilities in a HRMS software that provides you with capabilities of a Tier-one system, contact us here today! 

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