5 Ways In Which Design Thinking Is Transforming HR One Day At A Time!

5 Ways In Which Design Thinking Is Transforming HR One Day At A Time!

How can HR fuel great employee experiences that foster creativity, collaboration, dedication and innovation all at the same time? ‘Design Thinking’ is the new buzzword that can serve the purpose!

What Is Design Thinking?

In simple words, design thinking is a creative problem-solving process with a human-centric approach. It is based on understanding the disparate needs of different stakeholders and used to generate solutions that bring value to all stakeholders.

It is a useful approach to comprehend and solve complex challenges as opposed to traditional methodologies. Pure analytical techniques fall short and add minimal improvements to the status quo. But, it just isn’t enough anymore.

Therefore, to innovate and stand apart, we definitely need the novel approach of design thinking, With a focus on finding the right problem to solve, along with in-depth understanding, you will be able to create better solutions that do much more than improving just the status quo.

Companies like Apple, Starbucks, and Google are well-known to have already adopted Design Thinking.

According to an assessment from the Design Management Institute these companies have outperformed their peers in the last decade with 211% measured by the Design Value Index.

Not Just Limited to Product Development…

Design thinking often finds its inception within the product development department and has predominantly been applied to the development of new products, services, and business models. However, design thinking can extend to broader purposes within the organization as well.

It can be used to solve any challenging problem such as in the design of organizational processes and structures, in the collaboration of teams, in training and development, etc. The scope of design thinking is immense with limitless options.

Understanding The Scope Of Design Thinking In HR

The most obvious department that can greatly benefit from the design thinking approach is that of Human Resources. Since it focuses on solving problems with a people-centric approach, it can potentially help to reinvent HR and put the ‘Human” back into HR.

From identifying and attracting top talent to assigning them the right roles, finding opportunities to transition them into new roles and finally retaining talent to develop them into even great assets for the business, design thinking can be applied to every function of HR.

Design thinking in HR entails calibrating a journey map that includes key elements of timeline, emotion, touchpoints, channels, and persona. From the earliest stage, it will help you understand how an ideal candidate searches for a job.

In later stages, it offers insights into the touchpoints that enable to create a great employee experience and the goals needed in place to utilize and maintain talent.

What Is Design Thinking

5 Ways In Which HR Can Benefit From Design Thinking!

In a recent article published by Deloitte Insights, the authors stated that navigating the future of work will require an alignment of the individual, business, other employers and social and governmental institutions. And, design thinking was proposed as a solution to help drive this alignment and meet the challenges of workforce development, maintenance, and future planning.

Based on this perspective, it’s clear that design thinking can be a great tool for the HR as it makes the shift to a customer-driven approach to service delivery and focuses on creating an exceptional employee experience. Here’s how design thinking can help HR:

1. Design Thinking To Help HR Reinvent Itself

Design thinking imbibes a philosophy and toolkit into HR by offering exciting methodologies to reinvent each and every aspect of work. It transforms the traditional process-oriented model to a people-oriented model in which personalized solutions for employees become possible.

For instance, Cisco organized an HR Breakathon with a slogan that “In 24 hours HR will never be the same”.

The motive behind their initiative was to create a sharper HR in which silos, time zones, and cultural obstacles don’t exist. As a result, it provided the much-needed space for innovative HR solutions. Over a period of 24 hours, Cisco employees across 16 time zones, 39 countries, and 116 cities were able to generate 105 new HR solutions for their workforce of 71,000 people.

2. Focus On Employee Experience

It is a top priority for HR professionals to improve employee engagement. Design thinking provides several tools to create inspiring workplaces, user-friendly systems, innovative roles and other ways of collaboration in which employee is at the core of it all.

Human empathy is a basic requirement to understand and identify problems clearly. And, once you do that, you can easily generate a gamut of solutions and come up with the right solution.

LinkedIn, for example, organized a 6-week program with 1000 participants from LinkedIn to find solutions for specific issues around low employee engagement.

3. Design Thinking And Learning

While learning and development are one of the important tools to empower employees and engage them, it often doesn’t yield the desired results. This is because conventional learning and development content is generic and does not account for the individual employee’s learning capabilities.

Design thinking can come to the rescue and help you create the right learning and development initiatives with more adaptive content. Based on the employee needs it can be designed to be experiential, personalized and not so overbearing.

Employees also want programs that are short and relevant with access on the go using their mobile devices. All requirements of the employees can be taken into consideration before coming up with the perfect learning and development initiatives.

4. Feed Company-Wide Innovation

Many organizations are fraught with fear and struggle to innovate.  However, HR can help by stimulating a design thinking culture across all departments. This can be made possible by integrating a new mindset, new attitude, toolkits and capabilities in all projects that are placed within the organization.  

Successful companies like Citrix, SAP, Proctor & Gamble have used design thinking as the foundation to create a cultural change. Instead of utilizing design thinking within product development or as an event to generate quick energy, these organizations have run it through their entire projects and initiatives.

5. Create A Mindset That Drives Results

Design thinking extends beyond rote practices. It places employees at the heart of the design and ensures that the design is in tandem with the emotions of the users. Comprising of a soft systems methodology, it takes into account multiple, divergent perspectives to come up with a promising solution.

When HR is able to operationalize this mindset within all the silos and teams, it can achieve greater collaboration and in turn impressive results.

According to a survey, companies that are growing by 10% or more per year, are more than twice likely to have incorporated design thinking models, as opposed to their counterparts who are stagnant.

Here’s How You Can Apply Design Thinking To HR!

The design thinking model includes six core principles and steps: Empathy, Definition, Ideation, Prototyping, Testing, and Scaling. Let’s see how we can apply this process to HR by focusing on two sections — recruiting and performance management:

How Design Thinking Can Be Applied To HR-

1. Empathy

This is the first step where you need to analyze the actual problems from the perspective of how they affect people. This is the essence of design thinking wherein with full empathy you can better understand a problem. By putting people at the core and understanding their needs and frustrations, you can find their real problem.

Now, with respect to recruitment you need to understand all about your prospective candidates, their needs, wants and expectations. On the other hand, a design thinking approach to performance management will begin by looking at how the current approach impacts the employees.

It will collect information using interviews, feedback, focus groups, and journaling to understand the process.

2. Definition

Once you understand the problem, you can set out to define what the problem is exactly. With this step, you are finally synthesizing and focusing on your problems.

For instance, from a recruiting standpoint, your actual problem can be to attract more candidates with a strong persona. And, underperformance management, you want to create high performing teams where teams actively support each other.

3. Ideation

Now starts the fun! This is where you unleash your creative side and think about the best possible ways to solve the problem. Explore different ideas even if they are extremely different from each other. This will widen the scope and help you think out of the box.

In doing so, this phase will involve brainstorming with open-mindedness and creativity at its core. Come up with ideas to improve your branding, job descriptions, social recruiting strategy and more.

For performance management, think of ways you can encourage collaboration by setting up leaders to take feedback and mentor the teams.

4. Prototyping

Narrow down your long list of ideas and filter them heavily to see which one survives. From its quantity and volume bring it down to quality, feasibility, and relevance. Once you do that, you will come up with a manageable list of ideas and can create a mock-up of each.

If the particular piece of performance management problem is to be addressed, you may have two potential mock-ups like to bring external coaches or leaders or unleash talent from within the team.

For recruitment, you probably want to create an impactful job description with visual media or video to get attention or use social media channels to attract interest from potential candidates.

All this will help you experiment with the ideas. Prototyping does not involve investing a lot of resources in each solution, but to build on pieces of solution over and over again.

5. Testing

Now, it’s time to go out to the field and test the prototype solutions. It will help you assess and evaluate your solutions and whether they were able to fulfill your expectations and assumptions. You should be clear with the solutions that are and aren’t working, change your solutions or let go of ideas to prioritize on the ideas that actually work.

It is like the pre-final step in the design thinking process where you come up with a final solution. The solution can be an improved version of a prototype, a combination of prototypes or even a new prototype built when nothing else solves the problem.

Here, you can use metrics to assess what is working and revisit it again. For example, within the recruitment scenario, you can test your job descriptions and see which has gained maximum visibility with candidates. Within the performance management scenario, you can get feedback from your team whether they would like an external leader or someone from within.

The end result of this phase should help you select a viable solution that can be implemented beyond the pilot mode across the entire organization.

6. Scaling

The last step in the process is to take the tested solution and transform it into a functional and scalable package. At this point, your solution is validated, options were refined and the team is ready to go live with the implementation.

Breaking down complex problems into different phases is the best way to solve any problem so that there is greater acceptance and your goals are fulfilled.

Essentially design thinking is a mindset that can be applied to any situation within any department of the organization, especially the HR. With the help of design thinking, HR can put themselves in the shoes of employees, empathize to see the world from their eyes and then finally assume the role of an architect to foster the best employee experience.

The renowned IT company Infosys is one of the very few organizations which has adopted a systematic design thinking process to improve the employee experience. It has created a model named “Zero Distance” to increase opportunities for innovation and optimize employee’s problem-solving skills. It also conducts design thinking workshops in order to empower its workforce and has trained over 36,000 employees so far.

Like how agile methodology has been applied successfully to the development of new products, services, and business models, design thinking can be aptly applied to HR for its people-oriented and prototype-driven process for complex problem-solving.

Time to make a switch to design thinking for a more efficient and effective workplace!



  1. What a nice post! I’m so happy to read this. What you wrote was very helpful to me. Thank you. Actually, I run a site similar to you. If you have time, could you visit my site? Please leave your comments after reading what I wrote. If you do so, I will actively reflect your opinion. I think it will be a great help to run my site. Have a good day.HR Software

Leave a Reply


Click on allow to subscribe to notificationsStay update with the latest happenings on out site