The Agile Guide for HR and Recruiting

agile hr, agile human resources, agile recruiting, agile recruitment

In this post, we’ll dig deeper into the basics of Agile principles, how they align to Lean philosophies, and how Agile’s Scrum can help a human resources team manage fundamental shifts in their organizations, teams and technologies—especially when it comes to HR technology adoption.

Josh Bersin, HR guru, describes in his newsletter how they asked “nearly 300 senior HR leaders about the intricacies of HR’s strategy and structure, its alignment to the business, and performance. Through a series of questions, they gave us information that allowed us to measure their HR agility and the HR and workplace practices that support it.”

How HR Can Leverage Agile Methodologies

Decentralize your day-to-day HR functions. The prime factor in making HR departments agile is actually having line managers doing the day-to-day HR responsibilities. The report said that “agile HR organizations have equipped line managers to do a great job of managing their talent, allowing HR practitioners to spend more time designing and executing the HR strategic plan.”

Clearly communicate your organization’s strategy, starting at the top. The second factor that is necessary is buy-in from your senior management. “Within the domain of leadership performance, we found that leaders’ clear communication of the organization’s strategy is the most critical. This relationship makes sense; agility is predicated on change—you need to change to demonstrate agility. This change needs to be guided, so without clear communication, agility is moot.”

Other Agile Methodologies Applied to HR:

  • Balancing future and current needs while planning HR staffing
  • Investing in improving the performance of the HR group
  • Continuously evaluating to improve HR’s customer service
  • Embedding few or no layers of authority within the HR group
  • Using technology to house or share information, from emailing to sophisticated knowledge management software
  • Optimizing HR resource use for maximal efficiency
  • Predicting changes that are likely to occur affecting the HR group.

These are listed in order of importance. The study concludes with: “The agilest HR organizations truly have their finger on the pulse of their effectiveness, efficiency, and customer service levels. They look to the future, predicting changes that will affect the way HR works and balancing the requirements posed by both short-term and long-term initiatives.”

So Where Does Scrum Come In?

Scrum is an Agile framework for completing complex projects. Scrum originally was formalized for software development projects, but it works well for any complex, innovative scope of work. The possibilities are endless. The Scrum framework is deceptively simple. This short video goes over the basics of Scrum.

The Scrum Framework Explained

Some important points as it relates to Agile for human resources and recruiting teams:

  • A product owner creates a prioritized wish list called a product backlog.
  • During sprint planning, the team pulls a small chunk from the top of that wish list, a sprint backlog, and decides how to implement those pieces.
  • The team has a certain amount of time — a sprint (usually two to four weeks) — to complete its work, but it meets each day to assess its progress (daily Scrum).
  • Along the way, the ScrumMaster keeps the team focused on its goal.
  • At the end of the sprint, the work should be potentially shippable: ready to hand to a customer, put on a store shelf, or show to a stakeholder.
  • The sprint ends with a sprint review and retrospective.
  • As the next sprint begins, the team chooses another chunk of the product backlog and begins working again.

To learn more about Scrum framework, I recommend checking out these resources.

Building an Agile Scrum Framework for Human Resources

Consider the Agile study and compare the framework as outlined in the above Scrum framework. What’s missing? A product owner/project manager—we could also refer to them as “ScrumMaster,” or a person identified to manage the project, keep the team focused on its goal, and keep implementation in line with planning. I see the role of a company recruiter as the ScrumMaster of the hiring and talent acquisition process.

A feedback loop—from hiring manager and interviewers—can help readjust the screening and offer an opportunity to reevaluate the job description as needed.

Consider “hand over” of candidates from sourcers to recruiting coordinators, from recruiter to hiring manager and interviewers. Collaborative software like Comeet nudges all parties automatically.

Sprint planning every week in light of the latest metrics, for example, if current sources aren’t delivering, consider trying new ones. Evaluate your screening metrics. Are you being too strict or not strict enough based on the quality of applications? When advancing candidates from the recruiter to the hiring manager, this is another opportunity to evaluate whether or not your process is working. Are you reducing backlog or creating a bottleneck?

Your company recruiter/ScrumMaster can use takeaways from sprint planning to evaluate what’s working and what’s not, create activities to attract more candidates if needed (and change screening criteria if you’re receiving too many unqualified candidates). How is your organization using agile in human resources and hiring? 

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Tommy Dikerman

Tommy Dikerman is the Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer for Comeet, a collaborative recruiting and hiring technology. He has extensive knowledge in agile and scrum methodologies working in technology and infrastructure.

Reader Interactions


  1. Ryan Ing says

    I used to work in IT and we used an agile methodology with every project. I think it would be beneficial to almost every kind of business department today.

  2. Mira says

    Agile is the most sought after concept right now, so how can the HR department stay behind? It’s great to go Agile with the recruitment process and a modern HR software is what the HR needs to make it a success.

    Digital HRMS is an example of such a software that offers more than just an automated leave system and payroll management.

  3. Anshuman Sinha says

    With great hiring or recruitment process comes different major trends application to the hiring process. One among is the Agile . Using an agile framework doesn’t only solves the complexity of the project works but is a channel to approach in having the checkpoints and sprints in order to keep a track throughout the process.


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