Photo by Andre A. Xavier on Unsplash

Scrum Masters, your relationship with HR is THE workplace bridge to build!

Beth Davis
Dec 2 · 3 min read

I live in a world where it actually does stand to reason that people do desire to have an enjoyable workplace experience. I’m pretty confident that I’m not alone in this either. Though being hyper aware of what is happening around me has led me to some interesting if not tricky workplace interactions to navigate — particularly when change is afoot. I pride myself in being able to, usually, see through and past most situations — looking to understand each unique point of view, experience, and mixture of feelings.

And yet, it still surprises me the on-going tangle of confusion and, at times, drama, between Scrum teams and HR — both facets of professional life I have gladly and intentionally devoted my work-life to.

So, in order to be build some bridges, let’s break down some of the common speed bumps that Scrum teams, particularly Scrum Masters encounter and how creating a stronger relationship with your HR team can do good for many.

When the leadership team isn’t quite embracing these new ways of working

We know that using Scrum to deliver value and working in this way requires a lot of change for many. Sometimes we underestimate how personal the change is — especially for executives who may not fully understand what they are supporting. Your HR partners are well connected and versed in how to navigate culture change; open a dialogue and see how you can team up to bring the purpose and heart of Scrum forward. Otherwise, it might feel like change being done to the executive team by the Scrum team.

When a team member is not performing

A lot of Scrum Masters are challenged by this one. It can be a tricky balancing act of respecting the team, playing the coach role, and knowing when to escalate a real performance challenge. When you have a relationship with HR you can seek coaching support to help you navigate the complexity. Sometimes the assumption that involving HR is a dead-end option because they do not understand Scrum. By involving them in your work, you begin to develop new understanding for them and it helps the HR folks support you in addressing performance challenges on the team.

When a policy or practice isn’t Scrum friendly

Let’s face it, a lot of company policies and procedures were not written at a time, or by people, when Scrum and agile ways of working were the norm. Instead of either getting frustrated by them or working around then, what if you invited your HR friends in to learn more about the mindsets and ways of working and see if there is opportunity to co-create something different? The worst thing that might happen is they say we cannot change it — and beyond that, isn’t it better to know than assume nothing can change?

When you want to encourage an agile culture

HR is the hub of culture at most companies and many of us in the profession spend a lot of our time obsessing about how to keep our workplaces thriving and healthy. By getting together and sharing what makes an agile culture sing, you are inviting more people to join you on this journey.

When you want to recruit more Scrum teams

Recruiting people internally to join a Scrum team can be tricky waters to navigate, especially in the early days of adoption in any company. HR team members can help you steer with confidence through the potential barriers you might encounter. By aligning the intention of the work, making the approach fair and transparent, and supporting team members as they transition to working in a Scrum context, your HR partners can be excellent coaches for you, the Product Owner, and other leaders supporting the changes. And of course, if you end up looking to recruit externally, you’ll want to stay close to your Recruiters and help find the agile mindset in future team members too.

So, if nothing else, if you have not considered building a relationship with your HR partners, consider it as an investment in the team. Bringing the keepers of your company’s culture into the world of Scrum can do wonders to expand the benefits of Scrum and the agile mindset to many and opens the door for real and sustaining change.

Beth Davis
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