Applying Design Thinking in HR

A lot has been said about the future of work. The truth is, our so-called ‘best practice’ HR programs and processes are not even solving today’s workplace challenges anymore. What HR needs today, is a thorough understanding of the employee needs in combination with more co-creative working methods. And design thinking can play an important role in this.


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Applying Design Thinking in HR

Design thinking in HR moves the focus from building processes to designing meaningful employee experiences. And it works. Josh Bersin’s research shows that companies in which HR delivers the highest value, are almost five times more likely to use design thinking. High-performing HR organizations are also associated with a lot of positive business outcomes, like hitting or exceeding financial targets.

What is design thinking?

Design Thinking is a co-creative approach to tackle ‘wicked’ human-related challenges. It is based on a deep understanding of the needs of the users and stakeholders and it consists of 4 steps.

a picture of a design thinking workshop

Design Thinking workshop

Design thinking in HR

design thinking process visualized

The Design Thinking Process

Design Thinking can be applied to all aspects of HR: recruitment, onboarding, performance management, learning & development,… But it becomes even more powerful if we flip our mindset. Instead of taking our HR processes as a starting point, we start from the perspective of the employee and focus on moments and human needs.

Great tools for HR to ‘steal’ with pride

empathy map on the wall

empathy mapping

It is not far stretched to replace ‘customer’ by ‘employee’ here. Employees have different touch points with the organization and go through an entire journey that can be mapped in an employee journey map.

Think for example about the first days, weeks and months of an employee at the organization. A simple version of the employee journey might include moments like these:

journey map on the wall

Journey mapping

Delightful employee experiences are rarely the result of luck. They are carefully designed around moments that matter most to the employees, like the application process, onboarding or internal career moves.

Where to start

The first is to select one moment that matters and where you, as HR, can make a huge difference. Like recruitment or onboarding. Even though there are many stakeholders involved, HR often drives these processes. Picking one moment that matters, allows you to experiment with a process that you own, build design thinking skills in your HR team, and involve other functions in a process of co-creation that you drive.

the employee lifecycle

the employee lifecycle

Building design thinking skills in HR

Design thinking is definitely one of those key skills HR needs to learn ànd will enjoy learning. You can read a bunch of books on Design Thinking, but the only way to really get a hang of it, is to actively explore and apply this methodology to HR challenges.

or follow our Design Thinking crash course on Udemy!