6 Ways to impact people experience

6 Ways to impact people experience

Design thinking is the biggest challenge to how we prioritise, design and deliver internal services to hit this generation. It challenges us to remove all assumptions about our people’s motivations, desires and preferences by providing tools and techniques to discover a customer’s needs direct from the customer’s own mouth or behaviours.

Those tools can, if misused, devour your time and attention. Personas, empathy maps, journey mapping, etc., can take over your practice. It’s easy to get lost in the philosophy and methodology – it’s a virtuous undertaking that is alluring and seductive.

We’ve learnt a few things about ensuring that your good intent results in actions and outcomes when applying design thinking in the workplace.

1. Focus attention on core needs; extrapolate from there

A single service / process that is core to an experience can tell you a lot about the broader problems. For example, the recruitment experience, end-to-end, involves a dozen processes and many different parties. You could choose a core experience that typifies the challenges faced by your people when recruiting new staff:

“Advertise a vacant position”

This experience will uncover:

  • Roles and responsibilities of the manager, the Recruitment / HR teams, and any middle men clogging up the process.
  • Challenges with systems, possibly (probably!) even paper and email.
  • Data flow problems.
  • Delegation concerns.
  • Vendor challenges

It is a representative problem. Once we understand what is wrong with the ‘recruitment requisition’ experience, it’s very likely we’ve learnt something about the short-listing experience, the interview experience, the contracting experience etc.

2. Get help

Using design thinking methods takes a myriad of skills, including:

  • Focused facilitation, designed to generate a usable artefact at the end of the interview, workshop, etc. We need the group to create something that informs the organisation, we don’t need the group to leave with a new skill. This talent is sometimes held by IT, sometimes a design / product group, sometimes HR, and can often be supplied by external providers.
  • Knowledge of behavioural psychology, which helps to untangle feedback into a clear sense of motivators that contribute to outcomes. Organisational psychology skills are usually held by the HR team.
  • Business analysis and leadership skills to diagnose what can be done with the information gathered. A new strategy, project or process could result. These skills come from a wide variety of sources and your key objective is to ensure those people are involved.

A note on external providers, though: Everyone has their niche, influenced by their experience with different industries. Many dollars have been burned working with vendors that aren’t familiar with the environment they are working in, e.g. Service design consultants with a hospitality portfolio used for internal HR service design. There’s a good chance you’ll spend more time educating the consultant on your context than you will generating inputs and consuming their insights. Get help from people that know your space.

3. Use real people

When applying design thinking in the corporate environment it often becomes ‘too hard’ to get front line employees in the room. You end up with five HR people, two from IT, three executives from the business and one employee; a go-getter that is exhausted from acting as de-facto spokesperson for the entire workforce any time someone wants to hear the voice of the people. This can result in:

  • Self-interested bias from head office functions.
  • An unhealthy level of scepticism caused by participants that have been through twenty years of methods for generating new ideas.
  • No real, average employee voice.

We suggest using more objective selection methods:

  • Generate a ‘random’ list of people that may represent the audience you are trying to understand.
  • Pre-warn line managers that you’ll be inviting their staff
  • This allows the manager to organise their workload.
  • Balance your list; you can expect a higher response rate from high performers, line managers, etc.
  • Personalise the invites by addressing them to the person; try not to look like a corporate comms message.
  • Expect perhaps a 40% acceptance rate for attendees invited.

Representative data matters. Get real people in the room, get a real understanding of what happens out there.

Once you have it, making great use of employees’ time might mean getting creative about how you gather data. Some companies have excelled at one day expo / showcase type events where large numbers of employees are provided with the opportunity to provide input at various stations throughout a large room, for example.

4. Be humble

‘Experience’ is broad, particularly when we are looking at a topic as multidimensional as ‘why isn’t sales team x performing as well as sales team y. It can be challenging to find out that your learning system is never used, and the sales team doesn’t think the content has any relevance to their real-life sales process. We need to face into these things, though, to uncover the real motivators and focus attention where it matters.

A representative model of people experience covers matters that impact day-to-day execution of responsibilities. This includes the physical setting, emotional connection to the organisation, team dynamics, etc.

Looking at the above example model, ‘learning content’ may not be the reason a sales team isn’t performing. One reason I have encountered in the real world is more closely aligned with ‘Tools to enable’. This sales team had to log onto three different systems to sell one product. Customers would get frustrated and the product would not be sold; therefore, the team did not try to sell the product. Product knowledge was not the issue; security profiles and architecture were the problem in this case.

As professionals pursuing real change we need to be open to uncovering obstacles that are outside of our domain. This could mean:

  • Admitting that you cannot solve the problem and shifting focus to another opportunity.
  • Effectively, constructively handing over the challenge to someone with more direct accountability for the problem.
  • Flexing your responsibilities, within reason. A learning and development professional exists to ensure that people obtain the skills and knowledge required to do their job; perhaps helping to address the barriers to exercising those skills could also be a part of that role.

5. Tie observations back to what your team does

Experiences are directly influenced by the services provided to your people by internal teams, and indirectly influenced through the processes that enable those services. When evaluating an experience, ask:

  • What services are impacting this experience, at what points?
  • What processes are hindering the delivery of that service?
  • What is the key thing I could change to uplift that experience? Can I trace that impact right back to the actual experience?

This takes some practice, but it’s crucial to understand that a process somewhere in the back-end, created to make Finance’s job a little easier each month, is impacting 10,000 employees, creating frustration and resulting in poor performance.

Trace it back, make the change, evaluate the result.

6. Actually do something

It’s way too easy to prioritise and debate the importance of an issue. The debate become the ‘output’ itself if we aren’t careful. Moving to action is critical.

  • Identify the stakeholder with primary accountability for the experience challenge and gain their support.
  • Assign responsibilities for taking action.
  • Include people that can influence the core issues. That might mean including front-line people on the team.
  • Set dates / gateways for reviewing alignment of the solution to the problem identified. This is critical. Convene a cross-functional group to assess the simple question of “is this initiative still addressing the barrier that we identified?”

These six things can help turn excitement about the new design thinking paradigm into actual results. We are keen to hear what you think, either here in the comments section, or at the December 2018 Supernova event. Look forward to seeing you there.

Andrew Smith is Curve Group’s Practice Leader of HR Operational Excellence. If you would like to get in touch, Andrew can be contacted on LinkedIn.

Leave a Reply