In the first part of this article, I gave a brief introduction to what agile methodology is and how this can be applied to the HR practice – however, before you launch into creating squads and inviting everyone to be part of your new way of working, let’s check in on the potential limitations or obstacles you might face so you can work through how to overcome them, and/or ensure that the outcome you strive for will benefit from an agile approach.

Firstly, there may be some growing pains when it comes to teaming people up. We must remember that the concept of ‘teamwork’ has evolved dramatically since the pandemic. With the mass adoption of hybrid and remote working styles, using new tools such as Miro, Trello and other interactive job management and collaboration tools, will be new to most people and will take some time to get used to. In-person teams and individual collaboration may also be a skill some have yet to flex their muscles in – especially in a context where each member of the team is very reliant on the other to ensure that the project can continue moving forward at pace.

Squads can also suffer from friction between members if they approach the work by ‘protecting their territory’. As teams are multi-disciplinary, there will be a healthy sharing of views with some team members making suggestions and interjections on aspects of the activity set that is outside their domain. This can be perceived badly if the squad has yet to move from storming to norming. The fusion of skills is the entire reason the process is so successful, as it allows for obstacles to be worked through quickly and carefully so that valuable insight and innovation can be embraced and used.

The size of the squad can be another enabler if the members are chosen well. It can be difficult to avoid upsetting someone who had wanted to be part of the squad when trying to stay within the 8–10-member limit. However, squads that are over-representing a particular insight or skillset can run the risk of having conversations dominated. Therefore, having equal representation will help to avoid this and keep things running smoothly.

Ambition can be another obstacle to overcome if you want to succeed. It’s not easy to set goals that are realistic and can be achieved within the determined timeframe. Agile is all about delivery of components of a larger goal in shorter timeframes, and includes lots of insight, trial, and error. Sprints are in short bursts so that, as a squad, you can present your findings, receive feedback, and venture into a second sprint with valuable lessons learnt, progress made, and knowing that you are on track to deliver something the customer will benefit from.

In HR, we have been guilty in the past to have operated in the same way the technology function can be guilty of, and that is to squirrel away on developing a tool/process that is best in class, but has no function in your organisation, or creates more work and less value for leaders and staff. Agile brings about amazing opportunities for a different way to ensure the tool/process is fit for purpose and harnesses all skills, strengths, and passion from the right people.

A watch out for pushing your squads too hard, however, comes in the form of deploying squads on multiple sprints. Operating sprints back-to-back may increase the risk of team members burning out, and it can be easy to get caught up in the progress being made and want to set even more ambitious goals for each sprint period. Agile methods require each member of the squad to be on top form throughout the sprint, and preferably without distraction from other work, as each member is reliant on the other for the flow of the work to continue and the goal to be achieved in the allotted timeframe. Therefore, it is advisable to have a small break in between sprints so team members can recalibrate before their next burst.

Agile working could be a game-changer for HR, from delivering projects and programmes that create value for teams and organisations, to HR team members being a part of other functional squads. It’s unlikely agile would work in the reactive operational environment, or indeed when HR partners are needed to be close to leaders and managers on a daily advisory basis. But HR can reap rewards from this way of working with a considered and managed approach; balance, transparency, and cohesiveness are key.

If you would like to discuss the practicalities of activating agile methodology in HR in more detail, please get in touch with me at

Traditionally, HR workstreams could be organised into four sections: cyclical activities such as engagement surveys; reactive client focused work such as performance management; proactive business improvement such as organisational design and learning initiatives; and projects such as change programmes and process improvements. Often, as the speed of organisations influence the ability to deliver well, HR is left wanting in non-operational areas.

However, agile HR methodology may be a solution to keeping pace.

Agile in HR is quickly gaining traction across the globe, proving particularly popular in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Essentially, agile methodology aims to achieve a unifying, specific goal in a much shorter amount of time. This is often done by combining a team of multi-disciplinary individuals from across the company and having them each take on activities that together, create momentum behind the activity that is broken down into smaller components of a larger goal. This group, known as a ‘squad’, will exchange and update their progress on a regular basis, gathering stakeholder feedback along the way so they can adjust their work real time, and deliver an outcome that more closely matches the needs of the recipients. This way of working is conducted in short cycles, or ‘sprints’, and keeps the squad focused, energised, and on the right track.

Whilst agile methodology will look different depending on the desired goal, there are a few staple factors of this methodology that will be consistent no matter what the intent:

  • Multi-Disciplinary Teams – when forming a squad, it is important to identify all the relevant perspectives you will need to be represented in the team. The idea is to bring different perspectives and skillsets together to operate more efficiently, and to consider all perspectives in order to achieve the desired outcome. Within the HR function, a multi-disciplinary team might include various members of the HR sub-functions as well as stakeholders and external consultants.
  • Stricter Timeframes – sprints will typically be between two weeks to a month. The idea of agile is that the squad rapidly deploys an outcome, so the roadmap is precise and regularly updated based on feedback and progress. This is different from traditional project management, in that everyone sees and hears about progress on a much more regular basis and can influence the next steps in real time. Goals can be achieved at a much faster rate due to the mix of skillsets, viewpoints, and feedback collaborating towards a common outcome. There are clear roles, responsibilities, and deadlines.  
  • Transparency – part of the process involves everyone being honest about what they have and can complete within the timeframe the squad is working within. This requires transparency, vulnerability, and trust. As a multi-disciplinary squad, it is therefore important that everyone knows exactly what they are responsible for and the deadline for delivery. Many people new to agile can find it difficult to be so transparent and fear they are letting the squad down if they don’t complete their tasks. However, what happens in a squad that has pushed through this obstacle is that everyone supports each other, as the common goal overrides everything else.

So, might Agile be what HR has been looking for to help deliver timely solutions that create value for their client groups?

Check back here tomorrow for Part 2 where I outline the potential limitations or obstacles you might face and how you can overcome these when using agile methodology.

In the meantime, if you would like to discuss the practicalities of activating agile methodology in HR in more detail, please get in touch with me at

Encouraging individuals to ‘give it 100%’ is a well-worn cliché. But is it actually the best way to optimize personal performance?

Those advocating the 85:15 rule – working at 85% capacity and keeping 15% for yourself – would beg to differ.

The 85:15 rule is thought to have stemmed from a technique used by Olympian Carl Lewis and his coach, who argued that athletes who were keeping 15% ‘in the tank’ rather than giving it the full 100% the whole time were much better at keeping pace for the duration of a race. And, considering Lewis won nine Olympic gold medals and one silver, he might have been onto something.

As an HR professional, part of my role is aiding an employer in optimizing their people power, but sometimes the thing that may help employees function at their best is by knowing at what point someone is optimized enough.

When we break it down, an employee working at their optimum does not automatically mean they are working at 100%. In fact, unknowingly, it usually means they are functioning at around the 85% mark. This is what all employers should be striving for with their teams, as this promotes a sense of consistency in the quality of work being produced that is realistic, reduces risk of burnout, and helps employees find more balance between work and life.

This idea of ‘giving everything you’ve got’ to your job is a somewhat outdated one, and has been carried over from previous generations of workers who were working in an ‘always-on’ culture. This ‘always-on’ ideology continues to loom in the face of remote and hybrid work blurring the lines between home life and work life, and so it is important for employers to be taking note of strategies such as the 85:15 rule to help prevent employees from being overworked.

What is very important to remember with this rule is that it isn’t saying ‘don’t try’, it’s saying ‘don’t burnout trying’! Keeping that 15% energy reserve helps prevent employees getting home from work and being too exhausted to do anything – even something as basic as making a meal. And when this is paired with the fact that many people have responsibilities outside of the workplace – caring for children, caring for elderly relatives – it only increases the importance of acknowledging this way of working.

This mindset also lends towards the encouragement of better brain health at work, and reminds employees how important it is to nourish and rest their brains in order to allow it to function to the best of its abilities.

With burnout from workplace stress at an all time high (over 40% across US and UK said that they were burnt out), leaders who are practicing this mindset and actively instilling it in their workplaces are normalizing the idea that it is okay to keep some energy for yourself, your brain, and your bodily health.

If you would like to discuss how we can coach the 85:15 rule in your workplace, please get in touch with me at 

The Healthier Nation Index report has recently been published, revealing some startling statistics about sleeping patterns.

People are now getting less than 6 hours a night of sleep – which is a sizeable difference to the 7-9 hours of sleep recommended by the UK’s National Health Service. This drop seems to be due to the fact that 45% of respondents reported they had got less sleep over the past 12-months than in previous years – and nearly half (49%) said that their sleep quality had also worsened.

These same respondents reported that their lack of sleep was having knock-on effects of feeling depressed, an increased likelihood of becoming unwell, struggling to eat healthily, failing to exercise, and low productivity levels.

The latter is because sleep loss can make it challenging to maintain focus, attention and vigilance. This happens due to the increase of ‘microsleeps’ (brief episodes of non-responsiveness that cause lapses in attention) someone will have during their day to compensate for sleep deprivation.

For employers, these findings are particularly worrying. Having sleep-deprived employees can lead to a decrease in productivity and engagement, an increase in absences – or both.

In the spirit of Sleeptember, here’s some advice on how employers can play their part in enhancing sleep quality amongst their workforce:

  • Build sleep into wider wellbeing strategies – review current wellbeing strategies and pinpoint where initiatives that aim to improve sleep can be woven in. These will tend to compliment other areas of wellbeing, such as nutrition, brain health, and exercise. Offering line managers training around recognising the signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation is also key to ensuring that the right people are actually taking these strategies into account in their daily lives, as some may not be aware that they are having difficulties in the first place.
  • Signpost to the right support – managers that can identify those in need of support with their sleeping patterns will then need to know the best course of action to help. Having general lifestyle strategies is a great first step, and these can be implemented in innovative ways (for example, life insurance broker YuLife have gamified their experience to keep employees active physically and mentally), but sometimes there may be something deeper underlying at the root cause of sleep deprivation. Ensuring that they know the right channels to filter them through – whether that be internal (Employee Assistance Programs) or external (counselling, insomnia therapy), having the knowledge around this topic is the key to combatting it.
  • Follow the leader – an experiment conducted a few years ago discovered that those who were sleep deprived were considered 13% less charismatic as leaders. This was linked to the fact that when we get enough sleep, we’re likely to feel positive and this positive energy gets transmitted to the people around us. So, to have the organization’s leaders promoting good sleep is one thing, but ensuring they do it themselves is equally as important.

There are also some more experimental strategies that employers can consider; one which is increasingly gaining popularity is the idea of encouraging naps during the workday (which you can read about in more depth here). But the key takeaway from this is that, as a company is only as strong as its people, good sleep plays a vital role in the overall performance of the business.

If you would like to discuss how we can help train and support leadership around the implementation of sleep strategies, please get in touch with us!

It is probably well known by now that happy employees are more productive – in fact, according to research from Oxford University, those employees that are happier are around 13% more productive.

But ‘happiness’ is one of those elusive terms, in the sense that it can relate to a lot of different factors. For employers to figure out how they can contribute to creating happier, and in turn more productive, teams they need to consider what the ingredients for a happy employee might be.

So, what could employers be throwing into the mix to produce a happy employee?

  • Aligning values – nowadays, employees want their values to align with their employers. One study found that 56% of workers won’t even consider a workplace that doesn’t share their values, and this suggests that a key aspect to an employee being happy at their place of work is feeling like they are amongst likeminded people. This highlights the importance of companies having clear mission statements, values, and goals that are openly shared during the recruitment and onboarding process, to demonstrate what the company is passionate about and, as a result, attract the most suitable talent.
  • A sense of purpose – purpose is a driving force for feeling happy. Not only does a sense of purpose tend to foster positive emotions, it also leads to employees feeling like their work is more meaningful and so they are more productive as a result. Leaders should lead with a sense of purpose, and continually be reminding staff what it is that their role does to contribute to the bigger picture. This can help foster this sense of purpose and value, as it is outlining exactly how their role makes a difference to the organization and the world beyond it.
  • Recognition – recognition is a great way of reminding staff how much they are valued for what they do and give to a company. While having formal recognition programs and procedures in place is a great thing, recognition can also be as simple as saying ‘thank you’ and showing appreciation in real time. This can make all the difference to someone’s mood, and promote a positive affirmation culture amongst teams as well.
  • Intersectional inclusion – in addition to recognition for one’s efforts, it is so important for employers to be able to recognise the intersectionality of different employees. Ensuring that a culture of inclusion and belonging are created in the workplace will mean that each individual feels that they can bring their entire self to work every day, and will be appreciated for their differences and understood on a deeper, individual level. Those that feel seen at work are much more likely to be happy where they work and retained in the future.
  • Human touch – while I appreciate the value of clear policies, so that everyone has the clarity they need around the way things work in an organization, some of the most moving stories I’ve heard in my career have been when companies know when to apply that human touch in unforeseen circumstances. For example, being flexible about bereavement policies and offering an employee the time they need rather than a strict numerical amount. This generates significant loyalty amongst staff, improving their happiness for where they work, and subsequently their retention likelihood.

There is no one size fits all approach to making every employee happy, but there are a range of different ingredients that should be consistently leveraged to ensure the best results. Once an employer is able to perfect this recipe for happiness and contentment in their workplace, they will see sharp increases in productivity, loyalty, trust, and retention.

If you would like to discuss how OrgShakers can help you embed these ‘happiness strategies’ into your workplace, please get in touch with me at  

One of HR’s key functions for employers is implementing strategies to optimize productivity in the workplace.

By now, most employers will know the basics on how to go about this – but there are a growing number of innovative productivity strategies that organizations may not have considered before. They may sound counter-intuitive, but hear us out!

1. Napping on the job

Yes, you heard that right. Napping at work can be a great way of boosting productivity. Humans were originally biphasic (we slept twice a day) but now we have become monophasic (we sleep once a day), but biologically our bodies have a dip in the middle of the day where body temperature decreases, and cognitive processes are not as strong. Having a nap during this time can help improve one’s mood, engagement levels and productivity!

2. Microbreaks

Having been proven to improve engagement and productivity levels, microbreaks are when an employee takes a five-minute break between tasks and actively takes a moment for themselves. Normalizing this idea and encouraging employees to do this can have a noticeable effect on their productivity levels, as their brains are being suitably rested to keep them working at their optimum.

3. Listening to music…

The link between music and productivity continues to be investigated, but one thing that psychologists have confirmed is that music that someone likes can cause the brain to produce dopamine. This stimulates the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for planning, organizing, inhibition control, and attention. Therefore, a lot of people find that they are better able to focus and be more productive when listening to the right music (this being music that they enjoy on an individual level, so hand out some headphones!).

4. …or playing music!

What is an even more interesting way of boosting productivity is encouraging staff to actually play instruments. Neuroscientists have discovered that when a person plays an instrument, multiple areas of the brain light up and are simultaneously processing different information in intricate, interrelated, and fast sequences. This way of thinking can be translated into other areas, meaning that the individual will be able to engage more of their brain when working.

5. Pets at work

Studies have shown that when people interacted with dogs, their ability to think, plan, and concentrate was enhanced. And even more interesting to note was that this effect lasted up to six-weeks after contact. This is why many employers are now considering pet-friendly policies as a means of attracting talent and boosting productivity levels.

Crafting a working environment in creative and innovative ways can reap unexpected benefits. Even though taking your dog to work or taking a nap in the middle of day sounds like a productivity nightmare, these things – when done properly – can actually make all the difference to a team’s productivity levels. If you would like to discuss how we can help you find the best productivity strategies for your organization, please get in touch with us!

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