Design thinking meets the HR customer

Crafting the HR customer experience: An ongoing series


Posted by Arthur Mazor, Jannine Zucker, and Maribeth Sivak on October 14, 2016.

Your organization is responding to major business and workforce disruptions, driving changes to the way your enterprise runs and intensifying the need to focus on the customer experience to drive growth. As a leader in HR, you understand the critical linkage between the HR customer experience, your company’s business strategy, and customer service. But, how to forge it effectively?

The answer may lie in applying design thinking to create your company’s HR customer experience strategy. Applying design thinking to reimagine and architect the HR customer experience can help generate higher engagement, satisfaction, and strategic alignment to drive brand differentiation, customer service excellence, and growth. Here’s an example of how an HR customer experience strategy comes to life.

What is an HR customer experience strategy, anyway?

An HR customer experience strategy is an “outside in” effort to understand the unique needs of each customer group HR serves and design differentiated interactions to satisfy those needs. High-impact HR organizations create HR customer experience strategies to understand who their HR customers are, what they need, and the specific HR experiences that matter most to them. The goal is to look beyond building processes and focus on designing tailored experiences to satisfy each customer group’s unique needs, starting with the moments that matter most. To support the overall experience, HR processes and technologies are developed to be simple and intuitive.

Customer experience strategies are meant to continually evolve. They use models, prototypes, and multiple voices to design, test, and refine solutions to keep up with the needs of HR customers. And they incorporate learning gained from iterating customer experience solutions quickly, revising ideas early and often.

Linking to business outcomes is key

The key to being able to deliver on customer needs the first time, and every time, is developing an experience strategy that guides HR priorities and initiatives to advance winning for the business. Why is this so important? Because studies have documented a clear statistical relationship between increases in frontline engagement, increases in customer service, and revenue growth.1 So whether your team is managing day-to-day operations, implementing new technology, designing talent programs, or preparing for outsourcing, a deep understanding of customer needs should sit at the center of every decision.

Applying the design thinking framework to create an HR customer experience strategy

Developing an effective HR customer experience strategy requires an approach that is iterative and grounded in design-thinking concepts. Design thinking is a structured process to solve problems and focus on the customers’ needs to create offerings that are intuitive and deliver value. At its core, it involves observing customers in their natural settings, deeply understanding their physical, cognitive, and emotional needs in order to develop “personas” as a way to design services and products. It relies on creativity and innovation to generate ideas quickly and testing prototypes that generate further ideas, digital tools, and solutions.

Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP

A real-world example: Creating an HR customer experience strategy

A financial institution created an HR customer experience strategy as part of an overall HR transformation to increase customer service and simplify HR processes. The design team observed and interviewed HR employees and HR customers to identify priority HR customer segments and the experiences that mattered most to them. Questions like the following were especially effective:

  • Describe your typical day at work?
  • What excites you about your job?
  • What are the things that distract you and are pet peeves for you at work?
  • When is a time you felt most empowered to do your job?

Based on its research, the team identified the following customer personas:

  • Manager…delivering frontline impact on the company’s success
  • High Potential…key to the future
  • New Hire…the company’s most important investment
  • Executive…evaluating success

Next the team created “journey maps” that revealed the moments that mattered most to each of the customer personas. This effort defined a set of initiatives to quickly build, test, and iterate to begin to achieve the customer experience vision.

So where is the financial institution now? Continuing on its transformation journey and reporting both the positive impact of the HR customer experience strategy on the areas it aimed to positively impact—from brand differentiation to customer service excellence—and a return on investment through process efficiency.

This is just one example of how HR can apply design thinking to reimagine and architect the HR customer experience to drive sustainable business performance. Why is this so important? Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 research reveals 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% 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 you applied design thinking to develop and apply your HR customer experience strategy.


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.
Jannine Zucker is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and leads Deloitte’s HR Customer Experience offering. She specializes in HR transformation, including implementing new HR service delivery models and technologies.
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.

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