Five Steps to Pursue an Engaging Employee Experience with Design Thinking Approach

Design Thinking in HR

If you want to create a better working environment and achieve corporate goals you can start by connecting human resources management with a design thinking approach.

As explained in Deloitte’s 2019 Human Capital Trends, companies utilize design thinking to help understand employee’s motivations and pain points. By pursuing humanistic solutions, your employee experiences can be supported to attain performance goals.

The key to your design thinking is human-centered. In this article, you are going to step-by-step explain how to adopt this thinking in your human resource management:

Design Thinking Model

1. Empathize — understand your workmate’s needs.

To create human-centered strategies, the first step is for you to get closer to employees through observations and regular meet-ups. As you know, your HR department has lots of issues and petty stuff to deal with like recruitment, training, and salary design. It would not be easy for you to squeeze extra time for monthly follow-ups.

However, it is worth your time to meet with colleagues one-on-one so that you’ll get a better understanding of your employees’ experiences. By knowing your employees’ real needs and feelings, you can identify key issues and areas for improvement, thus, you can build an Employee Experience Journey Map.

A reminder from Playficient: Never exclude yourself from employee experience, and as an HR colleague you should regularly observe and evaluate your department as well. And then you have to blend the observation results of other departments for you to get a much bigger result.

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2. Define — identify key questions

After gaining a complete insight from your employees, the next step is for you to combine and narrow down the issues. You can group them into several features, such as recruitment, orientation, performance management, etc.

By taking employee orientation and training as an example, you can compare new joiners’ expectations and the actual reality. After gathering comments, you have to list them into specific questions as;

  • How to make your new employees feel more welcomed?
  • What kind of activities you can introduce to enhance interactivity?
  • In what ways you can assist managers to take care of your employees?
  • Is there any training suggested for your remote workers?

設計思維模型 Design Thinking

For you to visualize a thorough employee experience, you should use a map to construct the entire HRM model.

Similar to your Customer Journey Map, this journey map puts employees as your internal customers. By mapping their touchpoints throughout different periods in the company, you can systematically analyze both risks and opportunities.

3. Ideate — brainstorm

With the above two steps, you have the key questions in hand. So it’s time for you to brainstorm some feasible solutions.

Regarding HR problems, you should not bother to refer to the well-established practice of other enterprises. At the same time, it’s the best opportunity for you to suggest creative solutions by adding new insights into ideas. You have to get your whiteboard and memo pad ready.

4. Prototypes — make your ideas concrete

This step converts your ideas into a cost-effective simulation model. You are not aiming this plan to be 100% perfect, the target is to quickly visualize ideas you generated in the previous step.

For instance, if you want to develop an advanced HR App, using a paper model is a low-cost way: roughly marking various key functions on paper. You can put features like leave management, employee reward programs, interactive agent, training courses, and the latest news on this paper duplicate. To further refine this model, you can simply cut and paste the paper slices during discussions.

Design Thinking Paper Prototype

5. Test — test, refine, retest

After modeling the specific solution, you should choose a target group for testing.

To continue to take the HR Digital App as an example, you can select a group of employees and launch the mobile app for two weeks. Afterward, it’s time for you to collect user feedback and locate important issues as well as bugs. And then, you should improve and repeat.

Although this stage is the fifth step, it’s not necessarily the last step. You may need to return to the second step after testing. By defining and refining, a deep understanding of your issues can be derived. Of course, if the test results are better than expected, you can officially launch this measure.

Reinventing HRM strategies is a long-term investment

With your design thinking methodology, your company may need to invest time and resources to understand the underlying needs of your employees to identify problems and generate solutions. Although this kind of approach takes time, it's worth your while developing targeted and new human resources strategies.

Design Thinking Ideate


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