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Human-Centered Design for Human Resources (HR) — Part 1

by
Mindy Honcoop
on June 18, 2024

Human Resources (HR) departments often find themselves overwhelmed with administrative tasks and limited resources. They are tasked with making sure timely payrolls, managing benefits, and addressing routine employee inquiries and relations issues. HR is often isolated within organizations, perceived more as a policing entity rather than a supportive guide or business partner. This perception leads to a reactive, rather than proactive, approach to addressing employee needs. Introducing Human-Centered Design to Human Resources

It’s time to shift from a tactical mindset to implementing a strategic methodology. HR needs to reconnect with employees and integrate business processes and systems with the people they serve. By understanding the employee’s journey and identifying their pain points, HR can better support and align employees with organizational goals. Human-Centered Design (HCD) offers a method that helps HR create solutions. Resonating deeply with the workforce, enhancing both individual and collective success. 

What is Human-Centered Design? 

Human-Centered Design is a problem-solving approach. It starts with the people you are designing for and ends with solutions tailored to their needs. This method involves understanding the human perspective of our employees, including their voice in the design process. The goal is to develop solutions that increase tailored support for employees. Across moments that matter in their journey at the company — from hire to retire. Design an employee life cycle where employees feel their voice is heard and they contribute to the company’s culture. Resulting in employees feeling they are are seen as more than just another number lost in a workplace ecosystem. 

The Importance of Connection in the Workplace 

Connection is crucial in the workplace. A Gartner report highlights that while 82% of employees believe it’s important for their organization to see them as individuals, only 45% feel this way. According to Bloomberg article, this disconnection can lead to significant productivity losses, costing U.S. companies an estimated $1.9 trillion (about $5,800 per person in the US) annually. By creating a sense of connection through human-centered HR solutions, organizations can align company goals with employee needs and experiences. 

Another benefit of human-centered solutions is that they not only align company goals with employee needs but also break down the department silos that exist in organizations. HCD helps identify the key designers/stakeholders who own and manage the different key stages of the employee journey and the moments that matter in each. HR is not the only department that owns the employee experience. When done well, HCD identifies the different designers of the experience to come together and co-shape this experience collaboratively. For example, in onboarding, HR does not just drive the experience but also impacted by IT, Marketing, Safety & Compliance, and other departments depending on the industry. By bringing all designers together, you reduce redundancy, streamline, and automate processes, and often save time and money. 

The 5 Steps of Human-Centered Design 

  1. Identify Who You’re Designing For: Understanding your audience is the cornerstone of HCD. In HR, this means identifying various employee personas, such as hiring managers, new hires, and seasoned employees. Recognize the key stages and moments that matter to these employees, from the moment they apply for a job to the day they leave the company. 
  1. Gather Information: Engage directly with employees through interviews, surveys, and observations to discover their needs. Ask open-ended questions and listen without judgment to understand their experiences and challenges. 
  1. Generate Ideas: Use the insights gathered to brainstorm potential solutions. Encourage creative thinking to develop a broad range of ideas that address identified needs. 
  1. Make Ideas Tangible: Create prototypes of your ideas, such as mock-ups of new systems. The goal is to make your ideas concrete so they can be tested and refined. Walk employees through your mock-ups, observe their interactions, and gather feedback to refine the solutions. 
  1. Plan and Launch: Once the right solutions are identified, implement them in the organization. Develop a clear launch plan, define success measures, and create a communication plan to support the rollout. Check the results and continuously seek feedback for improvement. 

Applying Human-Centered Design in HR Processes 

Attraction and Recruitment 

Attraction and recruitment can benefit immensely from HCD. By understanding what potential candidates value, HR can tailor job descriptions, career pages, and social media outreach to appeal to them. Creating candidate personas helps address specific needs and pain points, making the recruitment process more engaging and effective. 


Onboarding 

The onboarding process is critical for new hires. An HCD approach can clarify roles, streamline IT setups, and help new employees feel welcomed and supported from day one. By mapping out the onboarding journey and gathering feedback, HR can identify and address pain points, such as confusion over benefits or lack of clarity in job roles.  

Image promoted the June 27th live Workshop --- Onboarding Meets Human-Centered Design (HCD)

Development and Retention 

Continuous development and retention strategies are essential for long-term employee satisfaction. Using HCD, HR can design personalized development plans, mentorship programs, and recognition systems that resonate with employees’ aspirations and career goals. Regular one-on-one meetings and feedback sessions help employees feel valued and heard. 

Departure 

Even the departure process can be improved with HCD. By understanding the reasons behind employee exits and gathering feedback, HR can refine exit interviews, create smoother transitions, and address systemic issues contributing to turnover. 

Enhancing Organizational Capability with HCD

Human-Centered Design (HCD) is a framework that results in improved organizational capability through equal investment in people, processes, and systems. When appropriately deployed across the workplace ecosystem, HCD shifts the perspective from seeing people as an expense to viewing them as a necessary investment. By investing in people, organizations increase their capability to adapt and continuously improve because they are consistently checking in with the humans in their organization. This approach creates greater clarity, alignment, and execution. In the next part of this series, we will delve deeper into practical examples illustrating how Human-Centered Design can be effectively applied in real-world scenarios. 


ABOUT AUTHOR

Mindy Honcoop

Mindy Honcoop is an experienced People Leader now serving as MeBeBot’s VP of Customer Strategy and Operations. Previous HR advisor to Care.com, Spiceworks Ziff Davis, HomeAway.com, Blackbaud, and Expedia.