The modern workplace is in a continual state of flux. Modern methodologies and technology are constantly improving workflow and communication, streamlining operations within traditional workspaces and enabling more extreme options such as remote work and outsourcing.
While the complexity of a modern agile work environment offers a variety of options for employers and managers to work with, it can make recruiting a challenge. What traits and skills are required for an employee to survive and thrive in a workspace focused on things like efficiency, productivity, and flexibility?
Defining an Agile Work Environment
Before getting too far into the specifics of how to find workers who will survive and thrive in an agile work environment, it’s important to define the attributes of an agile work environment.
The agile project management approach strives to replace the rigidity of a traditional office, eschewing it in favor of a more open-minded alternative. The agile approach prioritizes people over process and is laser-focused on productivity rather than adhering to pre-defined behaviors within the workplace. Among other things, agile work environments prioritize:
- Transparency — already a building block of effective team management, it is absolutely essential when employees are working more independently.
- Adaptability — required by an agile approach as your team constantly adjusts to an ever-evolving workspace.
- Flexibility — part and parcel with the agile experience is a willingness to adjust to workflow, location, and expectations.
- Simplicity — the inherent complexity of a less rigid office space makes a simplistic, streamlined approach to processes and guidelines important, enabling everyone to remain on the same page.
- Collaboration — essential for agile teams is the ability to maintain smooth teamwork and communication.
- Decentralized authority — along with individual empowerment, this is a requirement for the agile environment to thrive, considering factors like flexibility and adaptability constantly influence how an office functions.
In other words, an agile workspace tries to give employees what they need in order to reach their goals and perform their jobs in the best way possible. This, in turn, leads to higher productivity and greater efficiency, which translates to greater output and lower use of resources for the company itself.
What to Look for When Hiring for an Agile Work Environment
When properly structured and executed, an agile work environment can be a tremendous boon to a company’s bottom line. However, in order to survive, the methodology must be propped up by a supporting cast of employees who have bought into the agile mentality — which is why you need to make sure you’re looking for the right attributes when hiring for an agile workspace.
In order to find these attributes, interviewing using behavioral questioning is one of the best methods for assessing candidates. Because these traits are often intangible, finding hard evidence of them is difficult. It is through their interviews that you will find the right candidates.
Just like the workspace itself, a candidate for an agile work environment must be flexible. This doesn’t just apply to the initial understanding of how your team functions, either. It must extend into the future as they adapt to changes in company operations and managerial expectations on a regular basis.
Ask a candidate questions similar to:
- Describe a time in your career when you’ve realized that your goal or strategy was not the right one. What did you do to pivot? What were the outcomes of the changes? Did you need to pivot more than once?
- Give an example of when you had more than one project competing for your time. How did you juggle the projects?
- And the classic: How do you weigh your work tasks and your home life?
Creativity is a primary characteristic of an agile methodology worker. Look for areas on a resume or cover letter where a candidate has proven their problem-solving prowess. How do they handle challenging situations? Are they leaders or followers?
The following behaviors and their answers to some of these brainteasers can help you assess your candidates for their levels of creativity:
- As superficial as it may seem, check out their wardrobe. If your company is more on the casual side, have they come to the interview dressed in clothes with creative touches like pops of color or professional yet quirky accessories? We interview best in the clothes we love the most, and creatives are going to bring their creativity to their clothing.
- Did they remark on a detail in your office no other candidate did? Such as a piece of art or the layout of your office? Are they observant? This characteristic points to a certain level of care in the work that they do.
Along with aspiration, an employee should be enthusiastic about being a part of your team. From contributing to your company’s success right down to participating in each individual project, they should show a willingness and excitement for the work at hand. Make sure to parse through each exciting comment in order to identify what are shallow platitudes of a typical cover letter or thank you email and what translates to a genuine eagerness to work for your company.
Many agile workspaces include remote work as an option. While remote work is often lauded for its positive attributes, it also has some significant negative concerns such as a lack of community and relationship, a potential struggle to communicate, or an inability to establish productive routines. With that in mind, make sure a candidate shows signs of responsibility throughout the hiring process. Look for proof of mature, conscientious behavior on a resume, via referrals, or in the way a candidate handles themselves in an interview.
Did the candidate arrive early? But not too early? Arriving about 10-15 minutes early is a good sign. This gives the candidate time enough to use the restroom if necessary, do a little prep, and compose herself. Any earlier, and it appears as if the candidate is overeager, which can signal a tendency to boredom.
Ask the candidate why she wants the specific position for which she’s applying. Pay close attention to her answers. If she leans toward simply paying the bills, she is likely to be on the lookout for the next best thing rather than committing to your organization.
If your team is going to be working on different schedules and in multiple locations, it’s essential that a new member be able to practice the art of listening. In addition, they must be able to clearly communicate with others via text, video chat, and other mediums that are typically utilized in an agile work environment.
There are many questions and scenarios you can use in interviews to assess communication skills:
- Ask a candidate to describe a time when she had to persuade a colleague or customer to her point of view when that person did not agree with her.
- Ask the candidate to tell you about a time when she resolved a disagreement with a colleague without the intervention of a supervisor. How was it resolved?
The ability to develop talent is crucial to long-term success. If you suffer from constant turnover or atrophying skill sets, your company will quickly suffer. Make sure that an incoming recruit will be receptive to being taught new methods in the future. Look for a track record of willingness to learn new processes, utilize new software, and develop new routines. Discuss this with references and previous employers. And then be sure to create a training and development program for all employees that regularly builds on their skills.
Building an Agile Culture
There are many different things to consider as you vet new candidates for your company. However, taking the time to assess their ability to thrive within your particular system is a critical step in building a company culture that thrives on the agile project management methodology.
If you can establish a solid team that functions well in an agile work environment, you’ll be able to properly take advantage of the many benefits that a flexible workspace of this nature offers.