Article: Leveraging design thinking for enhancing employee engagement

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Leveraging design thinking for enhancing employee engagement

Design thinking is a method for creative resolution of problems. Read on to know how to apply the same for employee engagement.
Leveraging design thinking for enhancing employee engagement

Genesis of Design Thinking

The genesis of design thinking dates to 1969 when Herbert Simon in his book ‘The Sciences of the Artificial’ first introduced the notion of design as a way of thinking. Many researchers later dwelled and elaborated on various facets of design thinking. But it was only in 1987 in his book ‘Design Thinking’ that Peter Rowe used the term ‘design thinking’ wherein he described methods used by architects and urban planners. 

In the past design or designing has been used primarily to make products aesthetically attractive or communication more appealing. Simply put designing is the way designers utilize creative strategies during the process of designing. If you realize, at the center of the doing all this is the consumer – it is he who is to be appealed by the design of the product. 

Over time the concept has evolved and gained wider applicability. Design thinking is a method for creative resolution of problems. It is a way of solution based thinking with the objective of producing a constructive result or outcome. Design thinking is now considered a way to build products that integrate business and technological needs together to deliver what people need. The concept has found a natural flow into how organizations are now thinking about designing people process and practices keeping employees in the center of it – doesn’t that sound so obvious, being employee centric. That’s how design thinking has evolved into taking center stage in how we engage with employees.

Designing thinking applied to employee engagement

Organizations today are focusing on improving employee experience rather than anything else and this is being supported by a multitude of pulse feedback tools, wellness and fitness apps, and employee self-service technologies. It's like having the technology and human interventions nicely interconnected to achieve what employees want thus enhancing the employee experience. Let’s discover ways in which this is happening across organizations – putting design thinking at the center of employee experience.

Key factors driving positive employee experience

There are five factors which contribute to a positive employee experience – meaningful work, supportive management, positive work environment, growth opportunity and trust in leadership. Developing an integrated employee experience will call for HR and business leaders to work in close collaboration in each of these areas. Employees expect not only a better experience but new models of delivery.  

A host of digital and mobile tools are on the offer to help HR design and deliver an outstanding employee experience and hence driving overall engagement. Let’s see what’s happening in each of these critical areas.

Meaningful work: Many continuous performance management tools including feedback tools have emerged from vendors like Reflektiv, BetterWorks, Zugata, Highground, Workboard, and SuccessFactors.

Supportive management: Lot of organizations are bringing in new tools beyond the traditional email to improve productivity and engagement.  There is a suite of products such as Facebook’s Workplace, Slack, Microsoft Skype for Teams, Google G-suite, and solutions like Basecamp, Trello, Asana, and 15Five which can support collaborative team work and high level of engagement around learning, goal alignment, performance management, and traditional HR processes.

Positive work environment: Organizations are big time getting into what is high on priority agenda of employees – that’s well-being. A whole suite of wellness apps brings together competitions, fitness, groups, wearables integration, and micro-learning from many vendors. Few of them like Limeaid and VirginPulse are quite prevalent. Host of employee service platforms offers an end-to-end employee experience for transactional and service requirements, integrating chatbots and natural language processing with case management, content management, and extremely intuitive mobile and web portals.

Growth opportunity: Organizations are using virtual reality tools to drive capability building by bringing in more live on-ground experiences for accelerating and creating a realistic learning environment. Bite sized learning apps and tools make learning modules available to staff on their mobile and can be self-paced and accessed on-demand. Gaming is being introduced to strengthen learning concepts and make learning a highly interactive experience. Many organizations have successfully experimented with gaming in designing their onboarding programs thus making them highly effective. 

Trust in leadership: Organizations are seeking employee feedback & dipstick on engagement through a variety of new apps. New bite sized and more frequent pulse survey tools are spreading all over, replacing traditional employee engagement surveys. 

Where to start if you want to begin this transformation?

Make employee experience enhancement your no.1 priority: Integrated employee experience is as valuable and can have a huge impact on the customer experience strategy. Formulate a differentiated employee experience, and have it coordinated with all aspects of the work and workplace. Let employee well-being be part of your strategy.

Senior leader or team to own the journey: Have a senior leader for employee experience and align engagement, learning, career development, organizational design, analytics, and culture into a well-oiled team so that HR can focus on end-to-end employee experience. 

Design thinking to be central: Seek feedback and learn from what employees need; and discover new ways to simplify work and improve productivity, performance, and engagement. Have employees to develop journey maps.

Take into gamut the entire workforce: Consider all workforce segments—candidates, full-time, part-time, freelancers, alumni—in designing the employee experience.

‘Outside-in’ is very useful: Keep a close ear and eye on what the social media is saying about your organization's employee experience - like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, etc. Use the insights from these tools to identify what is working well and what needs to improve. Seek insights from peer companies as well.

Track your journey: Frequent pulse surveys and open feedback is much beneficial in gauging how are you progressing on your journey. Stay interviews and exit interviews will help in real-time in understanding employee issues better. Employee net promoter score can be a good measure of employee experience and can be tracked.

In summary

To summarize, organizations are looking at employee experience in an integrated way. They are relooking at a whole lot of touch points that employees have from recruitment to retirement and how can they be transformed by tackle employee needs - that’s all that design thinking says about putting people in the center of the solutions that are designed. Many organizations are doing it smartly by seeking ideas and innovation from employees themselves hence making them central to the whole employee experience transformation process. Companies have used hackathons to collect employee ideas and design new approaches to performance management, workplace design, benefits, and rewards. These open, collaborative approaches engage employees directly in designing a “perfect” employee experience. Design thinking is radicalizing the way organizations are transforming themselves in creating a super-engaged workplace which in driving even higher levels of innovation and productivity for the organizations. Are you there and playing your part in the this journey – go and knock at the opportunity, now is the time.

Topics: TechHR 2017, Employee Engagement

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