Article: Here’s how design thinking in HR is re-defining the function

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Here’s how design thinking in HR is re-defining the function

Design Thinking HR

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Design Thinking casts HR in a new role. It transforms HR from a “process developer” into an “experience architect, reimagining every aspect of the HR organization. – Josh Bersin
Here’s how design thinking in HR is re-defining the function

Over the years, there have been new generations of technology systems that have been leveraged by companies to attract, engage and retain the right talent. In the quest to develop creative, useful and effective systems, design thinking has emerged as a critical tool to solve problems with the employee in mind. 

What is design thinking?

The concept of “design thinking” stems from a human-centric mindset with a strong focus on creating meaningful experiences.  It is a creative problem-solving approach to curate real-world, effective solutions. At its foundation, design thinking is about innovation, creativity, collaboration. Teams engaging in design thinking focus on inspiration and optimism and not just on getting things done. 

A disproportionate focus on the “how” is what makes design thinking effective. This “how” emanates from the following framework of design thinking, which is not linear, but cyclical: 

  • Empathize: Ask the question “What is the problem?”. Define the challenge and explore the human context. 
  • Define: Ask the question “Why is it important?”. Research, observe, understand and create a point of view about the context. 
  • Ideate: Ask the question “How do we solve it?” . Brainstorm good and bad ideas without stopping at the obvious. 
  • Prototype: Ask the question “How do we create it?”. Start creating, experimenting, and fail cheap and fast. 
  • Test: The key question here is, “Does it work?”. Implement the product, show rather than tell, and refine along the way. 

Why design thinking in HR? 

Today’s organizational challenges are compelling HR to step up and play a strategic role in enterprise growth. A unique talent landscape means that HR needs to place the “user or employee” at the centre of the experience in its delivery model. 

Standardized solutions no longer meet employees expectations and organizational needs. Today’s employees expect hyper-personalization. HR must transform from within to meet this reality. For example, newer generations at work would most prefer a basket of benefits as opposed to a standardized benefits program. 

The era of HR transformation

  • Recruitment: A great candidate experience is critical in attracting top talent. Job seekers often serve as external brand ambassadors for the organization, depending on their recruitment experiences, good or bad.
    Talent acquisition specialists must brainstorm create intuitive, interactive, digitalized recruitment processes that foster continuous and open communication. For example, automated updates to keep the applicant updated on the hiring status is a great starting point. Similarly, employer branding must be carefully curated to create an “aspirational value” for candidates.
  • Performance Management: The rise of continuous performance management has led to a transformation in the HR processes. It places the employee at centre-stage, while focusing on periodic check-ins, ongoing feedback and meaningful performance dialogue. These systems stem from employee empathy.
  • Learning and Development: Learning systems are seeing a marked shift from “push to pull” i.e. the onus of learning is on the learner. L&D experts must design a learning ecosystem which encourages continuous learning and self-learning through insight-based L&D. 
  • Employee Engagement: Design thinking can help HR professionals understand and empathize with employees, which is the cornerstone for engagement. Sentiment analytics, a powerful marketing tool can help understand and analyse employee-drivers and help devise the apt engagement and retention policies and practices. 
  • Total Rewards: Design thinking can help HR personalize compensation and benefits to better suit different employee segments depending on their life-stage, interests and so on. 

A precursor for embracing Design Thinking in HR is to transform and build capabilities from within. HR leaders must understand and acknowledge a fundamental change, and build competencies such as agility, creativity, innovation, systems thinking, collaboration, openness and transparency etc.  As Josh Bersin, a leading industry analyst puts it: “Design Thinking casts HR in a new role. It transforms HR from a “process developer” into an “experience architect, reimagining every aspect of the HR organization. 



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Topics: Recruitment, Talent Acquisition, HR Technology, #Design Thinking HR

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