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The VUCA Imperative: Why HR Needs to Change Now

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February 8, 2022

We are living (and working!) in a VUCA world.

  • Volatile
  • Uncertain
  • Complex
  • Ambiguous

Today’s organisations need to be able to respond to change quickly, flexibly and at pace.

They should be able to:

  • React to disruption and be able to innovate quickly. Stay ahead of the curve, retain and win business in line with market and technological changes
  • Find ways to drive productivity, collaboration and performance in our new hybrid world. Acknowledge that we have geographically dispersed workforces that have new needs and changing values
  • Build and improve leadership behaviours to retain the right skills. These will harness top talent able to respond to big challenges, often with fewer resources.
  • Lead their employees to adapt to the technological advances that are necessary to grow and flourish

Change, and people’s emotive reaction to it, is often the biggest barrier to success and growth.

Organisations need to rely on their HR function to lead the change strategy – and not just manage it.

Often, the HR team is burnt-out and weary of more and more pressure that is being placed on them to adapt using the same processes and systems. 

Have you ever witnessed any of the below?

  • Sending leaders on training courses. Whether that’s empathy, time-management, ‘difficult’ conversations, how to manage performance. But then wonder why they revert back to the same behaviours and nothing changes
  • Recruitment of top talent and the puzzlement from everyone when they leave in frustration when they can’t push through the change needed
  • Poor employee engagement survey results that result in a big change (Epic new system! New appraisal documentation! More people brought in to help with admin-burden!). All of which won’t have a quick impact. By the time they are rolled out it can often be too late.

Being able to adjust to the new ways of working and responding to the change of pace needed to adapt to changing market needs comes down to having leaders with an Agile mindset.

Agile HR leaders create an environment (yes, even virtually!) where teams work together to collaborate & innovate more effectively. They facilitate a continuous and quick feedback loop from employees and then empower them to rise to the challenge at pace.

Having an Agile mindset removes micro-managing tendencies and moves to a self-organising framework. The team knows what needs to be done, they work together on a solution, test and then launch. They then move on to the next challenge. It may be improving further. It may also be working on a solution to a different challenge that is now affecting the organisation.

HR benefits hugely from adopting this mindset and leading the way for the leadership team to also work the same way.

 What qualities do Agile HR Leaders need?

Empower people to own the process – not just HR

An Agile HR leader provides their self-organising team with the outcome that is required. They then empower the team to work out for themselves how to achieve that outcome. Teams need to be accountable for the process and achieving the outcome desired. They also share a feeling of achievement when the desired outcome is reached. An outcome puts people front and centre, such as:

  • “As an employee, I want to be able to easily access support without having to wait for my 121. So that I can overcome barriers to my success and achieve my goals”
  • “As a Line Manager, I want to be able to give feedback continuously and empathically. So that my team can improve quickly and feel supported”
  • “As a CEO, I want to be able to access HR analytics in real-time. So that I can lead the board to make the right decisions based on evidence and not ‘noise”

Embrace conflict

Agile HR leaders should expect to be challenged. They should have the skill to facilitate decision-making through collaboration and understanding the evidence/data. Meetings should not be information sharing sessions, but collective problem solving to find the best possible solution. Agile HR leaders welcome constructive conflict and ensure this is positively constructed.

A Growth Mindset

Having a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset means acknowledging that we can always improve and get better. A growth mindset embraces the necessity of learning and improvement, and accepts that failure is part and parcel of improvement.

A flexible approach

Agile HR leaders who focus on outcomes will have to be flexible in their approach about how the team decides to resolve the challenge placed before them. Moving to self-organising teams mean mistakes will happen. Adapting to experimentation and valuing smaller changes regularly instead of waiting for the perfect solution may cause these mistakes. An HR Agile leader accepts that everyone is doing their best as a starting point.

A coaching approach

There’s a skill to coaching. It’s about asking the right questions, listening hard and then encouraging a mindset in others that they can find their own way. With a fixed mindset, you may tell people how to do things based on how you have always done it, but this won’t encourage innovation or development of their own skills and problem-solving abilities. An Agile HR leader doesn’t say ‘bring me solutions, not problems’. They say ‘bring me problems, and let’s work on a solution’. 

Really and properly understanding your employees (from the very bottom to the very top)

Agile HR leaders get the best out of people by understanding what each person does well, and where they need development to get better.  Knowing when to push people to exceed their own limitations and when to pull back and offer support, takes emotional intelligence and strong leadership skills. You can establish trust by knowing what values each team member has, and their own personal goal.

Why do organisations want to be Agile – and supported by Agile HR leaders?

2021 survey by Goremotely. 60% of companies reported that they had experienced a growth in profits after adopting an Agile approach.

Deloitte survey. 94% of surveyed companies reported that agility and collaboration with be critical to their organisation’s success

PWC’s 2021 Global Survey. 69% of business leaders whose organisations have successfully adapted in the pandemic say culture has been a source of competitive advantage

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that having an Agile mindset is increasingly needed today as organisations respond to the ongoing long-term impact of the Covid-19. Most predominantly in the speed of technological advances, the competition to attract and retain the best talent and the ever-changing shifts in companies that need to diversify to stay relevant and profitable.

 It’s time to reimagine how HR gets done and join the HR (R)Evolution.

 To book a free consultation with Kate Maddison-Greenwell click here. You can use this to go through a particular pain point you may be experiencing as an HR leader.

 To find out more information, visit

Kate Maddison-Greenwell, founder of People Efficient, is an expert in the Organisational Design, Digital Transformation and HR fields, using her knowledge of Agile, Scrum and Kanban to help companies reimagine how HR gets done.

Her background leading complex projects on employee engagement, employee experience, culture, wellbeing, project management and employee relations with clients such as Commonwealth Games, BMW, Channel 4 and Lee Stafford, have helped leaders to put their people at the front and centre of their business strategy.

Kate uses her Masters level in HR, Agile and Scrum qualifications to help leaders respond to change at pace and build transparent, efficient and people-centred cultures. She is an energetic, digitally focused and an innovative facilitator, podcast host and keynote speaker; as well as a passionate advocate for equality and developing other HR practitioners. Kate utilises her platform, which includes a top performing HR podcast, to encourage HR leaders to join the HR (R)Evolution and transition to the next phase of modern HR.

You can find Kate on Linkedin at

Or check out the HR Director’s Cut podcast – number 4 on the top 100 HR podcasts globally