Design thinking applied to HCM technology selection

Crafting the HR customer experience: An ongoing series

Architecting the HR customer experience: Design thinking applied to HCM technology selection

Posted by Arthur Mazor, Gary Cole, and Maribeth Sivak on September 01, 2016.

The business imperative
Two-thirds of companies believe complexity is an obstacle to business success and a barrier to productivity.1 Design thinking takes aim at the heart of unnecessary workplace complexity by putting the HR customer experience and moments that matter first—helping to improve productivity by designing solutions that are at once compelling, enjoyable, and simple.

Design Thinking framework

Design thinking framework

Design Thinking applied to HCM tech selection
Redefining the experience at work requires a new way of operating and digitally enabling—a shift in our thinking from functions and features to the design of experiences that delight and engage.

Traditional software selection approaches involve issuing RFPs, down-selecting to a short list of vendors, and then conducting vendor demonstrations to ultimately select and contract for one or more technologies. The unique requirements that heavily influence the HR customer experience and shape moments that matter can get blurred and lost in this traditional process. Applying design thinking to HCM (human capital management) technology selections can help accelerate and shift this aged process to produce outcomes better aligned to business and workforce needs. Here’s an example.

Look & listen to defined HR customer personas. Identifying the distinctive HR customer personas that fit the organization’s vision and customer experience principles puts customer needs front and center. For example, in evaluating HCM solutions, relevant HR customer personas may include “Susie,” a department supervisor who is worried about productivity and developing and retaining the talent that reports to her.

Department Supervisor

Understand & synthesize HR customer needs. By conducting voice of the customer interviews and listening to customer stories, moments that matter and desired emotional responses for each persona become clear. For example, Susie feels that above all else, her team matters. Susie’s story reveals that she is looking for a technology solution that delivers a simple yet robust compensation modeling and performance management experience that will allow her to reward her top performers and be on high alert for retention issues. The selection team translates Susie’s story into compensation planning and performance management Journey Maps depicting the sentiment Susie feels as she experiences the moments that matter most to her.

Generate and prioritize ideas. The selection team carves out the technology-enabled moments that matter from the Journey Maps and converts them into scenarios to facilitate an apples-to-apples assessment of how users will experience the competing technology solutions. To address Susie’s priorities, competing technology vendors are asked to demonstrate how their respective solutions’ annual planning process enables business unit or group level what-if modeling for annual compensation increases. Competing suppliers are further asked to demonstrate the flexibility of their talent matrix capabilities, including the ability to view multiple attributes such as skills, critical position, and retention risks.

Prototype, test, and refine. While full-blown prototyping and testing is deferred until implementation, our experience is that competing vendors help an organization better visualize the fit by configuring their solutions in the context of business process-based moments that matter.

Our Bersin by Deloitte colleague, Christa Manning, HR technology research lead, recently shared that solution provider research is more deeply evaluating the areas that enterprises indicate make a difference in setting up and sustaining HR technology success. For cloud technology, the focus is on user experience and adoption; ease of integration and relevant business analytics; scope of workforce and talent support, including contingent workers; and HR service delivery exception processing capabilities and automation—including robotic process automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to improve the overall employee experience of HR software, support, and service delivery.

Making it happen
By applying design thinking to HCM technology selections, companies can take aim at unnecessary workplace complexity by putting the HR customer experience and moments that matter first. It’s time to switch from traditional HCM technology selection approaches to selection focused on the design of experiences that delight and engage HR customers.

This point of view is further supported by the data from Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report, which suggest that the more importance an organization places on design thinking and the more ready it is to embrace it, the faster the organization grows. According to the data, companies growing by 10 percent or more per year are more than twice as likely to report they are ready to incorporate design thinking compared to their counterparts that are experiencing stagnant growth.

We would love to hear your story about how HCM technology created a delighting experience at your company.


Arthur Mazor is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the practice leader for HR Capability & Customer Experience and Global HR Service Delivery. He collaborates with complex, global clients to achieve high business impact with a focus on transforming human capital strategies, programs, and services.
Gary Cole is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the practice leader for HR Technology Strategy. He collaborates with complex, global clients to understand and navigate the rapidly changing HR technology market and landscape.
Maribeth Sivak is a manager with Deloitte Consulting LLP where she focuses on full life cycle global human resource transformation initiatives. Maribeth is also an active blogger, focused on the intersection of design thinking and the HR customer experience.

1 Design Thinking: Crafting the employee experience, Deloitte University Press, 2016.

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