Advantages Of Design Thinking In HR & People Analytics

By Gena Cox, PhD - July 12, 2019

“Design thinking” is not a new concept. It has always been a part of product design, before being applied to the customer experience. Design thinking in HR has been trending for the past couple of years, as an extension of the concept of customer journey mapping. The goal of design thinking in HR is to improve the employee experience and create an environment where innovation can thrive.

In the Harvard Business Review, Jon Kalko defines design thinking applied to the employee experience in this way: “A set of principles collectively known as design thinking—empathy with users, a discipline of prototyping, and tolerance for failure chief among them—is the best tool we have for ... developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture.”

Essentially, design thinking in HR is a problem-solving model. As in the design process for products, it relies on a continuous feedback loop between designers and end users—in this case, employees—for testing and refining solutions. In this article, we’ll explore how the human-centered design process can help HR plot employee journey maps and improve the overall employee experience.

Principles Of Design Thinking In HR

At the center of any design process is a problem that needs to be solved or a need that must be addressed. All types of design are about making things work for people; for HR, where people are already the focus, the design process is targeted at what works best for employees in terms of management and their overall work environment. Design thinking in HR incorporates four main principles:

  1. Human-Centered Design: Rather than expecting people to conform to plans or procedures drafted and handed down from above, human-centered design approaches the problem from the employee’s perspective. Plans and procedures are built around what is most efficient and practical for the person doing the job. Successful human-centered design requires knowing the people it is intended to serve; what are their hopes, dreams, and fears? Taking these into account allows designers to empathize with the people who will be the end users of the design.
  2. Collaborative Design: People are more likely to adopt or adapt to processes they had a hand in building. For design thinking in HR, this means asking for and incorporating feedback from employees about the work environment and how it can be improved.
  3. Creative Problem-Solving: There are multiple ways to approach most problems. Looking at a problem from many different angles can suggest solutions that otherwise would not be apparent. In creative problem solving, the constraints of the problem itself give rise to creative solutions.
  4. Prototyping and Experimentation: Design is an evolutionary process; creating solutions that work often requires many trips back to the drawing board. Ideas must be fleshed out into prototypes and tested with feedback to determine if they work as intended, or if they need refinement or another approach entirely.

An example of design thinking in HR would be conducting employee surveys and taking action in response to survey feedback:

  • Asking for feedback constitutes collaboration.
  • Designing a solution incorporating that feedback is human-centered design, focusing the solution around the employee’s point of view.
  • Crowdsourcing opinions and perceptions from employees is a form of creative problem-solving, allowing problems to be seen from multiple perspectives.
  • Implementing changes based on feedback is prototyping, and following up to ask employees their opinions about those changes may suggest refinements or a different approach.

Get tips for building a better experience in every stage of the employee journey with our free guide, The Employee Experience Playbook.

Design Thinking In Recruitment

Design thinking in recruitment refers to the candidate experience. The goal is to understand the application experience from the candidate’s point of view. Keeping that perspective central can influence whether or not candidates accept offers; for those who are not offered a position, the experience can impact their future perception of the organization.

Surveying new hires and candidates who made it to the interview stage can help HR understand the experience at each stage of the application process, and highlight opportunities for improving it. The additional goal is to tailor the experience to be as engaging as possible for those candidates who move on to become new employees. For new hires, a human-centered recruitment experience builds connection, so the employee doesn’t just show up to do the job, but wants to stay, feels like he or she belongs, and wants to be a part of building the company.

Asking a new hire or candidate questions about the overall application experience, the people they interacted with, and what was easy versus difficult about the process goes a long way toward letting them know they were noticed; they matter. For applicants who were not offered a job, it’s important to remember that while their interview may have been only one of many for the hiring manager, for the candidate, it was a big deal. Reaching out to ask questions about the experience, linking to the company’s career site, and asking about the candidate’s perception of the organization and likelihood of referring others not only helps HR in quantifying the experience—it also communicates to the candidate that they matter. This can help keep the connection to the company as a potential future employee or customer intact.

Ultimately, whether design thinking is applied to the employee or the candidate experience, engagement is the desired outcome. (Tweet this!) Design thinking in HR is all about increasing the potential for innovation—through creating a work environment in which employees feel they are part of the decision making process, they have influence, and they are making a difference. Nothing builds connection—and engagement—more than feeling like you are an important part of something bigger. That can only come about when you feel like you are seen, heard, and valued. Design thinking in HR puts the employee at the center of the experience and communicates to them that they matter.

Can you see your company’s challenges from your employees’ point of view?

At Perceptyx, we believe that companies excel when they have the benefit of multiple perspectives to guide decisions. We design custom surveys to uncover the unique insights you need to really understand your employees’ point of view and experience in your company—crucial for unlocking a culture of innovation. Contact us to see how custom surveys, paired with our people analytics platform, can help you address your company’s biggest challenges.

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