Recently in my work I was reintroduced to the use of Design Thinking methods as applied to People Strategies. Originally, I came across this work from the book Agile HR which included a focus on designing employee experiences, so I knew it would be near to my heart. In fact, I believe Design Thinking, with its customer centric nature and significant impact across a variety of employee experiences, will eventually revolutionize the field of Human Resources.

A few of the concepts that come from design thinking are empathy mapping and customer Journey Mapping.  The book, Agile HR, presented an example from employee onboarding, which I then applied to work being done with one of my manufacturing clients. 

Using these concepts, I was able to predict what employees might do, think, say (or not say), feel and then ask myself two simple questions:

  1. What are the important moments? 
  2. Where are opportunities for improvement?

I was fascinated to find that in less than ten minutes I had a fresh perspective on the improvements that needed to be made to the client’s onboarding experience. 

Mapping in Practice

As an example: some of the most important moments in on-boarding occur during the first impression, within the first hour, and at the end of the day (or in reflecting upon the day).  Based on this, I focused on strengthening the start of the day, and ensuring any concerns were addressed at the end of the day. In addition, the orientation session, scheduled within the first 2 hours tended to be boring and ineffective – moving it later in the week and making it more interactive and engaging was more well received.

As another example, I applied this same type of mapping to a different scenario. A plant manager had described how the introduction of a new strategy to his team had not gone well. Using the same design thinking methodology, we laid out the steps that had been taken, conversations that occurred, and the potential feelings of the team. We created a customer Journey Map based on the interaction to explore what may have transpired, and then looked for opportunities to improve the experience. Sure enough the important moments and how they could have been better handled became obvious.

After studying this Journey map with the plant manager, he had the same response. It was indeed clear to him where he had lost the group and, much more importantly, how he could address the shortfalls. This simple design thinking process made a huge impact on the relationship between the leaders and their team members, and paved the way for future positive interactions. 

The design thinking  process has already been used to explore the customer journey in the field of product design, and by applying it to the employee experience it will surely revolutionize the field of HR in the years to come.

Mapping the Benefits

A few benefits of better designed customer experiences will grow exponentially over time and include:

  1. Increasing employee engagement by focusing on understanding their experiences and making improvements accordingly
  2. Strengthening the experience of external customers by improving the experience of internal customers (employees/team members) 

From my experience, as we begin to realize the benefits of a practice we will then give it the appropriate time, focus, and attention needed to develop it further. Too many times business strategies are heavily focused on the external customer and marginalize the importance of internal customers. They are inherently linked, and design thinking makes that even more apparent.

I’d love to hear if you’ve had experience with this concept and how it improved the employee experience. Or, if you’d like to learn more about how to incorporate it with your organization, contact me here. 

1 Agile in a Nutshell by Mia Kolmodin, in collaboration with Agile HR Community, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 SE

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