Design thinking disrupts HR, re-defines the HR function


guest column:Emmanuel Zvada

DESIGN thinking casts human resources (HR) in a new role. It brings an innovative approach that changes the way HR teams deliver value, organise work and find solutions at workplaces.
It transforms HR from a “process developer” to an “experience architect” which focuses mainly on creative problem solving. In the quest to develop creative, useful and effective systems, design thinking has emerged as a critical tool to solve problems with the employee in mind. Design thinking in HR moves the focus from building processes to designing meaningful employee experiences. A disproportionate focus on the “how” is what makes design thinking effective.

Design thinking can be applied to all aspects of HR: recruitment, onboarding, performance management, learning and development. Design thinking helps HR to redesign every aspect of work, from the first touch point between the employee and organisation to the last. When HR focuses on the creation of delightful experiences around moments that matter most to the employee, HR plays a strategic role in the organisation. Design thinking helps to find the right question, before we start looking for solutions.

What is design thinking?

The concept of design thinking simply means creating meaningful experiences and solution from the problems. It is a creative problem-solving approach to curate real-world, effective solutions. At its basis, design thinking is about innovation, creativity and collaboration. Innovation is a capability that HR needs to develop to adapt in a fast-paced environment where solutions need to be designed from the outside-in understanding the needs of customers and internal clients. Design thinking brings a philosophy and toolkit into HR that can help to make a change, by offering methodologies to reinvent each and every aspect of work. It is about thinking of new ways to develop learning, create content, manage change, enhance involvement, integrate or to develop technology or even to reinvent the entire role of HR.

Why design thinking in HR?

An organisation’s success largely depends on the satisfaction and productivity of its employees. Today’s organisational challenges are compelling HR to step up and play a strategic role in enterprise growth. A unique talent landscape means that HR needs to place the “user or employee” at the centre of the experience in its delivery model. Design thinking enables organisations to focus on the challenges and issues faced by employees at work, ideate creative solutions to address the same and build a great workplace wherein employees are happy.

The whole idea is to curate ideal employee experiences by implementing real time solutions which are desirable, feasible and viable at any given point in time
Where HR transformation needs to take place
HR must transform from within to meet this reality. For example, newer generations at work would most prefer a basket of benefits as opposed to a standardised benefits programme.

Recruitment and talent attraction
Talent acquisition is changing rapidly, applying design thinking to HR recruitment and talent attraction will be the panacea. Applying design thinking concepts for developing successful delivery models in recruitment can also assist in the recruitment process. A great candidate experience is critical in attracting top talent. Job seekers often serve as external brand ambassadors for the organisation, depending on their recruitment experiences, good or bad. In making use of design thinking in recruitment, talent acquisition specialists must brainstorm create intuitive, interactive, digitalised recruitment processes that foster continuous and open communication. For example, automated updates to keep the applicant updated on the hiring status is a great starting point.

Performance management
Performance management is one of the most important cornerstones of any organisation and it is sometimes also one of the most outdated. Applying design thinking to your review process will help employees develop new skills and become more effective in their jobs. The rise of continuous performance management has led to a transformation in the HR processes. Design thinking will help HR professionals create solutions focused on the workers themselves, creating a satisfying, productive, and perhaps even enjoyable experience.

With design thinking, the HR professional goes from a process creator to an experience creator, focusing on the individual and the overall experience, not the process itself.

Thinking like a designer means studying how people work, developing personas and profiles to understand the different demographics, the work environments, and the specific challenges they face.

Learning and development
Leveraging design thinking to help improve learning programme efficacy is crucial, it is all about deeply understanding your audience so that you can develop solutions that truly meet their needs. This process can help learning and development professionals make the most out of corporate investment in learning by designing programmes that are more impactful and relevant to workplace learners. Learning and development experts must design a learning ecosystem which encourages continuous learning and self-learning through insight-based learning and development. Design thinking is an answer that HR and L&D can use to increase productivity and happiness.

Employee engagement
Design thinking can help HR professionals understand and empathise with employees, which is the cornerstone for engagement. Organisations today are focusing on improving employee experience rather than anything else and this is being supported by a multitude of pulse feedback tools, wellness and fitness apps, and employee self-service technologies. It’s like having the technology and human interventions appropriately interconnected to achieve what employees want, thus enhancing the employee experience. Design thinking can help increase employee engagement by making work tasks easier and more efficient, while also ensuring that the work is more rewarding and fulfilling for employees. Without engaged and happy employees, a company won’t be as collaborative, innovative, and ultimately successful as it could be.

Total rewards
Every total rewards package represents a unique competitive advantage for a company. Design thinking can help HR personalise compensation and benefits to better suit different employee segments depending on their life-stage, interests and so on. Recognising and rewarding employees has become a strategic HR issue in an age where competition for talent is high, while at the same time many companies are working to conserve their expenditures. HR leaders must understand and acknowledge a fundamental change, and build competencies such as agility, creativity, innovation, systems thinking, collaboration, openness and transparency etc.

Given how present-day workplaces are evolving, it becomes imperative for HR to ensure that they follow the best, innovative practices at work which enable employees to be more productive. By adopting a human-centric mindset, it leads to the creation of a happier and efficient workplace