In this guest post Joanna Wyganowska gives some concrete examples and advice on how to apply Human-Centred Design to the employee experience. Joanna is an experienced psychologist, human-centred designer, leadership coach and virtual chief culture officer.
Imagine this scenario….a staff performance appraisal platform is implemented across a large organisation to support and enhance performance conversation outcomes. Other major companies have gone down this path and report satisfactory results. It sounds like a ‘no-brainer’. After all, this is the 21st century and technology is here to help make our lives easier. Here’s what happens next though. There is no real change. People suspiciously wonder about the purpose of the platform and many view it as an exercise in compliance. Meanwhile, the resource investment has been through the roof and fingers are now being pointed. Sound familiar?
Let’s rewind to the beginning and consider a different approach. We understand there is a challenge with performance appraisals. Before we take any action, we put our expert hat to the side and park the ‘best practice’ solution. Instead we adopt a human-centred design approach. We go out and speak with various leaders and team members from across the organisation to really immerse ourselves in their experience. Through conversations and observation, we learn that people don’t feel comfortable with performance appraisals because they lack experience and confidence, and are often too time strapped for lengthy processes that tend to go badly anyway. This insight changes everything. As a next step we co-develop and test a low fidelity solution with the people we are designing for. The solution focuses on supporting people with developing the mindset and skills for regular two-way conversations based on trust, mutual respect, and genuine development goals. Perhaps the need for the platform will emerge a little later.
What is Human-Centred Design (HCD)?
Human-centred design is a process that places emphasis on deeply understanding the people you are ‘designing’ for and collaboratively developing solutions in response to the stated and often unstated needs. The term ‘design’ in this context broadly relates to the design and development of products, services and experiences that create value for people and improve their lives.
How is HCD Used and Applied?
Most of us are now familiar with the term customer experience (CX), which refers to the experience a customer has when they interact with a company or a brand in relation to a product such as smartphones or a service offering, e.g. making an online insurance claim or booking travel accommodation. Examples of well-known companies who apply HCD are Airbnb, Amazon, Uber, and Apple. Through this approach they have been able to develop empathy and better understand their customers’ needs and desires, resulting in the development of tailor made products and solutions that delight people.
Here’s the thing; if you really want to shift the dial you need to start at the core. This means applying HCD to the employee experience (EX). Employee centricity is the real ‘no-brainer’. It not only enhances wellbeing, engagement and performance outcomes, it also has an impact on the customer experience and, ultimately, business performance. You can’t have super happy customers with a disengaged team. This means putting the employee at the centre as the expert and engaging them in the co-creation of ideas or solutions that affect their interaction with their workplace, such as culture, the physical workspace, or technology.
What is the HCD Approach?
While there is some variation in the methodology and tools applied by different individuals and organisations, the fundamental framework remains the same. There are four phases that cycle between divergent (exploring lots of ideas) and convergent thinking (refining and narrowing of ideas):
Discover – Develop an in depth understanding of the problem through various sources and establish genuine empathy through immersion in the experience of the people who are the centre of the challenge.
Define – Analyse and synthesise the information collected to generate insights based on the pains, needs, or wants, resulting in a more clearly defined problem and a starting place for solution generation.
Develop – Use divergent thinking tools for the ideation of many new, broad and diverse solutions through a process of co-creation with diverse teams including some of the people for whom you are designing.
Deliver – Down select, prototype and test top ideas through a rapid and low cost iterative process. The learning generated through the successes and failures results in solutions that adds genuine value to people.
Who is HCD for?
Anyone dealing with complex or ambiguous challenges wanting to engage talent and thrive as an employee and customer centric business. If you are not solving a real human challenge or implementing an idea that meets the needs or desires of people, you are likely missing the point.
If you are already on this journey, this is music to your ears. If you are contemplating where to begin, the advice is to start small to gain some quick wins, develop confidence and create buy-in. After all, it’s about moving fast, experimenting, learning, iterating before even thinking about scaling.
Psychologist and Human-Centred Designer