Design Thinking Is Good News For Your HR Department—And Your Bottom Line

Design Thinking Is Good News for HR

Mention the word design and most people will think of art, computer graphics, interior decorating, or some other visual undertaking. Design is about space, form, harmony, flow, and balance—right?

Right. And wrong.

Today, design thinking is showing up in in business environments across America, everywhere from the Harvard Business Review to the HR Tech Conference in Chicago. And while all those ideas about harmony, flow, and balance still matter, the concept of design itself is moving beyond the visual to the experiential.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is about creating positive experiences for people. It looks for ways to transcend functionality by focusing on how people experience a process and what their emotional responses are. If that sounds a little too groovy for the modern workplace—well, it could be because you’re still thinking in terms of artistic endeavor rather than experience and productivity.

The truth is that design thinking is behind some of the most innovative technologies in our offices today. Organizations like The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, IBM, Apple, and GE all use design thinking strategies to develop new models of problem solving, customer service, and product development.

And that’s not all design thinking can do. It also has the power to transform your HR department.

A Guy Walks Into an HR Office…

Yes, it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. But the difference between design thinking and traditional HR is how that guy experiences the functions of HR when he walks through the door. Has the organization considered his environment, perceptions, and interactions? Have they made an effort to create a positive experience for him based on the technology he uses and the way he experiences the environment? Or is that guy’s interaction with HR simply about completing a process?

In this example, the “office” could be a mobile app, online portal, or an actual physical office. Whatever the case, the goal is to create positive experiences for the employee with the goal of increasing productivity and engagement in the workplace.

That’s design thinking.

How Can Design Thinking Be Applied in HR?

Design thinking has the power to transform your HR department into a value contributor by making employees more productive on the job. Here are just a few ways design concepts can make a difference for employees:

  • Candidate Experience—Poor candidate experiences reflect negatively on your employer brand. In one survey, 38% of applicants were less likely to use a company’s products or services after applying for a job with that company. Design thinking identifies those negative emotional connections and seeks to make the candidate experience attractive to high performers.
  • Digital HR—When technology helps workers get their jobs done faster and more intuitively, there’s a good chance it’s based on design thinking principles. Mobile apps and online portals should be designed around the user experience rather than simply completing processes.
  • Training—Design thinking helps craft self-directed learning solutions that focus on the employee’s experience rather than simple transmission of information.
  • Analytics—Just about anything can be measured, but design thinking emphasizes metrics that showcase impact on the employee such as workforce productivity, revenue per employee, turnover, or quality of hire.

If your HRIS doesn’t lend itself to design thinking, it may be time to shop for a new system. Design thinking shows up in a “people first” approach to technology. Look for a solution that focuses on the user experience rather than the completion of processes only.

But Why Is Employee Experience Important?

Of course employees enjoy mobile apps and online portals that are user friendly and intuitive, but what’s the benefit for businesses? The answer is that design thinking changes perceptions of your company while also making your employees more productive on the job. And that’s good news for your bottom line.

Design thinking is the future of successful business. What will it take to get your HR department on board?


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