How to Treat your People Well

AKA Reward and Recognition

Throughout my career I have been very fortunate to have good managers. Strong leaders with an ability to get people on board and working to their maximum potential.

When I reflect over what strategies these managers used to keep people motivated, a common denominator was the ability to make people feel special and valued. Often too, the gestures were small and low-cost yet resulted in their team feeling a sense of recognition and reward. Here are some of the methods they used:

HR Director – University

Every Christmas our HR Director would write a letter within a large Christmas card to each member of the HR Department (over 30 of us!). The letter was quite long and thoughtfully written. He would comment on very specific achievements plus unique personality attributes, which had the effect of making us realise that he noticed each and every one of us. This made us feel valued (I still have my copies of these Christmas cards).

Health & Safety Manager – University

Despite the intense nature of her role, this manager had a very nurturing nature and cared about the details of our lives. She would ask after our families, celebrate our personal successes and provide support during hard times. She made it okay for family to come first (as it should). She would also write a thank you letter to each of her team members at the end of the year.

Managing Director – Retail Company

This manager would spontaneously swoop in with a large order of pizza for the whole of Support office to share. He never scheduled these pizza events, so we never knew when it was coming. Providing treat food is such a simple measure, and even grown-ups get terribly excited when free pizza is presented to them as a surprise!

Group HR Manager – Retail Company

Our Group HR Manager set all of her team up for success by allowing autonomy and trusting us to get the job done. At times she would assign tasks that were more than we ever thought ourselves capable of achieving. She would support us for the duration, and then upon completion praise us extravagantly in front of senior management. This created an environment of super stars.

Branch Manager – Retail Company

This manager had a wonderful habit of impromptu morning tea shouts. She would pop out to the bakery nearby and buy each team member their most favourite slice. Inexpensive yet meaningful as it had the effect of personalising the gesture. This resulted in us feeling valued and cared for. She also took a strong interest in our family lives.

Chief Technology Officer – Software Development Company

This manager had a similar strategy deployed by the Group HR Manager in creating an environment of high-performers (see above). He also noticed the accomplishments of his team, and would acknowledge and record the successes that may have otherwise fallen under the radar. Plus he would bring in baking!

I hope that the above provides you with some ideas of ways to help your team feel valued and special. The measures are often small, are inexpensive and at times subtle, but have a powerful effect on the motivation levels of your team. Reward and Recognition doesn’t have to be overly complicated 🙂

How to Develop your Developers

Hello all!

I had such a great time at AgileNZ Conference 2013! Kudos to the conference organisers – you are a fantastic bunch of people and you did outstanding work in putting the conference together! It was a wonderful experience to network with such a great group of people. I made plenty of connections throughout the conference which I plan to nurture.

And I am so very grateful to have had the opportunity to speak! I was pleased that the outcomes of our journey towards developing our Agile HR practice was useful for so many. Thank you for the great feedback!

Here is a copy of my PowerPoint, with tips and tools as promised:

You are welcome to borrow anything you like the look of. If you have any questions or would just like to chat further, please contact me!



PayGlobal Case Study

Introducing Agile HR to PayGlobal

At PayGlobal we have found that the benefits of the Agile approach have extended beyond software development and have broadened to include the wider spectrum of HR practices for not just the Development department but also the whole organisation.

In this blog I will outline our Agile approach to HR and share some of our goals, challenges and achievements. But first of all, I will describe how the journey began…

The journey

Self-management is of course a key principle unpinning the values of Agile, however the one gap that remained for our Software Development Team was direct support for their personal and professional development needs.

The role of People Development Coach for PayGlobal’s Development Team was created by Jan Behrens (then Chief Technology Officer). He researched what other companies were doing to support the personal and professional development of their staff but found very little evidence of direct resource dedicated to this in New Zealand. Realizing the benefits of supporting individuals and teams directly with goal setting and development, he created the role of People Development Coach for our team based on this concept.

In the words of Tom Peters, “The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.”

And here I am, the PDC is me, so a little about my background with HR so that you can understand that I joined the Agile journey with PayGlobal having come from a traditional HR background.

My Background

I started my career in HR with a large retail company and was with this company for 8 years. They had in those days a traditional, static, HR philosophy in place. However, in the last two years I was with them, a new Group HR Manager came on board. Under this most excellent manager I was exposed to a wider view of the HR world, and I must give her credit for my later adoption of Agile. Back then, Agile as we know it today was not in practice, however in thinking back now I believe that she had an innate understanding of agility.

From there I went on to work for a well-known university within their HR department. I was based in the Health and Safety unit.

Now, there is a truth universally acknowledged, and that truth is: everyone hates HR (AKA the Human Remains department)! And I discovered at the university that even HR need to hate on someone, and there that someone was their ugly cousin Health and Safety. From this experience I developed a good amount of resilience! And as time would tell, this experience would prove useful…

Health and Safety at an institution such as a university is compliance orientated, in part due to the high-risk nature of the environment. Much of the training and development work is driven by the need for compliance and risk-reduction. And man did we love processes! And using paper! We had forms to get forms to get forms… (which didn’t exactly improve our popularity – being unpopular was practically a KPI).

How I Became the PDC

I’d been with the university for 3 years, the main focus of my role was developing the H&S training schedule and building the committee groups and networks. And I was enjoying my role despite the inevitable challenges.

Then at the end of 2011 my recruiter kept badgering me about the PDC role with PayGlobal, and to be honest I kept ignoring her! However, I finally read the Position Description and was struck by how great the role sounded. I decided to chat to my manager about the opportunity, and she encouraged me to give it a go. From this I contacted Jan directly, and we meet for a coffee to discuss the PDC role. This is where I heard about the Agile and Scrum method for the very first time! Fortunately, due to the Christmas break I had a month before the second interview, and like any sensible candidate would, I spent my time frantically reading up about Agile and Scrum.

EUREKA! As I researched it, more and more I felt a real sense of affinity with Agile, especially the autonomy and mastery it allows for. The concepts felt right and empowering. As I read, I realised that many of these concepts had been deployed by my former Group HR Manager all those years ago. Her strategy as a manager was to outline the tasks for us, pick the specialists within the team to focus on tasks in which they were especially gifted, and then step back to let them get the job done. This was such a relief following previous experiences of micro-management!

“Build projects around motivated individuals.
Give them the environment and support they need,
and trust them to get the job done.”

– Agile Manifesto

She would simply check in with us each day to ensure we were on-track and happy, and would review each iteration of each project, giving suggestions for improvement along the way. This method meant that projects were completed by the team speedily and to a good quality, as we were all utilised to work within our individual strengths and passions, and we were free to work smartly with the right balance of autonomy and support. It also had another result – those three young women I worked with during those years are now highly successful HR specialists in their own right.

The next stage in the recruitment process with PayGlobal was an interview with Jan and a panel of four. During the interview Jan asked me to deliver an impromptu speech to the entire Development team. He instructed me to speak for 10 minutes on something that I was passionate about, and so I decided to speak on Scrum 101! This was a bit of a gamble given that my audience were Scrum professionals! But the tactic paid off, and I subsequently started in March 2012 with the Agile Development team.

It was the first Agile organisation that I had worked for, and thus some learning about the Agile approach was required! (Refer Agile for a description of the values and underlying principles of Agile).

How did HR become Agile? 

Ultimately we needed to become familiar with the core precepts of Agile, apply this to HR and put it into practice in a way that was tangible and useful for the team.

Sounds simple right? Well, not exactly… what followed was a season of learning how to inspect and adapt!

My First Project – Learning & Development Review

PayGlobal’s Agile Developers are at the leading edge of technology but the company at that time needed more development in its internal Learning and Development program. Having identified this, my first task when I came on-board was to review the L&D program for our Developers.

Now, traditional L&D focuses on “doing a course or getting a certificate” however, you will find that things are now trending more towards personalised learning. The focus is now about creating learning experiences that are meaningful and relevant to the individual.

Remembering that I had just emerged from the traditional and process-orientated world of H&S, my first attempt at putting some kind of L&D framework together resulted in the HR classic – a 4-page doubled-sided Word doc L&D Review form, which didn’t really cut the mustard! Like with all first iterations, things could only improve!

I needed to meet my customers’ L&D needs in a way that added value, and I wanted to deliver this promptly. So for the next iteration, I tried an online survey option to facilitate my L&D Review 1on1 sessions with team members. Unfortunately this also turned out to be less than ideal! The survey platform was unreliable and difficult to navigate. The complication of the survey was the exact opposite of the simplicity and value I was trying to achieve! From this I realised I needed to change my approach. It was time to inspect and adapt! So I started thinking outside the square…

After many iterations and some technical support from our wider team, I developed what has now become the L&D Goals Dashboard. Every one of our team members now has one of these. It is a one-stop-shop approach to tracking individual progress in the style of a Kanban board, and we have found this to be the most efficient and engaging approach to tracking L&D for our team. It means that individuals can update their goals and progress both proactively and independently, and their team leaders can have input as well.

With each iteration the situation improved rapidly. PayGlobal’s Development team are now highly engaged with their L&D, and our HR processes are now being replicated across the company. And I cannot take full credit for the final outcome, because it wouldn’t have been possible without the input of the team, from all levels and areas. All of this has been achieved in a very short time frame and we haven’t finished yet.

To have achieved such success with this in under 12 months demonstrates the power of the Agile method and its application outside of software development. Applying the principles of Agile to services has powerful results.


  • The Agile approach makes HR practices relevant and workable for Agile teams and thus enhances their development and engagement. Focus on individuals and they will thrive.
  • Healthy individuals support the growth of their team.
  • Healthy teams deliver optimum results. Bottom line!

I am a great believer in the value of people and teams, and genuinely enjoy seeing others reach their potential. Therefore I am delighted to be part of a company dedicated to the development of their people.

Check out my upcoming blogs for more details of my journey into the world of Agile HR, including tips and tools to help you develop your Developers.

Applying the Precepts of Agile to HR

How Agile Applies to HR

Continuous delivery

This requires some adaptation on the part of an HR professional. It means moving away from endless revision of your initiatives and the fear of releasing something less than perfect. In previous organizations I have seen HR-led projects that have taken years to complete. Projects that collectively add up to years of wasted resource for the organizations involved. Let’s be clear; Agile does not do away with the need for consultation and best practice. However, the Agile methodologists value collaboration, which has a different emphasis to consultation and requires a different mind-set.

Welcome changing requirements and harness change

This is where collaboration is essential. Learn to welcome feedback and ideas, particularly from the people who will be a part of your processes. Let’s say you have just designed a new format for their Learning & Development Reviews, using a new integrative system and doing away with the former paper-based model. Release version one, ask them to use it and then ask them to rate it. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake! There is a chance that you won’t get it perfect first go… and that’s okay!

Deliver frequently with a preference to a shorter timescale

Similar to the L&D example above, I threw away my old-school HR-forms and worked with the team towards a light-weight user-friendly approach, asking for their input with each revision. This approach meant that they could see that we were working together towards a common goal. It encourages transparency and provides an assurance that progress is being made, in a collaborative way.

Everyone involved must work together throughout the project

Encourage conversations. Review, revise and revamp! If you believe in the abilities of your team, then you should welcome their ideas and avoid getting stuck in a silo. The end product will be worth it. Plus buy-in increases as they are part of the creation and development.

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done

Management are crucial for empowering agility. They must provide autonomy with the right balance of support. This leads to high performance and innovation from the team. Ideas and input are not solely the domain of leadership, rather with this approach you will see even the most junior members of the team offering their contributions freely and without reserve.

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information is face-to-face conversation

Walk and talk! The stereotypical HR professional sits in an office isolated from the group and plots the downfall of the masses (you’ve all seen Catbert, the Evil HR Director on Dilbert, right?). I cannot overstate the value of connecting with your clients. Let email be your enemy! Let your team know that drop-ins are always welcome.

A working product is the primary measure of progress

As an HR professional, ask the team to review you. Ask for feedback on what you do well, and what you can do to improve. This is a bold move as you potentially open yourself wide to comment and criticism; however, this is something I would encourage you to do. You may be surprised at the results. My team are full of intelligent and talented people – I would be crazy not to ask for their input! Responses from our team reviews have shown that our revised Agile processes are working well and achieving the desired results.

Agile processes promote sustainable development. Everyone involved should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely

Our goal is always for our approach to align with business requirements and strategy. And we continually review and revise what we do to ensure that we remain on track with this, balancing operational requirements with our desire to remain innovative and ahead of the rest.

Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility

Give some attention to how you want to store your records for 1on1’s, learning and development, performance appraisal, etc. Agile HR requires striking a balance between traditional recording-keeping methods and a need for agility. HR professionals have responsibilities; we must keep the privacy of individuals and we must protect the interests of the business.  It is better for all involved if we can achieve this in a way that is concise rather than cumbersome!

Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential

Resource needs to be channelled wisely. Our approach is lightweight and manageable for all involved, striking the balance between best practice and practicality. As an example, with meeting minutes we strike this balance by writing up our meeting notes on a whiteboard, taking a picture and then uploading these onto a restricted section on our wiki. This way we ensure we keep the necessary records without double-handling.

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams

Over time we have ensured the workability and sustainability of our personal and professional development system. Involving the team in the revision and review of the framework made sense, given their involvement in the process! And you can improve your processes as you practice them together.

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly:

Define your values clearly and refer back to them constantly. Do this to remind yourselves of what you are striving for, and you will find that this reflection brings balance and stability.

Next topic – PayGlobal Case Study – the journey of Agile HR!

Welcome to my blog!

I am honoured to be speaking at AgileNZ this year, on a topic I am very passionate about – Agile HR!

So it seems timely to start populating my blog (call it just in time delivery) 😉

My intention is to share my understanding of Agile as it applies to HR and how easily traditional HR can adopt Agile into their practice.

My hope is that you will glean tips and tools to put into place within your own organisation. And you don’t have to be an HR practitioner to find this useful – this should apply to anyone who has responsibility for the performance of their team.

Happy reading!