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Agile HR in the Age of Disruption

WRITTEN BY: YU MING CHIN


Change is already here and it’s not merely a buzzword we see online. Unknowingly, we encounter social and business changes every day especially on how organizations operate.

Being agile is equivalent to adapting to change. As the world goes through digital transformation, agility is posing to be a critical skill that organizations must develop. Last year, I had the privilege to speak at the 54th PMAP Annual Conference and discussed “Agile HR: New Imperatives for Disruption.” This topic remains to be relevant today, not just for the HR function, as it touches on how we must respond to disruption and eventually be an agent of change in this fast-paced environment. 

Are we ready for disruption?


Our team conducted a survey last 2017 to find out if organizations are affected by the occurring social and business changes. The relevant findings summarize four key points:

1. The world of work is being significantly affected by disruptive forces that are difficult to manage.

81.39% of respondents say that their business has been significantly affected by radical changes. Among those affected, more than 50% admittedly find it difficult to adapt to these changes. The impact of the VUCA world is greatly attributed to the responses. Some organizations employ traditional methods in HR and other business segments, thinking these are still effective. Others opt to stay stagnant. At present, staying at a standstill is not enough. There are only two options to survive: go with the flow or surpass the current.

2. Organizations are implementing changes as a response to these forces.

Respondents who have easily adapted to the disruptive forces employ 4 common HR approached to address change. First, they create a stronger, more consistent, and improved communication across the entire organization. Second, they execute organizational and job restructuring to streamline operations and improve overall performance. Third, current versus required skills/competencies are thoroughly evaluated to identify which are appropriate for the role. Organizations also consider providing supplementary training to fill the prevalent skills gap. Lastly, they adapt new systems, processes, procedures, and policies.

3. HR is viewed as a critical function in adapting for disruptive forces.

Leaders recognize Human Resources’ role as the leading function in embracing disruption due to its ability to reinvent productivity through technology, modification of business value, resource distribution, and workforce culture & values transformation. This proves that HR is more than just a function, it is a force to be reckoned with in preparing leaders and employees to succeed.

4. HR considers itself as performing better as compared to the evaluation of the CEO.

HR Executives consistently gave themselves a higher performance grade as compared to the grade given by the CEO – from 62.1% to 282.9%.



Looking closely at the chart, discrepancy in perceived performance is largest in the following themes (from least to greatest):

First, enabling the organization to adjust quickly. HR is one of the business functions greatly affected by disruption due to the growing availability of technology resulting to its changing role in company culture and employee engagement. Adjusting quickly is demanded of organizations as change gets more challenging by the day. 

Second, creating a network of empowered and agile teams. Organizational silos are a thing of the past, which can impede collaboration and communication within groups. With the new landscape, having agile teams allow openness and visibility of work, which highlights the value of each team member that they bring to the table.

Third, championing change. To truly embrace change, it must start with one’s self. Leaders serve as the biggest influencers of change in the organization. Encouraging employees to keep pace with change and recognizing the value it can provide will result to a greater chance of success.

Lastly, and the most important gap that should be emphasized is utilizing technology. In the age of digitalization, technology is the new currency – big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, and other advancements that impact the workplace and its workforce. Technology must not be considered as a threat, but as a complement to make organizations run efficiently.

Let us ask ourselves once again, are we truly prepared for disruption? In perspective, there is still room to be more strategic in the HR function.

The case for Agile HR


What does it mean to be agile?

According to Horney, Pasmore, and O’Shea (2015), agility is the capability to anticipate, sense, and respond to changes in the environment with actions that are focused, fast, and flexible. With agility comes adaptability + speed + execution, as defined by Accenture. 

In my personal perspective, being agile is preparing for the unpredictable and inevitable. Having a challenger and growth mindset activates the power to be resilient in breaking the convention and go after game-changing solutions to combat setbacks.

Agility is not only confined to individual advantage, but also extends to organizations. The new model for management is characterized as having highly connected virtual teams, instilling collaboration, utilizing data to make decisions, and crowdsourcing.



Human Resources is one of the critical functions that drive agility in the organization. It is capable of responding more quickly and effectively to changing employee expectations, workplace disruptions, and business requirements. Josh Bersin explains in the New Rules and Roles for HR that instead of going the traditional management route, embrace agile management - focusing on speed and your customers or clients. An Agile HR creates adaptability and innovation, which enables the unit to implement pivotal programs, systems, and strategies which foster expertise, collaboration and decision-making.

Agile transformation at Viventis


At Viventis, we live by the purpose of igniting careers – nurturing every person’s career well-being and supporting our clients to attract the best talents and address their recruitment challenges. Our motivation to be of service to all candidates and clients is deeply rooted in our self-drive and empowerment, or our “why.” 

We have the vision of being a disruptor in the HR field and to make this happen, we have begun employing agile practices in our organization.

Viventis employees have adopted self-management to take charge of each person’s career by setting measurable KPIs, creating individual development plans, and building dynamic communication with one’s supervisor through regular coaching sessions. Teams are encouraged to be collaborative and proactive through the implementation of daily huddles and weekly meetings. These methods promote a culture of transparency and openness among team members, resulting to high organizational performance.  


How are we able to sustain agility in the organization? In everything that we do, our “why” is anchored on mastery, autonomy, and purpose to drive a healthy and fulfilling work life. As self-driven and empowered individuals, we shape the future of work by responding quickly to change, helping people move into new roles, and reinventing the new definition of KPIs. This is supported by lifelong learning which defines the way we learn, relearn, and unlearn to unleash skills – the reason why we have partnered Degreed. And lastly, our organization leverages on the technological revolution by introducing Artificial Intelligence in the workplace and using insights & analytics for more data-driven business decisions.

Our world is rapidly changing, ambiguous, complex, and turbulent – a fact that must not be ignored. If you want to survive, let alone thrive in the new environment, practice agility within your organizations. Continuously respond to any changes that may impact your business and turn those challenges into opportunities to achieve success in the long run.



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