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April 6, 2020

Working Agile: Why & How Can You Take It Into Recruitment? – Project Management Series

Teri Gibson
Teri Gibson Head of Client Operations

You’ve heard about it before – working Agile. This has become hugely popular in the workforce now, especially in tech or software development teams and we’re currently using Agile in our recruitment process at LevelUp. However, some people might still not know what it actually is.

What does being Agile mean?

Agile is a group of practices – it’s not a methodology or process – and it is derived from the principles and values mentioned in the Agile Manifesto. You could say that being agile is a thinking style. It’s about being flexible to change, creating work collaboratively and delivering in small iterations. It’s all about focusing on the customer and aligning the work to the business objectives.

Agile in project management

Agile can be used in multiple different industries, teams and projects since it is just adapting and aligning to the principles and values behind it. Projects which have a fluid scope and timeline are best for this way of working, and you can expect delivery of small parts of the product or service throughout the project. Agile in recruitment has been around for a while, and it was IBM who implemented Agile fully into talent acquisition with “AgileTA”.

Benefits of working Agile in recruitment

Like anything, there are both advantages and disadvantages to working Agile. The positives include being more flexible to changing requirements or bottlenecks; transparency in progress; the collaboration between the project team as well as stakeholders; and engagement and reflection within the team is high.

Furthermore, benefits of working Agile include an increased speed and efficiency whereby the priority is always delivering the work which will have the highest value. So for recruitment, that means moving candidates through the pipeline. Working agile allows you to work more collaboratively as a group and be more transparent with the progress. This leads to an improved candidate and hiring manager experience.

Downfalls of working Agile

Some criticisms of Agile include more time and energy are required for constant communication. Therefore, it may become difficult to measure progress since the picture is always kept quite small.

Additionally, scope creep is a very real thing. That’s where additional and maybe unexpected work requests from stakeholders mean the workload increases and the scope of the project expands without anyone realising it.

Being Agile does require more time and energy from the entire project team as well as the stakeholders.

Agile in Practice – the Scrum Framework

When it comes to Agile, the Scrum framework is the most popular implementation of its values and principles. But, what is Scum and how exactly do you implement it in the recruitment projects? 

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a framework which can be used to foster better collaboration, learning from experience and continuous delivery to your client. While Agile is a behaviour or way of thinking, Scrum is the more practical implementation of that. 

There are multiple different ways to implement Agile into the workplace, and Scrum is one of these.

Roles within Scrum in a recruitment project

There are a few different roles in Scrum which are important to understand:

Product Owner 

This person sets the direction for the whole project and determines the vision and goals for the work. He or she understands the client’s wishes and needs and is accountable for delivering the highest value to the client in small increments. They are also the person accountable for the backlog of tasks for the project.

The Development Team 

Consists of the group of people actually doing the work. This team works in a self-organising way, meaning they organise and manage their own workload. Ideally, this group is also cross-functional, meaning that there are various skills and levels of people within the team.

The Scrum Master 

The Scrum Master is the one responsible for supporting the Scrum framework in the recruitment project. They are the coach to the rest of the team – making sure everyone understands the vision described by the Product Owner, removes blockers and obstacles the Development Team may face and facilitates the way of working.

How can you implement the Scrum framework in a recruitment project?

Sprints

Work is done in short bursts called Sprints, usually between 2-4 weeks and the focus is delivering work which contributes to the main project goals.

Sprint Planning is the meeting at the beginning of a sprint. The purpose of Sprint Planning is to identify what needs to be done in the next Sprint. The outcome of this meeting is to create a backlog of tasks to be completed in the Sprint, assign the work and identify any blockers or risks.

During a Sprint Planning, the Scrum Master could ask questions like:

  • “What are the most important tasks in our backlog?”
  • “What is the biggest risk preventing us from a successful sprint?”
  • “Can we achieve all of this within 2 weeks?”

We’ve got a great agenda with an example of how to run a Sprint in a recruitment project:

Agile in Recruitment - Sprint Planning agenda

Daily Standup

These are quick check-ins where everyone mentions what they achieved yesterday, where their focus will be today and if there are any blockers. The purpose is alignment and to make sure everyone is in sync. These meetings encourage collaboration and transparency within the Development Team.

Retros

And finally, Retrospectives are the reflective and learning part of Scrum. The purpose of this meeting is to learn from what happened in the last Sprint – what worked, what didn’t and why. By doing this, you are learning from experience and identifying what improvements need to be made in the next sprint. Sharing with the whole Scrum team can also improve the working relationships and it encourages open communication and optimal team dynamics.

Lucky for you – we’ve also got an agenda on how to run a Retrospective:

Working agile in recruitment retrospective meeting agenda

Artifacts in the Scrum Framework 

To wrap this all up, there are a couple of artifacts that you should also be aware of:

The Product Backlog is created based on the project requirements, and it is a list of all the work needed to be done in order to finish the project. The Product Owner is responsible for this list – from creating it, ordering the tasks and keeping it up to date. Something to bear in mind is that this list is organic and will evolve based on feedback from the client, new requirements and what happens during the Sprints.

The Development Team then pulls work from this Product Backlog and creates a Sprint Backlog for each Sprint. This backlog is then the work that the Development Team decides can be achieved in the next 2-4 weeks, and this is the to-do list they will work from during the Sprint.

Scrum is a great framework to use for project management as the focus is on continuous delivery, learning from experience and it encourages the whole team to work together. Since it’s just the way of working – it can be used in various industries and departments.

How can you adapt to working Agile in Recruitment?

As I mentioned, Agile is not a process. Therefore, it’s hard to define steps to implement it within your team or project. My suggestion is to read up on it, really understand the 12 principles and how they can relate to your work. 

Here are some examples of the way we’ve implemented it in our work at LevelUp:

We deliver work frequently 

Whether it’s small batches of sourced candidates, or planning interviews consistently for our hiring managers. We ensure our pipeline is constantly moving and we always have a back-up plan

Collaboration & communication with the whole team

We collaborate and communicate with the entire recruitment team, and hiring managers on a daily basis. We try to work in sync as much as possible throughout the project

Continuous improvement is important to us.

We are constantly trying out new tools, techniques or improving our service. This allows us to learn and consistently deliver high value

Self-organization working method 

Our recruitment teams assign work based on self-organisation. This increases motivation and we see the team taking more ownership of their responsibilities

For Agile to work properly, the whole team really needs to commit to not only understanding it, but actually living it. Implementing it into your work and actually being agile, takes time and energy and it won’t happen overnight.

Agile it’s something which requires dedication, and continuous and consistent effort. But once you’ve got the hang of it, are implementing some Agile practices into your work and discovering the benefits of it, it’s most definitely worth it.

Do you want to read more about project management? Make sure to click the link to find out 5 tips for making your kick-off meetings run smoothly

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