Embracing Lean-Agile Through Talent Acquisition and HR

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Jessica, Talent Acquisition (TA) manager

Encouraging career growth and versatility is a key aspect to maintaining a high-quality workforce at Northrop Grumman. Look no further than the Executive Leadership Team, and many will note their first role within the company was at the individual contributor level. “The ability to move around and grow within the organization is a key differentiator in our industry, and one that we take pride in,” said Jessica, Talent Acquisition (TA) manager.

However, the process for an individual to make these desired changes was plagued by historical alignment with the yearly merit schedule. This meant individuals could not easily receive promotions during the ‘Off Cycle’ process in an efficient manner. Instead, employees had to apply to a new requisition from scratch which caused confusion across their business organization and human resources. “There were barriers for our workforce to grow,” noted Jessica. “The existing process did not utilize HR early enough, created additional work for Talent Acquisition, and really impeded on the employee experience to take action at all.” Evolving customer commitments required Northrop Grumman to pivot its workforce on demand, regardless of the timing. 

Greg, Human Resources director

In 2020, a team of HR and TA leaders looked to lean-agile methodology to help strengthen career growth opportunities for employees. The team took an economic view of delivering the highest possible value through the shortest time possible. This holistic approach brought Human Resources closer to the business, strengthening their collaboration by starting from day one. Further, the teams organized around value while removing the work-in-progress status quo. “Only allowing promotions to happen once or twice a year resulted in a large bottleneck of process, which meant these decisions could take months to formalize,” said Greg, Human Resources director.

Reducing this bottleneck was accomplished by shifting to an ‘on demand’ cadence of reviewing raises and promotions on a monthly basis rather than once a year. Realizing a need to accurately forecast and budget for position changes, business organizations were able to utilize the Human Resource applicant tracking system which offered unique data sets. These showcased affordability, labor curve and attrition rates at both the functional and program level. The teams integrated this data monthly in small-batch cycles while taking into account rapidly changing business conditions. This allowed them to align hiring directly with demand in a way that was not previously possible. The small-batch approach meant each promotion was closed quickly, rapidly moving to the next set of requisitions through each cycle.

The results of lean-agile within Human Resources has proven successful. Promotions are now done throughout the year, reducing the amount of internal requisitions, a reduction in job cancellations, and saving critical time and budget. Further, employee engagement scores have increased and overall retention has seen positive growth. Greg notes “This collaboration between HR, TA, and the business has created a fluid system of promotions that previously did not exist at Northrop Grumman,” Adds Jessica, “The biggest advantage of this process is that we are empowering our managers and employees to pursue these decisions themselves, allowing them to directly shape their careers.”

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