HR Management & Compliance

Using Design Thinking and a People-Centered Performance Management Process

In an illuminating TED Talk, “The way we think about work is broken,” Barry Schwartz encourages us to think about whether it’s human nature that creates institutions or institutions that shape human nature. In traditional factory lines, work was simply based on the exchange of labor for money. However, money doesn’t have to be the only thing that drives people to get up and go to work every morning.

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Rather than creating a workplace where people do the bare minimum, designing an institution that facilitates people’s innate need to use their creativity, find purpose, and reach their potential will shape the way people feel about work.

The Key Is to Begin Questioning Everything

Companies are now placing the heavy task on HR to revamp outdated processes to create more agile and innovative organizations. Many HR innovators have taken this moment to do some long-needed cleaning out of failed institutions and construction of new processes that reflect the people and purposes in their organization.

Despite what you may think, this is not reserved for companies with large budgets to spend on Google-style perks. Even without the budget, you can transform your organization in a positive way.

Today’s HR innovators don’t take any process or institution for granted. The only way to discover what truly works best is to put yourself in the shoes of the people who work and run your organization and open your mind to new possibilities. While it may sound intimidating, this isn’t a call for anarchy. Design thinking is a highly ordered approach that will provide you with a new lens through which to view your organization.

What Is Design Thinking?

Until now, design thinking has mostly been used to create a customer-focused approach to designing and marketing products. However, today, HR professionals are beginning to use this methodology to design better employee experiences. In fact, this process has had so much success that Deloitte’s Global Human Capital trends recognized it as a top trend to follow.

According to Tim Brown, CEO of international design firm IDEO:

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

The process encourages you to look at three main touch points within the organization to better understand what’s needed. These are the processes, people, and technology that your employees come into contact with at each stage of their journey with the organization.

Which processes are cumbersome? Which need to be abolished? How much support do your people receive from team leads or peers? Are there new solutions that can make your employees’ lives easier?

There are two tools that can help you get into the design thinking mind-set. One is employee journey mapping, which allows you to map out the stages and assess touch points at each step using your people data. The other is employee personas, which involve fictional characters that allow you to put yourself into the minds of your employees.

Creating a People-Centric Performance Management Process

Performance management is an important cornerstone of your organization. Having a strong system in place that will help your people develop new skills will give your company the advantage it needs to meet industry changes head on. At the same time, helping your workforce improve also keeps engagement levels high.

Rather than settling for an exchange of money for services, today’s employees are looking to exchange their time and effort for growth and learning opportunities. In a recent survey, Gallup found that 87% of Millennials considered professional development or career growth opportunities to be very important.

Professional growth should be seen as an exchange between employees and the organization, but rather than money, it’s about an exchange of value—valuable knowledge and skills in return for help further honing those skills.

In part 2 of this article, we explore how to implement design thinking.

Steffen Maier is the co-founder of Impraise, a people-enablement platform. Impraise’s belief is simple: Grow your people—grow your business. It helps unleash people’s potential, doing more than just performance reviews, which means accelerating performance, fostering career development, and seizing all the moments that happen in between.

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