The professional environment has a significant impact on the productivity of your organization as a whole. All employees – from C-Suite executives to high-potential team members – thrive in workplace cultures that nurture engagement and job satisfaction. As drivers of human capital and future-forward processes in a company, HR leaders are usually held responsible for creating professional environments that align with the needs of employees.

“Design thinking” is the merging of user experience with individualized benefits, not simply the process itself.  In the modern business era, HR professionals have been tasked with becoming “designers” in their own right, working to study how employees experience their work day to day and creating specific profiles that help them understand how employees interact with their work environment and any challenges the environment poses.

Good design isn’t just about creating aesthetically pleasing environments, but developing innovative solutions that simplify work processes to make professional life more enjoyable and engaging. Well-designed employee solutions are motivating, compelling, simple, and easily accessible. This video from What Is Design Thinking explains it best, describing design thinking as “a powerful tool to tackle the unknown.”

Ideally, optimized design thinking can create an increase in ROI and your organization’s bottom line. With higher employee satisfaction and increased employee engagement, best-in-class teams are already starting to implement design thinking processes into optimized employee experiences. So how can HR leaders spearhead a new way of thinking about the employee experience to engage employees at all levels?

The Link Between Human Resources and Design Thinking

With the mass use of technology in the workplace, many employees are burning out simply because they’re always turned “on” to an abundance of information. According to the Harvard Business Review, the physical and psychological problems tied to burned-out employees costs $125 billion to $190 billion each year.

The information age has provided organizations with seemingly endless access to applications, new technologies, and industry information which on the surface may seem beneficial to the company. However, this rise in information has not necessary bolstered productivity in the workplace.

Technology isn’t going anywhere, especially in a professional setting. That’s why design-centric HR leaders are emerging to create an employee experience – both on and offline – that aligns with personal preferences and professional competencies.

In the past, companies have focused outward on the customer experience to increase their profit margins. Now, mindful leaders are looking at the internal structure of their company to uncover how they can build programs and processes to create a meaningful employee experience.

A recent survey by Deloitte found HR departments in organizations who deliver the highest value are almost five times more likely to utilize design thinking as compared to others. It’s statistics like this that have HR leaders asking themselves the following:

  • “How do our employees experience day to day?”
  • “How can we design processes that inspire collaboration and team effectiveness?”
  • “What do our employees need to learn to become more engaged?”
  • “How can we streamline employee strategies to help them make proactive decisions?”

The Future of Productivity Design in the Workplace

Business is being conducted at unprecedented speeds throughout the country. This means that C-Suite executives and HR departments must always be on the lookout for innovative thinking and strategies that can propel them to the front of their industry.

To jumpstart “design thinking” methods in an organization, HR personnel need to begin thinking about the tactics necessary to keep employees engaged and satisfied every day. Josh Bersin from Deloitte outlines the emerging trends that link design thinking and HR. These trends place experience over process, and are designed to keep employees motivated and dedicated to company-wide success.

According to Bersin, HR departments have been utilizing design thinking through innovative changes in:

Engagement: Design thinking can help increase employee engagement by making work tasks easier and more efficient, while also ensuring that the work is more rewarding and fulfilling for employees.

Analytics: Analytics and KPI tracking can help find and recommend enhanced solutions for individual employees.

Learning: Design thinking has a central principle of putting user experience before process. When it comes to professional learning, self-directed and accessible experiences can be created to increase employee engagement and motivation.

Organizational Design: This trend places design thinking at the forefront of organizational role planning and restructuring for a more efficient experience.

Digital HR: Online experiences are critical for increasing employee engagement. Innovative digital HR tools and software can streamline tasks and make work better.

HR Skills: Current and potential HR leaders are in the midst of a role shift. Moving forward, HR skills need to include a broader understanding of digital design and the economics of behavior.

How Your Organization Can Utilize “Design Thinking” To Engage Employees Every Day

Modern HR professionals have noticed the link between design-based improvements and a better employee experience.

For HR and C-Suite leaders looking to create engaging employee experiences every day, take note of these strategic changes to create a balanced scorecard for your business:

Discover insights from your customer experience design.

The chances are that your company has invested in uncovering what an optimized customer experience looks like. Your organization can increase ROI by conducting the same research on the employee experience. By considering the end-to-end employee experience, you can discover how to streamline the experience to enhance collaboration.

This data can be obtained via internal surveys, during one-on-one coaching sessions, or by tracking individual employee KPIs to see where trends of inefficient performance stem from.

Implement solutions based on design thinking.

Employee experience cannot be improved if the HR department stays process-based. Your employees are people, and should be at the center of every decision when implementing new solutions or programs. When employees are provided with innovative solutions that streamline their experience, they are increasingly satisfied and engaged, while HR leaders can continue to hone in on the ultimate employee experience.

Develop innovative learning experiences.

Using well-designed and accessible online learning experiences can meaningfully enhance the employee experience. Effective L&D practices are vital to improving employee engagement. A high volume of content is absorbed daily by high-potential employees and leaders alike, but in high-stress environments, not all of this information can be retained. Reliable and relevant content resources for self-directed learning and online knowledge banks can help HR departments optimize L&D programs and scale employee capabilities.

Design thinking is no longer an abstract topic, but a combination of game-changing tactics that help businesses thrive. To craft a workplace that engages your employees, utilize design thinking to create human-centric experiences to generate higher satisfaction and alignment of your organization.

East Tenth Group provides best-in-class, action-driven support and reliable guidance to help leaders boldly confront their challenges. Our innovative and compassionate consultants are dedicated to developing leadership capabilities and improving business processes through understanding and fierce support. Get to know more about them here.

Has leveraging design thinking in your HR department increased engagement in your organization? Let us know about your first-hand experiences in the comments. For more information on our future-forward services, take action now and >subscribe to our newsletter, and connect with us on Facebook,LinkedIn, and Twitter.


As the CEO & Founder of East Tenth Group, Michelle leverages 25 years of business and experience as a strategic advisor and executive coach to help drive actionable people solutions and provide practical insights on business strategy to senior leaders. she and her team and are fiercely committed to the development and growth of people and companies because we believe that when people thrive, business thrives.

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