12 Feb 2018

Remember the movie ‘What women want’, starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt in which ‘Alpha male’ Mel Gibson can hear the innermost thoughts of all women?

What if HR would be able to get into the heads of their workforce?

To us, design thinking is a way to learn how to get into the heads of people working for you. Design thinking still is a newcomer to the world of HR with lots of potential to directly drive Employee Experience and shape HR’s contribution to Employee Engagement. Design thinking is intuitive and engaging for HR teams, does not require massive investment and above all, it supports one of the major reasons why most HR professionals chose an HR career path in the first place: ‘to help people’. Last week Sofia Van Overmeire and Lesley Arens were in Lisbon for an innovative conference - the Employee Experience Bootcamp with inspiring keynotes by Filipa LarangeiraTiago MugeCathy Brown and David Green and in the afternoon we learned how to apply Design Thinking on a real-life business case.

Happy to share with you some highlights on the keynotes and some inspiration on how to apply design thinking to HR processes. Have a great week!

The future of HR is human

In a VUCA world, organizations constantly need to evolve and redefine their business strategy. One of the most important keys to succeed is the pace of the implementation of the business strategy, and that is done and lead by People. There it is: the future of HR is human! It is time for HR not only to embrace change but to be the epicenter of change, shaping the culture and mindset of the companies, according to Tiago Muge. At HRbuilders we agree! In his key note, Tiago talked about the mega trends impacting business and talent strategies of organizations, and their impact on the Employee Experience.

His key take aways:

  • HR needs to be at the front seat instead of being ‘stuck in the middle’
  • by creating an ecosystem that enables people to perform
  • acting in the present to shape the future
  • by asking the right questions
  • by setting a common framework with mixed approaches
  • to address changes in the workforce
  • and increase the organizational capability to face changes and succeed and this requires learning agility, mental agility, people agility, change agility, results agility and self-awareness.

Tiago talked about the importance of leadership when building an ecosystem that enables people to perform and about the direct impact leadership has on employee experiences. Therefore focus should be on getting leaders ready to lead a very diverse workforce and on helping leaders to become tech-savvy and digital.

We also really liked his vision on shaping the future by acting in the present by asking these 3 questions:

  • What talent do we have today
  • what talent do we need today
  • what talent will we need tomorrow

with 7 different top priorities at every intersection:

  • key focus on retention
  • immediate hiring priorities
  • priority focus for development
  • solid core of current workforce
  • strategic hires
  • interim hires
  • potential downsizing

Tiago proposed a framework where a company’s employer brand is at the intersection between the outside-in and the inside-out perception with  fair play, good reputation, meaningful work, colleagues and growth & personal development as key features to build your employer value propostion.

The Future of Work: how to engage for success

In our world of work that is changing, with demographics, technology, organisations and people evolving away from traditional patterns of work and employment it is key to harness these changes to build better places to work, that allow HR, our businesses and our societies to thrive. In her keynote, Cathy Brown took a closer look at the pressures producing these huge changes and tension throughout the world of work and showed us how employees, managers and leaders can build engaging, sustainable workplace cultures by sharing insight from research and real world practices giving us starting points to make work better.

Her key take aways:

  • Due to short terms and cost pressure in our workplace nobody is looking at the long term anymore
  • HR needs to develop a new mindset
  • Because what our workforce wants (fairness, trust, meaning, empowerment, purpose)
  • is not what HR provides
  • leaving the workforce disengaged, unhappy and facing mental and physical issues
  • HR can run, but can not hide: glassdoor!

Therefore it is key to drive engagement because engagement increases productivity and innovation

And according to Cathy there are 4 drivers of engagement: strategic narrative, engaging managers, employee voice and organizational integrity

What gets in the way, are quotes like this: "we’re too busy", "that won’t work here", "spare me another HQ initiative", "I haven’t got time for this", "there’s no need to change", "there’s a recession going on, there’s no money"

So what can HR do to build a better place to work?

  • say thank you
  • be visible and accessible (go talk to people!)
  • start working on your self awareness
  • good leaders welcome challenges

HR is not about human resources, 
it is about human beings,
so let’s stop talking about people in spreadsheets (Cathy Brown)

How people analytics enhances the Employee Experience

People Analytics is one of the most talked about trends in HR, but much of the focus is on how analytics can improve business outcomes and performance. There’s more however: many companies are also investing in people analytics to humanize and personalize the employee experience, improve well-being and enhance communication, collaboration and enjoyment.

David Green described how a growing number of companies are using analytics to enhance the employee experience.

HR is digitizing and some functions are doing it kicking and screaming (David Green)

People analytics is more than just reporting about the past and finally it starts evolving from the peripheral scene towards the epicenter of HR, even towards becoming a new key role for HR of the future. Big companies are already hiring people with analytics expertise.

Analytics is finally at the epicentre of HR

CEO’s and CHRO’s are starting to understand that people analytics is a vital part of running a high performing company.

  • consumerisation of HR (applification + digital learning + digital listening) leads to a more effective HR function
  • workforce analytics (descriptive analytics + workforce planning + predictive analytics) leads to better people decisions
  • new organization of work (networks & collaboration + skill management + network leadership) leads to a more agile organization

People analytics, it’s not just about data science

People analytics = the use of data and analytic tools to identify insights on people that enable faster, more accurate and more confident business decision-making.

Digital is changing every single business model and has fundamentally changed how we (want) to work: shared values and culture, free flow of information and feedback, transparant goals and projects and people that are rewarded for their skills and abilities instead of their position within the hierarchy.

David made it very clear that people analytics is more than just data science. According to him these 6 skills are needed for people analytics:

  1. business accumen: financial literacy, political astuteness, internal and external awareness
  2. consulting: problem definition, hypothesis building, project management, change management, stakeholder management and solution development
  3. human resources: HR sub-functions, international HR, HR interdependencies, ethics and privacy and HR sixth sense
  4. data science: quantitative (statistics),computer science (databases and programming) and data awareness
  5. work psychology: industrial psychology, organizational psychology and research & analytics
  6. communications: storytelling, visualization, writing, presenting and marketing

What do companies that excel at people analytics do?

They focus on the business, they have a balanced set of capabilities and skills, they have a CHRO that is fully involved, they have a clearly defined strategy and vision, they get the basics right, they know analytics is a long term investment, they use stories and visualization to compel action, the communicate their successes, they make analytics part of the DNA, They keep an eye on the future and they don’t forget the H in HR

People analytics is evolving to the new normal

People analytics 1.0 was about research and analysis, academically inspired individual, team and organizational studies analyzing the past to improve the future. People analytics 2.0 was about data aggregation and visualization with dashboards and data-mining. People analytics 3.0 is about productization and solutionize with chatbots, apps, machine learning, wearables and networked intelligence, all behavioral & intention based

People analytics underpins personalised employee experiences:

David Green shared with us some great business cases in which people analytics was used to underpin employee experiences in hiring & onboarding, in engaging, developing, rewarding and retaining.

It is key to make people analytics part of your DNA and I remember a big caveat: ethics and privacy are key: 81% (!) of people analytics are jeopardized by ethics and privacy concercns. It will be crucial to articulate the benefits for the employee and to really put people first, because the Future of HR is human!

Employee Experience meets design thinking

During the afternoon our team got to work on a real business case in small diverse groups and learned how to apply design thinking to improve employee experiences:

They learned how to focus on empathizing with the customer, with employees, and understanding the problems that customers and employees are faced with. They developed a better, more holistic understanding of the Employee Experience and main problems surrounding the concept using Lego Serious Play and other problem-solving techniques, in order to visualize, analyze and understand a specific, representative problem. Through creative techniques, we found viable solutions to meet our customer’s and employees’ needs. And finally they learned to prototype the most actionable solution.

The world of work is changing. Successful HR organizations respond to it with a new focus on ‘consumerization of HR’. They are adapting the customer experience idea from the marketing and sales to the major customer groups of HR: Employees, managers, candidates, and freelancers.

HR leadership teams have five jobs to do:

  • set & adjust digital HR strategy,
  • create an HR innovation culture,
  • manage HR through customers’ experience,
  • develop HR innovators
  • maximize HRIS investment returns.

Service Design and Customer experience HR management: Why bother and what’s at stake for HR?

In the world of customers, great service experience translates into significant Business Value, in the form of increased retention rates and customer spend, which in turn drives market share and revenue growth.

In the world of HR, great service experience will drive engagement with benefits of increased retention and workforce productivity. This applies to the most transactional HR interactions, where employees naturally expect an effortless experience . For the more critical ‘Moments that Matter’ such as Onboarding, relocation, recruitment, life event, etc… where HR creates – or destroys – disproportionate amounts of employee engagement, employees expect ‘White Gloves’ experience levels in return for engagement towards the company.

We live in a ‘buyers’ market’.
Just as customers flow to the best service experience,
the best talent will flow to companies with the best employee experience.

HR controls most levers of Employee Experience and Service Design Thinking and this offers a potentially game-changing opportunity for HR to directly improve Engagement and workforce productivity.

In current course and speed, HR Leadership Teams are consumed by (1) implementing HRIS systems that deliver benefits for HR but with a weak end-user adoption and by (2) reengineering and automating HR processes in the form of bots and apps sprinkled throughout the HR service landscape, which all forget about the most important person in the room when it comes to Employee Experience: The Employee.

Better to put employees at the center and here’s where Service Design Thinking for HR comes in: A growing number of HR Leadership teams are keen to import design thinking principles from the product and service world and use the methodology to redesign HR services.

So, what is Service Design Thinking?

In service design thinking, you make design decisions based on what future customers really want instead of relying only on historical data or making risky bets based on instinct instead of evidence.. Service design is therefore the shaping of service experiences so that they really work for people. Removing the lumps and bumps that make them frustrating, and then adding some magic to make them compelling.

The key steps of this method to innovate services are:

Group users in segments represented by Personas (personas are fictional characters, which you create based upon your research in order to represent the different user types that might use your service, product, site, or brand in a similar way, creating personas will help you to understand your users’ needs, experiences, behaviours and goals) >> more info on personas via this link

  • Draw a customer journey map from the persona’s perspective through data and empathetic observation
  • Clearly define the problem we’re helping the user solve
  • Cross-silos teams collaborate to innovate a ‘Minimum Viable Service’ that solves the holistic problem (not just a segment) and re-draw the journey map
  • Measure user experience and iterate

Service design thinking is about fast experiment / measurement and redesign,
not about getting it right first time.

Service Design Thinking’ is really ‘Service Design Doing

Teams learn by doing and practicing. Training, white papers and lots of thinking don’t change mind or skill sets. The website ‘This is Design Doing’ is a treasure trove of resources on how to do service design.

HRbuilders really is convinced that HR as we know it is on the verge of going extinct and reinvention of the HR function will be key. Design thinking is one of the new roles we see for HR of the future and that’s why we’re heavily investing in building a freelance HR community with design thinking expertise in order to be able to service our customers. 

Stay tuned if you want to know more

Reach out to us if you want to join the HR freelance community of the future
And connect with us if you have a temporary gap in HR, because - for sure - we can help

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Written by

Lesley Arens

HR Matchmaker & Public Relations at HRbuilders

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