Improve the employee experience with the help of Design Thinking

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There is a growing demand for HR teams to focus on “employee experience”. Employee experience refers to an employee’s perceptions when interacting with different aspects of the organization they work for. The perception of experience is the journey from the days an employee is a candidate for a job through to leaving the organization, and further beyond. The EX (employee experience) concept is very broad and includes for instance, how companies recruit, train, engage and evaluate people.

How can it affect your business?

Research suggests that a successful employee experience leads to several positive effects, including the following:

Increased productivity. The most satisfied and engaged employees work harder and smarter, producing more and wasting less, which directly benefits the bottom line.

Improved Talent Retention. The happiest employees are less likely to leave, and this in turn develops the skills and experience of the entire organization.

Reduced turnover. The flip side of improved retention. It avoids the cost of hiring and training replacement workers.

Reduced absenteeism. This effect increases productivity and morale.

More creativity and innovation. Employee satisfaction is known to correlate with the generation and acceptance of new ideas.

Improved employer branding. Happy employees tend to express more positive impressions of their company, its products and services, and deliver a higher level of customer service.

Ultimately, “experience” is the essence of a workplace. To improve the employee experience, the first step is for HR teams to focus on better understanding their employees. Design Thinking helps them to do this.

Design Thinking is an approach used to develop innovative products or services. However, it is also increasingly used to meet the demands of today’s employees. Expectations are changing and so too should the approach HR teams take. In fact, we can find examples of companies that are already using Design Thinking in the HR field.

  • Cisco uses Design Thinking to reinvent the employee experience specifically in onboarding, recruitment, and professional development of new employees.
  • Airbnb has changed the role of HR manager to that of an employee experience manager, thus prioritizing employee experience through Design Thinking.
  • Zappos used Design Thinking to reinvent job application, leading to a better candidate experience, with a score of 97% satisfaction.
  • Qualcomm has used design thinking to develop experiential learning programmes to help them build a culture of entrepreneurship, creativity and risk-taking.

Let’s take a look at the different steps that make up a Design Thinking process, as applied to the HR field.

Framing the problem

Design Thinking is a people-centred and problem-solving approach. So first of all, the problem must be identified and framed. When framing the problem, avoid being too abstract or too concrete.

For example, let us assume that some comments received reveal that the candidate experience for managerial posts has not been excellent. Here are some examples of how the problem could be framed:

  • “How could we improve the candidate experience”. (Poor – Too vague)
  • “How could we improve the candidate’s experience during the interview?” (Better)
  • “How can we improve the candidate experience for executive-level interviews? (Best!)

Talk to your employees

After the problem has been defined, it is time to talk to the end-users. In this case, it would be interesting to hear the views of candidates who have recently gone through your recruitment process.

Specifically, you will want to know what they were thinking, feeling, and doing as they went through their interviews.

Gain insights

Once a good number of user stories have been collected, the next step in the Design Thinking process is to synthesize the most relevant data into a sentence that articulates from the user’s point of view, the aspects that will guide the design of the solution. For example:

  1. “As an executive, fitting several rounds of interviews into my schedule is stressful because I’m always busy and travel frequently.”
  2. “As an executive, it is risky for me to interview at corporate HQ locations because I am concerned that someone will see me and contact my company.”

Reframe the challenge

The challenge should then be reframed, taking into account the new insights.

  • How could we ease scheduling and travel conflicts for candidates for leadership positions?
  • How can we protect the confidentiality of the candidates for managerial positions during the interview process?

Generate ideas

Now that we have brought in the user perspective into the challenge, it is time to generate ideas. It is advisable to invite different types of people to the ideation session to ensure diversity of thought.

Consider inviting recruiters, HR team members, executives, and even some recent candidates. The more diversity, the better. Ideation sessions can be fun, but if they are not managed properly, they can become counterproductive.

Prototype the solution

Once you have developed many ideas and ruthlessly eliminated most of them, you will want to pick your best idea and create a simple prototype that you can quickly launch and test. A prototype could be a new policy, a new process, a help PDF document, a video, or a tool. Whatever it is, make it cheap and quick and move on to the next step: testing! In the case of our executive recruitment example, perhaps your prototype is a quick test to include a video interviewing solution that could solve both your travel issues and your confidentiality challenges.

Conduct tests

If you really want to know if your solution works, you will want to test it with your target audience and collect feedback again. This process of prototyping and testing can take a few cycles.

Still on the subject of video interviewing, think about how you could use the existing technology you already have in place, such as WebEx or Skype, to experiment immediately. Do this instead of buying a video interviewing solution which can take time, cost money, and more. Maybe you will end up buying a video interviewing solution later, but you will want to test and validate the concept with users first.

To wrap up, the Design Thinking approach can add value to any HR team. If you are looking to challenge the status quo in your HR team and drive a better employee experience, there is no doubt about it, Design Thinking can help you achieve this.

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