The phrase “design thinking” brings to mind popular, easy-to-use products from successful companies such as AirBnB, Apple, and Google. At its most basic, design thinking is a methodology used to develop simple solutions to complex problems by adopting the perspective of the end-user.
AirBnB revolutionized the travel industry by designing all aspects of their business around the traveler and host, including:
For AirBnB, user-centric design thinking was the key to massive success. In just ten years, AirBnB became the world’s second-largest hotelier, behind Marriot.
An HR department can help their company gain a competitive advantage by adopting a design thinking mindset. A 2016 study by Deloitte found the more emphasis an organization places on design thinking, the faster it grows. Specifically, companies with 10 percent growth or more were twice as likely to report they embrace design thinking.
In 2016, Cisco hosted an “HR Breakathon” where a large group of employees, including HR professionals, identified ways to reimagine their human resources department. Cisco came away with 105 ideas to improve employee development, onboarding, and recruitment. Many changes centered around key “moments that matter” like dealing with a family emergency or changing jobs. These solutions centered on being simple changes at key moments that solved pain points. Ultimately, by considering employee experience, they were able to make headway in improving it.
You don’t need to be a multinational company to use design thinking. An HR department of any size or budget can get started by asking user-centric questions, such as:
At its most basic, design thinking develops processes and systems around the end user – not legacy processes or the assumptions of decision makers. Here are some examples of traditional vs. design thinking:
Traditional Thinking: A project committee chooses new enterprise software.
Design Thinking: Employees test drive enterprise software from different vendors and provide input. Decision makers observe users interacting with the software and record their feedback.
Traditional Thinking: All employees receive training on how to use the new software.
Design Thinking: A small group of employees test the new software. Their suggestions are used to improve workflows and other processes before the software is rolled out company-wide.
Design thinking can transform routine HR activities, such as onboarding, scheduling, and benefits administration into automated or self-serve processes that save time and increase productivity. On a more human level, design thinking has the power to transform how employees get work done and increase employee happiness when they have the right tools.
When employees have customizable, digital tools that enable them to complete their daily work wherever they are, regardless of what channel they are using, they are able to work more efficiently and feel empowered to do their best work. By emphasizing the “human” in Human Resources, a design-thinking mindset can pay significant dividends through improved employee productivity, satisfaction, and long-term talent retention.