How can product design help HR?

One innovative HR tech platform is applying a new mode of thinking that could be a game changer for HR processes

How can product design help HR?

On the face of it, product design and HR feel about as disparate as any two aspects of work can be. Yet to the leaders of intelliHR, an innovator in the HR space, there’s a tool that’s emerged from product design that can inform and improve HR processes. That tool is called design thinking and it’s almost-purpose built to facilitate change in HR process.

At the upcoming HR Tech summit live and online September 22nd and 23rd Glen Donaldson, Chief Customer Officer and President of intelliHR Americas, will be demonstrating just how design thinking can revolutionize HR practice. He’ll conduct a series of exciting workshops designed to demonstrate just what design thinking entails and how through relatively simple exercises, HR professionals can start to master this tool that’s become a watchword at global leaders like Apple and GE. He says that attendees won’t just walk away with a new perspective and insight, they’ll leave his workshops with real tools.

“Design thinking emerged from product developers trying to understand how humans built processes and how they can make them better,” Donaldson says. “They use it to deconstruct a process or a product as well as their own assumptions about how it can be made better. In challenging their assumptions these designers began reverse engineering and rebuilding products and processes with truly open minds, creating something better as a result.”

Donaldson says intelliHR has been among the first to apply design thinking in the HR space. They do it, he says, because many HR professionals can benefit from an objective breakdown and analysis of their processes to rebuild them into something better. In working with a client to design-think a process like onboarding, Donaldson and his team connect directly with stakeholders and end users to understand what he calls the “roses, buds, and thorns” of a process. The roses are the parts that work well and will stay in the new process, the buds are the aspects that need a little retooling to become flowers, and the thorns are pain points to be eliminated and replaced.

That’s some of the beauty of design thinking. It’s a gentler form of disruption that allows for significant change without purging what was good in the last system or process. Rather than starting from zero the intelliHR team starts with analysis of what exists to see how it can become better.

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The intelliHR team makes design-thinking an omnipresent part of their relationship with clients. It’s incorporated into the development process of their HR platform and hold their clients’ hands through every step of the process. They find out what processes their clients want to rethink, be that onboarding, offboarding, performance development, or even just analytics and reporting, and then work with the client in the design thinking process.

“Were using design thinking to help HR design an experience for all of their staff,” Donaldson says.  “Every HR person cares about the people in their organization. They want to make sure that they enjoy coming to work and they're actually given the best opportunity to produce their best work. We support HR with this design thinking process to help to create that experience.”

To demonstrate design thinking firsthand, Donaldson has prepared a series of workshops he’ll be running at the virtual HR tech conference this year. One of those workshops is story mapping, looking at each step in a process like onboarding from the job offer through to final acceptance. In quickly drawing a map of each step, HR professionals can see where the onboarding road gets too bendy and where it already cuts straight through the weeds.

Another workshop is called example solutions. In it, Donaldson gives HR pros 10 minutes to sketch or write down eight different solutions as quickly as possible. Those solutions, then, are put through a “rose, bud, thorns” analysis to winnow out flaws and elevate promising ideas. After multiple rounds, a new process emerges driven by design thinking.

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“At the HR Tech summit, these workshops will dive deep into design thinking, walking through the various methodologies an HR professional can use,” Donaldson says. “I want attendees to walk away with a toolkit they can apply themselves. They won’t need our software or our partnership, they’ll have tools they can use straight away.”


Download the free intelliHR Design Thinking toolkit to kickstart your own workshops today, and make sure you register to attend Glenn Donaldson’s HR Tech Fest workshop and learn how to effectively apply the tools!

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