Design thinking in action

Crafting the HR customer experience: An ongoing series

Architecting the HR customer experience: Design thinking in action
Posted by Michael Gretczko, Marc Solow, and Maribeth Sivak on September 20, 2016.

What if you could deliver an HR customer experience that is analogous to what big online retailers are doing to create a customized shopping experience, one in which HR customers are able to clearly see their options, access information, and take action more easily? What do you think the impact might be on your employment brand, retention, and engagement ratings? By applying design thinking to reimagine and architect the HR customer experience, companies can deliver an experience that feels more like a world-class retail experience—one in which HR customers perform activities digitally, both at their computer and on the go, in a way that can increase both engagement and satisfaction. Here’s an example of design thinking in action.

In business, the customer is king. Companies go out of their way to try to give customers the best experience possible, whether in a store, on the Internet, or through an app. The HR customer experience, however, is often very different. Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report revealed that there are more than 7 billion mobile devices in the world,1 and more than 40 percent of all Internet traffic is driven by these devices.2 Yet HR teams are often behind in deploying mobile-ready solutions. Fewer than 20 percent of companies deploy their HR and employee productivity solutions on mobile apps today.3

Employees, particularly Millennials, increasingly expect to interact with their employers via their mobile devices and they may think it’s strange when there isn’t a mobile app for recording their time, submitting expenses or accessing HR.

In our example, design thinking is being applied to create a prototype for a new HR app. The app is designed to be a single destination for HR services that connects employees to what matters most to them—from pay stubs to performance management and even a self-service help desk so employees and managers can clearly see their options and take action. The prototype can then be used to build out the actual solution.

Applying the design thinking framework
Design thinking is a structured process that can help solve problems and identify new opportunities by combining empathy, creativity, and user experience. At its core, it involves studying people at work, and developing “personas” to understand employee demographics, work environment, and challenges. It relies on generating ideas quickly and testing prototypes that generate further ideas, digital tools, and solutions.

Prototyping the app

Step 1: Vision. The vision for the app is to improve employee engagement and satisfaction by taking the digital workplace platform one step further, allowing employees to cut the cord and complete HR activities when they aren’t at their desks. The team’s approach involved defining and designing a prototype over an 8-week timeline that included three “design sprints”—a time-constrained, five-phase process that uses design thinking to reduce the risk when bringing a new product, service, or feature to the market. At the end of the 8 weeks, the team delivered a prototype that defined, demonstrated, and acted as the basis for building out the new mobile solution.

Step 2: Look & listen to defined HR customer personas. With the vision in place, the design team turned to the HR customer personas that had already been defined, representing different HR customers. These included a new graduate (Madisyn), an experienced hire (Jason), a line manager involved in the recruitment of new talent (Susie), and an HR Ops service rep (Pete). The personas include descriptions of each of their behaviors, patterns, attitude, goals, skills, and environment, with the goal of designing the app to meet the needs of typical users.

Step 3: Understand & synthesize HR customer needs. Voice-of-the-customer interviews and customer stories gave insight into the moments that mattered most for each of the customer personas. New hires Madisyn and Jason shared the events, both positive and negative, that shaped their recent onboarding experience. Susie, a line manager, told the story of how she worked her way up to management and how her success had been the result of recruiting top talent. Susie shared that the first 90 days were critical to the successful transition of new hires into the company. Pete, the HR Ops service rep, spoke to the importance of bringing a human touch to the recruiting experience by engaging recruits with each interaction via ongoing communication regarding their application status and next steps.

Step 4: Generate and prioritize ideas. The team identified HR service domains and ranked problem areas that HR customers face across the domains. The team felt the top three focus areas for the mobile app should be onboarding, leaves of absence, and performance management, as all three had a preponderance of problems to solve and an opportunity to shape the customer experience as part of the app’s broader customer-centric design.

Step 5: Prototype, test, refine. During Design Sprint 1, the team reviewed process flows, wireframes (electronic sketches of screen layouts) and a prototype of the solution. The solution delivered an onboarding experience that integrated pre-hire, Day 1, and activities during the first 90 days on the job.

Design Sprint 2 integrated leaves of absence and performance management wireframes to the mobile solution. The team also got an early glimpse into the higher-fidelity onboarding solution. After more testing and more refinements, at the end of the 8 weeks the team delivered a prototype for the mobile solution that could be both vision and model for building the actual app.

This is just one example of how HR can apply design thinking to reimagine and architect the HR customer experience to generate higher engagement and satisfaction. The process can be applied to any number of HR processes, and doesn’t have to involve a digital solution. However, our Bersin by Deloitte colleague, Josh Bersin, recently shared that the $14+ billion marketplace for HR software and platforms is reinventing itself. This shift from cloud to mobile is disruptive—an all-mobile HR platform is not only possible now, but it’s also the direction to which the market is heading. Design thinking can help align your organization in the same direction to create a more satisfying HR experience for your people.

For a tangible example of design thinking in action, we invite you to experience Deloitte’s ConnectMeTM Mobile App at this year’s HR Technology Conference.


Michael Gretczko is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the practice leader for Digital HR & Innovation. He collaborates with large, complex, global clients to identify and bring to market innovative products and solutions that deliver on their business needs.
Marc Solow is a managing director with Deloitte Consulting LLP and leads Deloitte’s initiative to deliver Salesforce.com-based technology solutions for HR organizations.
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 Jason Dorrier, “There are 7 billion mobile devices on earth, almost one for each person,” Singularity Hub, Singularity University, February 18, 2014, http://singularityhub.com/2014/02/18/there-are-7-billion-mobile-devices-on-earth-almost-one-for-each-person.
2 Mary Meeker, “Internet trends 2015,” Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, 2015, http://www.kpcb.com/internet-trends.
3 Digital HR: Revolution, not evolution, Global Human Capital Trends 2016, Deloitte University Press, February 29, 2016/.

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