Design thinking meets HR process transformation

Crafting the HR customer experience: An ongoing series

Design thinking meets HR process transformation
Posted by Kraig Eaton, Katy Norris, Maribeth Sivak, and Lauren Seidman on January 10, 2017.

Your organization is responding to disruptions that are simultaneously impacting your business and your workforce, driving changes in the way your enterprise runs, and intensifying the need to focus on the customer experience to drive growth. As an HR leader, you understand the critical linkage between your company’s business strategy, workforce performance, and HR. This includes HR’s role in promoting a positive employment brand that both attracts candidates and serves HR customers throughout the employment life cycle. But how do you craft HR processes that deliver? How do you delight and engage the workforce (and potential workforce) at the moments that matter most? The answer may lie in applying design thinking to HR process transformation.

Here’s an example of how one of our clients is transforming its HR processes by looking beyond process efficiency and focusing on the HR customer.

Applying a design thinking framework to transform HR processes
Effective HR process transformation requires an approach that is iterative and grounded in design-thinking concepts. Design thinking is an agile and iterative methodology for solving problems by focusing on the customers’ needs and values to create solutions that are intuitive and deliver against those values. At its core, design thinking involves understanding the physical, cognitive, and emotional needs of HR customers in order to develop “personas” that guide the design of services and products. It relies on creativity and innovation to generate ideas quickly, and on testing prototypes that generate further ideas, digital tools, and solutions.

Design thinking applied to the HR customer experience

Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP

A real-world example
For one of our clients, the disruptions impacting its business and workforce inspired it to transform its current HR structure, technology, and associated processes by moving to the cloud. But rather than designing purely to support the move, the company is taking advantage of the opportunity to meaningfully enhance the experience for HR customers, putting the customer moments that matter front and center as it designs for the future.

The first, strategy phase of the transformation involved defining customer personas (e.g., a manager, a new recruit, an experienced hire, etc.), identifying the moments that matter to those customers, and creating journey maps of their employment experience. Now the company is using a Hybrid Agile methodology that employs models, prototypes, and multiple voices to design, test, and refine solutions. Tactically, this includes:

  • Leveraging “fit for purpose” strategic design decisions to formulate the desired customer experience
  • Inserting moments that matter into end-to-end process maps to further enrich the employee experience
  • Conducting process design workshops, where each process is reviewed from the lens of the personas to validate that it delivers what matters most to that particular HR customer segment
  • Conducting focus groups and voice-of-the-customer surveys to test the experience early on in the design
  • Building checks on the customer experience into user acceptance testing by asking, “Is the process delivering the desired sentiment expressed in the persona?”
  • Incorporating learning gained from quickly iterating customer experience solutions, revising ideas early and often

The typical validation process no longer jumps from demo to impact assessment to closure. Instead, customer experience-driven steps are deliberately added to validate the new process through personas before the process is confirmed.

By embarking on an HR transformation with a keen focus on customer experience, the company is setting itself up to improve the quality of HR interactions, increase process efficiencies, and drive increased workforce engagement and productivity—all in one shot.

This is just one example of how HR can apply design thinking to transform HR processes by looking beyond simply achieving process efficiency to actually crafting the HR customer experience in ways that meet multiple goals—efficiency plus convenience plus ease of use plus elegance plus more…for a truly value-added solution.

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 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 you applied design thinking to transform your HR processes.


Kraig Eaton is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the practice leader for HR Operational Excellence. He collaborates with complex, global clients to achieve high business impact with a focus on transforming human capital processes, digital technology, and outsourcing services.
Katy Norris is a senior manager with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the leader of Deloitte’s NextGen process transformation initiative. She specializes in global HR transformation process redesign.
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.
Lauren Seidman is a consultant with Deloitte Consulting LLP, where she focuses on HR Capability and Customer Experience.

As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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