How Design Thinking is helping HR to Reinvent Itself


Design thinking is viewed as a multi-disciplinary, non-linear approach to view business challenges from a fresh perspective.  In Hr’s context, it is a people-oriented, prototype driven process for innovation. It changes the way HR teams deliver value, organize work and find solutions. It empowers HR to reimagine every aspect of work: the physical environment; how people meet and interact; how companies select, train, engage and evaluate people.

There is always pressure on organizations to attract and retain talent. Regardless of the company’s location or size, attracting and retaining talent ranks as the number one internal stressor for the CEOs and other C-suite executives globally.  On the other hand, employee expectations are also rising up from HR, the Organization to has new expectations from HR; demands like “Help me to build an agile organization,” or “Give me actionable insights to make better people decisions “are increasingly common. How can HR help organizations and themselves?

To change expectations require new ways of thinking about people and design people management strategies. The new approach, however, is Design Thinking and the companies where HR delivers the highest level of value in comparison to their peers’ uses design thinking as a tool. To innovate we need approaches like design thinking with a focus on the right problem to solve, in combination with striving for a deep understanding of the user with the goal to create better solutions. It brings a “Human Centric Approach” which is present in every step of the design. 

Human-centric, with an employee at the centre

In this HR needs to put employees at the centre of its experience in its HR delivery model. It is a high priority for HR professionals to heighten employee engagement. Design thinking offers all kinds of tools to create inspiring workplaces, new roles and other ways of cooperation in which the employee is at the centre.  The aim is to improve engagement, creativity and productivity with empathy to play a crucial part in this practice. For example, when design thinking is used for developing learning programs with individuals own work context in the focus; it leads to a more engaging experience which is connected with better skill retention.

Design thinking empowers HR

Design thinking starts with the problem statement which is the core of the design and the solution is based on the problem statement. Brainstorming is also part of this process and all ideas are accepted then the ideas are organized and information is analysed to develop solutions from outside –in understanding.  HR needs to develop innovation as a capability to come up with fresh ideas.

The application journey of a candidate can bring an indifferent perspective from their end.  A candidate is looking for an easy application and interview process, an opportunity to learn about the company and be informed about the status and potential steps. Keeping the candidate at the centre the candidate experience can be redesigned. If the person is hired, the onboarding process, instead of providing generic information about the company for 1 or 2 days of induction, it should focus on creating an experience where technology leverages onboarding activities making sure new joiners have access to agendas, responsibilities and process guidance.

Like, Performance management is an important cornerstone for any organization. When design thinking is used to redesign the performance management process, consider how it can be optimized meeting the needs of different personas, how it would impact them. There is no one-size fit all approach to performance management. Design thinking helps to create an experience that fits the requirement of the organization. 

In design thinking, the actual needs of the employees are identified through interviews, focus groups and informal interactions.  One key aspect that design thinking brings to organizations and HR is a “collaborative design approach”. I strongly advocate for involving people from different functions and having focus groups in the design process to bring in a fresh perspective to problem-solving. This also helps in less resistance when implemented since they have hand in shaping it.

To sum up, HR can leverage this Design Thinking approach creating cross-functional task-force teams to design experiences related to onboarding, learning, candidate experience, performance management, recruiting and in general to every single HR practice. It helps to create the experience every organization is looking to build for its employees.Author – Moumita Ray


Moumita Ray is a human resource leader with rich experience in designing & developing strategies, processes, enhancing capabilities, and building culture to help businesses achieve its excellence.




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