We started talking about the consumerization of IT several years ago, as employees began to demand technology solutions at work on their own terms, via their own devices. It was natural, then, that the discussion eventually moved to the consumerization of HR.
People now expect an experience at work that is comparable to the experience they have at home via apps like Netflix and Amazon. To be more explicit, employees are looking for digital content available on demand, a friendly user-interface, and online delivery that is agile and automated. They also expect a social experience driven by personalized recommendations relevant to their role, location, and place in the employee lifecycle.
When I talk to HR professionals about this, they get it. Many have taken major steps in the last year to bring their operations to life via mobile and social platforms. They are starting to solicit feedback about what makes a powerful experience at every phase of the employee lifecycle. They are trying new strategies, and using new forms of people analytics to measure their effectiveness.
But something is still missing, and the folks at Bersin by Deloitte identified exactly what that something is.
It’s design thinking.
Deloitte research shows that people collectively check their phones more than 8 billion times each day, yet productivity is barely rising. Traditional HR solutions, say the folks at Bersin, are typically programs or processes to train people, assess performance, ensure compliance, or document a practice at work. Most were built around forms, process steps, formal training, or classroom events.
But we’ve reached a new era. Employees are overwhelmed by the complexity of the workforce and the world in general, and need HR’s assistance in managing it. Design thinking moves HR’s focus beyond building programs and processes to a new goal: designing a productive and meaningful employee experience through solutions that are compelling, enjoyable, and simple.
In Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report, respondents at companies where HR delivers the highest levels of value were almost five times more likely to be using design thinking in their programs than their peers. But design thinking is not just something we can adopt without forethought. HR departments need to first upgrade their skills to incorporate key design thinking concepts such as digital design, mobile app design, user experience design, and behavioral economics.
How might design thinking work in practice? Bersin by Deloitte offers several examples, but here’s one with a great deal of helpful detail.
Telstra is Australia’s leading telecommunications and information services company. New employees have to learn a dizzying number of systems, products, pricing plans, and ways of doing their job, so turnover and engagement are always issues. To address this strategic challenge, Telstra used design thinking to develop a new “90-Day” onboarding experience for all employees as well as an individualized executive induction program. The process included:
- Focusing questions: Discovery interviews with leaders to frame the challenge and set objectives for the program.
- Ethnographic research: Interviews and focus group sessions with employees, HR, and managers to explore challenges and needs across the first 90 days’ experience.
- Synthesis: Comparing insights from the ethnographic research with HR demographic and turnover data to identify key transition points and work task areas that could be dramatically improved to delight employees.
- Prototyping: Developing low-fidelity tools and solutions that were tested and refined multiple times to allow for “fast failure” and the integration of lessons learned.
- Visualization: Using persona-based blueprints that describe the onboarding journey in an engaging way, allowing leaders and others to emulate the project team’s journey and increase engagement in the design.
The resulting onboarding approach incorporated the need for a personalized joining experience; time and space for quick learning; guidance, support and coaching for faster contributions; and the celebration of achievements to motivate continuous growth. Telstra found post-rollout that productivity rose, employees became more committed and engaged, and new hires became more quickly integrated into the organization.