Acquiring and retaining talent becomes easier with human-centered design

An increasing need for qualified employees, especially those who take part in digital change, is a big deal for today’s companies. Employers are facing two main struggles: attracting new talents to join the company and retaining them by keeping their heart close to where your company is. Can we design a workplace which would address those struggles? A workplace which would tune with its employees to keep them motivated and creative, and keep them for long? How to become a ‘love brand’ among employees and transform them into company ambassadors? You might find your answers if you change your approach to a more human-centred one. The same approach we use designing other services.

Picture source: unsplash

Picture source: unsplash

Our service design projects experience suggest that an approach where a company is treated as a service which serves its own employees is something you might be missing.

The human-centred design approach enables us to address problems which are complex by nature and which affect people. And HR, like no other department, has to deal with numerous complex issues related to people.

If you wonder how such an approach might look like, follow us with 4 major steps of an employee centred, co-creative and iterative service design process of making a workplace appealing and motivating.

Step 1. Exploration of Employees’ Pains and Gains

With a user-centric approach, before you even think about a new product or a service, you would ask your user what are his or her needs, wishes and problems. This should be an obvious approach when you think about (re)designing e.g. talent acquisition. Whatever tool you chose - a candidates’ journeys, an engagement & satisfaction research or an ethnography - you first need to step into employees’ shoes.

Let’s take Telstra - an Australia’s leading telecommunications and information services company –  as an example. Telstra hires thousands of employees each year and those employees have to learn a huge amount of information and a large number of processes. The turnover and engagement are thus a big issue. To address those challenges the company decided to design a new onboarding experience. The research made by the company proved that employees who succeeded in the first 90-day period were far more productive over the entire course of their employment than those who struggled. Telstra discovered that using different research methods. They carried out “Discovery interviews” with the leader - to frame the challenge and set the objectives; focus group sessions with employees - to track all the pain points in the preexisting onboarding process. Then, they synthesized qualitative data with employee demographic and turnover data.

As a result, they collected the key needs, pain points and work task areas that could be improved to “delight” employees. This information served as an input to design a new onboarding process. The process provided more personalized experience; time and space to allow key learning as quickly as possible or processes that acknowledged employee’s achievements. The program resulted in improvement of productivity and engagement, as well as in quicker integration into the organization.

Telstra ’s onboarding intranet portal. A requirement for all new Telstra employees, the onboarding process consists of more than 400 individual web pages broken down into five, easily digestible chapters

Telstra’s onboarding intranet portal. A requirement for all new Telstra employees, the onboarding process consists of more than 400 individual web pages broken down into five, easily digestible chapters

Step 2. Defining the key challenges to design for

Next, you need to define the core problems and challenges. You do that collaboratively in a facilitated process which takes advantage of many available design tools such as employee journeys, ecosystem maps, relation maps or personas. The aim of that step is to catch the crucial pain points and needs and to transform them into further process design challenges.

 Let’s see how GE did that when they faced a rise of proportion of  the millennial generation in their structures. GE engaged a group of millennials to help them understand what kind of an organizational culture they wanted to work in. The results showed a company culture mismatch. The GE culture at that point was dominated by a “command and control” model, the one which baby boomers were used to. But millennials preferred a more horizontal and agile structure, where the power stayed where the action was - the “connect and inspire” model.

GE has responded to this new context and feedback, at the same time being responsive to the new, digital economy. GE, inspired by Silicon Valley’s tools, launched FastWorks, which relies on lean start-up principles. To facilitate this new operating model, GE created a new cultural template called “the GE Beliefs”. It was co-created by employees in order to drive a culture , which the employees wanted to see. In the same time, simplification became a core target of employee processes:.for example, a simplified model for performance management was introduced together with new mobile apps for goal management and collaboration.

GE Beliefs  are the main values of the company’s culture co-created with its employees

GE Beliefs are the main values of the company’s culture co-created with its employees

Step 3. Designing for your employees (and for the strategic goals of your company)

In the next step you would design solutions (value proposition) which need to be aligned with the goals, values and desires of your employees and need to solve their important problems. When properly designed, those solutions will improve employee experience and will keep them highly engaged.

The Talent Board’s research from a couple of years ago has shown that more than half of the candidates who find the job-application experience difficult, develop a negative impression of the company’s products and services. In order to address those first experiences with the company, Zappos made it easy for desired candidates to find and apply for the right job. The company’s page Inside Zappos offers a candidate access to Zappos Insider newsletter in order to stay tuned into what is happening in the company. Moreover, instead of regular job descriptions, it presents real employees talking about their work in various departments. All of that to go after the right candidate long before the interview. Just to give some quantitative evidence on the subject, the Polish branch of Deloitte simplified its digital application process quite recently and made it more friendly for potential employees. Thanks to that, they increased the proportion of those finishing the whole digital application process from 17% to 92% (as stated in the 18’ UX Poland keynote).

Zappos Insider    let the candidates keep in track with what’s going on inside the company

Zappos Insider let the candidates keep in track with what’s going on inside the company

Step 4. Test and implement  

A service design process relies on generating ideas quickly and on testing prototypes, which generates further ideas, digital tools, and solutions.

Human-centered design, together with piloting and testing solutions became a new standard of management for the Hyatt hotel chain. The company’s leaders transformed 10 of their properties, including hotels in San Francisco, Sao Palo and Hong Kong, into laboratories of innovation. The used those hotels to run iterative experiments with lighting, furniture, guest rooms, as well as with employees’ engagement in the process. Transformation of corporate’s culture resulted not only in delighting the chain’s guests but also its employees. The brand has earned a spot on the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America list for the first time in 2014.

Hyatt  engaged hotel staff became an integral part of the design process. Pictured is a team selected for "Lab Hotel" innovation training in Hong Kong during its fourth iteration of the education modules

Hyatt engaged hotel staff became an integral part of the design process. Pictured is a team selected for "Lab Hotel" innovation training in Hong Kong during its fourth iteration of the education modules

All of the mentioned cases are examples of a significant trend among  those responsible for talent acquisition and retention to look at a company as a service which serves its own employees. Human resources management’s role needs to go beyond just building programs and processes and should focus on designing meaningful employee experiences. In companies, which already practice this new approach it is not uncommon to see the head of people be called the Employee Experience Officer instead of Head of Human resources. Such is the case at Airbnb for example.

This particular mindset and organization culture is also in a very close relation with outstanding business results. According to Global Human Capital Trends survey, the companies which grow more than 10% yearly, two times more frequently take advantage of human-centered design methods (compared to other companies). Remember that fostering better employee experience will drive your business forward.

Marta