Design Thinking is a creative process for problem-solving. It has a human-centric approach and helps identify new ways of seeing and understanding a problem. It is a solution-based approach because it focusses on finding solutions rather than focusing on fixing the obstacles and limitations. It focuses on people first by knowing their needs, understands related problems, and come up with effective solutions to meet their needs. In other words, design thinking is a process to come up with meaningful ideas to solve peoples’ problems. Design thinking has evolved from a range of different fields like engineering, business, and architecture. However, this applies to any area based on the processes and methods used by the designer.
We keep on facing problems in our lives/ and desire to solve them, but it is sometimes difficult to find the right solution or even where to start. That’s where the “design thinking” ideology comes in, as it helps to solve complex problems by approaching it from the user’s perspective. Design thinking is explained in various design and business schools across the globe. It has helped many businesses to become more customer-centric and come up with new and innovative solutions. It helps organizations develop better products, services, and internal processes.
Design Thinking Process
As mentioned above, the design thinking process is highly progressive and user-centric. It is foremost to know the principles which form the base of the design thinking process. Christoph Meinel and Hary Leifer of the Hasso – Plattner Institute of Design, Stanford University, California has laid down four principles of Design Thinking as listed below-
- The Human Rule –
- The Ambiguity Rule
- All design is re-design
- The Tangibility Rule
Based on the above four principles, The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (aka the d.school) describes design thinking as a five-stage process as below-
- Empathize – Involves understanding the users’ needs in their frame of reference. It marks the first stage of the design thinking process as it helps to identify the wants, need, and objectives of the users. To do it appropriately, the designer sets aside all his/her assumptions and understands the user on a psychological and emotional level to gain a real insight into their need and wants.
- Define – Its time to identify the problem statement based on the information collected in the empathize stage. You analyze the users’ needs and problems and synthesize them to develop a problem statement in a human-centered manner. Instead of defining the problem as per our wish, like “We need to get our client base in small and mid-size businesses” a much better way to define the problem would be, “Small, mid-size and many startups need HR support to run their operations at a nominal cost”. It is from this stage that the designers gather great ideas and establish features of products and services to address users’ needs. This stage advances the designer into the third stage by asking meaningful questions to explore ideas for solutions: “What business-aligned services we offer to benefit the SMBs in their smooth operations”.
- Ideate – This stage challenges our assumptions and triggers to generate ideas. The problem is apparent at this stage, and it’s time to brainstorm ways to identify solutions. The knowledge background from the last two phases helps us identify the feasibility and quality of ideas to find innovative solutions. The point is not to get a perfect idea, but rather to come up with as many ideas. It’s advisable to use sketching as it becomes easier to communicate the idea.
- Prototype – This is an experimental phase intended to find the best solution to problems identified in previous stages. The solutions are investigated and are further accepted, improved, or rejected based on users’ experience. This stage helps the designer get a clear idea of problems, still to be addressed before the final interface with the user.
- Test – This is the final stage wherein the designers test the best solutions identified during the prototype phase. It is time to revisit the problem statement and make sure the end solution is meeting the needs identified in the initial stages. Designers also make some alterations and refinements to develop a more user-centric solution. This stage also redefines one or more further problems and moves you to earlier stages making the design thinking an iterative process.
Thus, the design thinking process tackles problems by empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping, and testing solutions, and brings ideas to life, eventually resulting in successful products or services. It also fosters creativity and innovation towards complex problem-solving in a highly user-centric way. Design thinking process can be used at every level of business and also by individuals to develop better alternatives for both business and society.
Human Resource forms one of the most important components of any business. But in small or mid-sized companies (having 5-100 employees) development of an HR function is a gradual process that happens when the business becomes stable and mature. However, the growth period is the time when such companies face the greatest HR challenge. Mostly hiring senior HR professionals is not a viable option considering the increased cost. The focus on revenue generation, client acquisition, and improvement of product/services push the HR to the back seat. Inappropriate hiring, undefined policies, non-aligned processes, and lack of proper communication between employees and management are usual issues when the value of HR is not readily apparent. As the company and workforce grow, small business owners should be aware of the HR challenges, so they’re prepared to tackle such issues at the earliest.
Here are today’s most common HR challenges small companies face in the business –
- Hiring Mistakes – Small business owners face a variety of challenges when it comes to recruitment. The process is difficult and time-consuming because of no recruitment expertise. Improper handling of the hiring process can make the company settle for a candidate who seems to be a fit on papers but not suitable as job requirements. Employers fail to analyze recruitment strategies to identify, attract, develop, and retain talent as per their business needs.
- Chaos in record-keeping – Accurate and proper documentation facilitate decision making in the organization. Documentation forms the base of the HR function, but a casual approach to it can result in legal issues. Small businesses face challenges in record keeping because of lack of proper template, and formats. In addition to employee information, it is important to document company policies, procedures, and benefits to create a transparent working culture.
- Lack of formal Induction program – Induction is a well-planned program to acquaint the new joiner with organization, people, and workplace. Absence of a specialist to design, organize and conduct a formal induction program for employees pose a lot of challenges for SMEs, in the form of new hires fit in, role clarity, acquaintance with colleagues, and company culture.
- Unsystematic Payroll Management – Payroll is not just paying employees, where on one hand it ensures on-time employee payments it should also assure business compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Small businesses usually suffer in this domain because of unplanned processes and systems. The failure to collect correct information on time results in faulty and late payments with non-compliance, fines, and penalties.
- Improper Database Management – As the business grows the related information in the form of data increases. Eventually, the time and effort required in its collection also increase. But all these go in vain if this information and data are not properly handled, and organized. The absence of proper data strategy in small companies creates a lot of challenges in collecting, storing, sharing, and using data for business decisions.
- Compensation and benefits – Because of their attention on revenue, SMEs fail to do an appropriate compensation benchmarking. That results in an inappropriate pay mix for the employees. It would not be easy to attract talent if the company is not aware of the right amount to offer, to an employee. Along with this identifying an appraisal cycle, deciding on benefits packages like health insurance, retirement plans, training, and development programs are crucial factors for potential hires. Understanding them and deciding on a suitable mix is one of the key areas small businesses struggle.
- Unclear job description – Start-ups and small businesses often take a casual approach when it comes to assigning proper roles and responsibilities to employees. It’s usual to see everyone pitching in to do all kinds of tasks leading to confusion and resulting in inefficiency. One of my HR friends was discussing the same issue in her current organization and looking for a suitable strategy to address it.
- Talent retention – Even after having sufficient budgets some small businesses struggle to retain employees because of competition and unplanned retention strategies. When employees’ issues are not handled by proper HR management it is difficult to retain quality employees and impact the business growth negatively.
Small businesses face myriad other problems apart from above because of no in-house HR function or a specialized Consultant. This can lead to dis-satisfied employees and affect the ROI through employee turnover. But if we address all these challenges with a well-thought strategy their impact can be mitigated and the organization can be brought on the path of success. An experienced HR professional or Consultant can advise on critical issues and strategize the HR processes to maintain and sustain a growth pace.
Let’s check on the solution and strategy to address such issues and challenges in our next write up. Stay tuned and safe till the next edition.
In earlier days the Human Resource department used to be more about record keeping, compliance, payroll administration, and event planning. This confined HR to be in a monotonous job with limited skill sets required to deliver the job. Even now I notice some organizations viewing HR in the same traditional cocoon of an administrative and transactional function, but the good and smart ones see it as a more strategic function. In my previous article, I talked about the changing economy and the need for HR to adapt and transform them as specialized HR Consultants. I will try to focus on the required skill sets for HR’s to maintain pace with the change and remain strategically important for the respective department and organization
The role of HR is more complex as of now. Today’s HR leaders are now expected to be a broader thinker, tech-savvy, adaptable, and agile enough to deal with a diverse and multi-generational workforce. The focus for HR is now to become a worker-centric function, spending their energies in building the organization culture and becoming a trusted workforce advisor. The organization today expects HR to be more influencing, data-driven, and credible concerning stakeholder management and workforce planning. This pushes HR to up-skill in critical areas and thrust on a more promising consulting role to manage human capital effectively. HR professionals will need to equip themselves with following skill for future success –
- Business and Financial Acumen – HR professionals should focus on understanding the organization’s business, functions, and external environment in which it operates. HR needs to identify the Why, What, and How of any business as this will help in taking decisions aligned with business goals. In all the organizations I have worked I used to devote ample time with the Business Managers in understanding different mandates to understand the role, responsibilities, and the alignment of position with business results. This always helped me in identifying a suitable fit. Designing of processes was also easy with an acquaintance of the Manager’s pain points. The Financial domain is one of the important aspects which an HR should focus on. HR should be able to understand the cash flow statement, Balance Sheet, P&L account, and other metrics like Financial Ratios, ROI, Earnings, and Budgeting. A good way to gain this perspective is to consult with colleagues in Finance, regularly discussing the issues faced by the Managers and brainstorm supportive HR initiatives. Understanding the Business and Financial perspective can support HR in providing Consultation to senior management and help HR in aligning the HR activities
- People Analytics – HR people are now expected to be more analytical and data-driven. HR is fortunately involved in collecting a vast amount of people’s data, (almost 80% captured at the time of recruitment) which often remains unused. But the recent trends made HR analyze this data and link this with people’s problems. This can be used to attract, manage, and retain employees and improves on the ROI. To cite an example, an organization would be more capable of deciding on an appropriate pay mix if it is aware of the workforce demographics. The Recruitment process can be improved by the use of proper hiring metrics like CPH and Yield Ratio. Furthermore, analytics also help in testing the effectiveness of various HR policies and interventions. Companies like Ford, American Automaker, relies on insights gained through analytics in decision making for its workforce. HR can leverage the power of data analytics to make a better work environment, maximizing the productivity of the current diverse workforce of Millennials, Contractors, and Freelancers. The designing of proper programs, policies, and benefits for the current Gig workforce can also be addressed by creating a measurement system through data analytics
- People Skills – Technology doesn’t make the HR redundant, there is always a room for value addition if HR focusses on people. I see the future HR Managers as more of a Coach, Trainer, Motivator, Influential Leaders, and Change Managers. The current scenario of COVID-19 spread has impacted lives throughout the world, transforming the traditional workplace into a virtual world, making the workforce vulnerable to emotional distress and anxiety. Ensuring productivity and engagement now are primary concerns for every organization. In times like these HR should focus on social connection and engagement to maintain productivity levels, along with ensuring that employees feel supported, connected, engaged, and can take care of themselves and family. HR Should so focus on a new Consulting and influencing role equipped with skills of empathy, coaching, and leadership. A people-oriented HR professional would be able to guide individuals in their career prospects as well and coach Managers in becoming better people leaders
- Design Thinking – The concept of Design Thinking is transformational for HR as it brings a Human-Centric Approach to problem-solving. It brings an innovative approach to HR deliveries by organizing work and finding appropriate solutions based on people’s needs. Keeping the employee at the center of its delivery model HR identifies new approaches to design processes that deeply resonate with them. The process of Design Thinking starts with understanding the needs and frustration of customers with empathy, defining the problem, brainstorming solutions, choosing the most appropriate ones, and testing the applicability of suitable ones
- Compliance Mastery – Laws and policies are ever-changing and vary from state to state. The Corona virus pandemic has also impacted employee rights and lives together with employment conditions at workplaces. HR’s need to pay careful attention to relevant labor regulations while hiring, appraising, disciplining, and firing staff, failure to which can lead to heavy fines, expensive lawsuits resulting in discontented employees. HR needs to stay abreast of compliance issues by researching HR legislation and changes, attending appropriate training, seminars, and network with professionals who are tasked with the same HR responsibilities. In addition to this HR should also be flexible enough to comply with laws related to the Gig economy and remote workers to address concerns of the new economy
- Marketing or HR Branding – Marketing activities help HR in better talent management. HR professionals should be able to market the benefits, culture, and values of the organization. They should partner with the marketing team to develop scripting phrases, videos (like Employee Speak), and promotion on various media platforms. This helps HR in building an employer brand and creates a high-value proposition for the organization
All the above skills indicate that HR should transform as more specialized Consultants to cater needs of the rapidly changing world of work. As Specialists, they should equip themselves with a new range of skills, introduce new bold strategies, tools, processes, and metrics to create and sustain a successful employee experience for existing and future workforce
Human Personality – A Four-Dimensional Game
Human personality is a blend of multiple dimensions. Each dimension contributes to the quality of our life and affects the overall health of a person. Talking on a broader concept it is a full integration of our well being mainly into Physical, Intellectual, Spiritual, and Emotional domains of everyday lives. Career, Environmental, Financial and Social domains sometimes are also included, but they are external to one’s personality. The result of all this integration is to achieve and sustain a higher level of well-being and characterize an individual, family, and community as healthily, happy, and prosperous. The focus here is on individual personality domains with ideas for improvement in each. Considering the internal domains every human being is characterized by four important Dimensions as below –
- PQ – Physical Quotient
- IQ – Intelligent Quotient
- SQ – Spiritual Quotient
- EQ – Emotional Quotient
Physical Quotient (PQ) – This is the physical dimension that defines how healthy the person is. Your hearth is very important and so is to build strength, flexibility, and endurance. To achieve a healthy PQ one should focus on practicing healthy daily habits. In my view, there are four things which help you develop high Physical Quotient
- Taking appropriate food at the appropriate time and in appropriate quantity
- Physical exercise for at least an hour daily
- Taking sound sleep for at least 6-8 hours daily
- Spending leisure time with friends and family to feel relax and lighter
Intelligent Quotient (IQ) – This pertains to the level of Knowledge, reasoning, intellect, problem-solving, and decision-making skills of a person. This can be improved by maintaining a learning attitude so that your future becomes better than your present. We should always try to be a student throughout life be it Cognitive Domain, Skill Domain, or Attitudinal Domain. Small learning every day with an active and open mind leads to a life filled with passion and purpose. It also sharpens your mind and keeps your brain healthy and happy
Spiritual Quotient (SQ) – If we see it from a religious perspective its spirituality, but here I am not linking it to any organized religion or faith, rather trying to connect it with our inner self, our core thoughts and emotions. This dimension strengthens us to find inner peace of both mind and heart by adding purpose to our life, develop concern for other living beings and nature. People having high SQ can seek meaning and purpose in life with an open mind and inner peace. To cite an example – There is a Doctor who is working very hard but his intention is merely to earn money and have a luxury lifestyle, on the contrary a person in a similar profession is working to eradicate malnutrition from a country or whole world. Now both are working with the same efforts, making the same money and career but the later has a high SQ because the purpose is bigger and intended for well being of humanity. So developing a high SQ focuses on enriching our lives and that of others by sharing our special gifts, skills, talents, and resources with others through work or volunteering. Lastly I believe that we humans are built-in with spirituality within our core, it’s what, when we identify it and start living up to our potential for better, more satisfying lives
Emotional Quotient (EQ) – This refers to the emotional power and stability of a person. Emotional Intelligence is our ability to understand and regulate our own emotions in a positive way to communicate effectively, empathize with others, and handle conflict. People with high EQ find it easier to create interpersonal relationships, fit in group situations, and effectively deal with life uncertainties. They are apt in understanding their psychological state and correlate with the feelings and emotions of others to develop a win-win situation. Developing high EQ can help you excel in personal and professional life, forge stronger relationships, lead and motivate others. Some people are naturally good at EQ while others need to work on them. But the good news is that anyone can get better and improve their emotional intelligence. To improve on EQ one should work on below areas of emotional intelligence-
- Self-Awareness – It’s about recognizing, evaluating and managing own emotions
- Self-Management – Ability to get along with others and manage conflict effectively
- Motivation – Resilience to stay determined towards goals even after failures
- Empathy – Ability to put ourselves into someone else’s situation and responds to their feelings
- Social Skills – Includes communicating clearly, listening carefully, inspire and influence others
We naturally have our priorities, approaches, and aspirations to live life fully, however, research shows that it is important to maintain a balance among all these Dimensions to lead a fuller, more satisfying life. An integrated and holistic approach towards all these dimensions allows you to become the best kind of person as per your potential, skills, and talents.
So what dimensions do you feel are strongest and which areas do you like to work on? What are you going to do to optimize all these dimensions to feel more fulfilled and contented? Feel free to seek out for support from a friend, family, or a Counselor
I wish you the whole person’s health in all areas of well-being
Are You Working from Home – Let’s make it fun and productive
Congratulations on your new gained freedom, the WFH Freedom, which was rare until the last year. But with freedom comes responsibility. Yes, the responsibility to remain extremely productive and creative to deliver and take the utmost care of your mind, body, and energy to achieve a better work-life balance. When your personal and professional life is under a single roof it becomes difficult to draw a line of demarcation between the two. Where WFH on one side, can be a boon it can be troublesome if not managed properly. It’s therefore important to make it rewarding by keeping high productivity, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and keeping intact with our relations. We all are working remotely now and would be facing a lot of challenges; however the same keep on varying because of the nature of work and lifestyle we follow. Still we keep on grappling with issues common and usual for all of us. Based on my experience of remote working during the lock down I suggest the following tips and best practices for working from Home
- Follow a Morning routine – Set a wake-up alarm and start your day with meditation, yoga, or a little body exercise. This increases happiness, enjoyment, interest, and confidence levels and helps you coming as a more productive version of yourself
- Make a To-Do-List – Take a pen and notebook and write out the task you need to accomplish the next day. I prefer to make the next list before going to bed. It helps you in saving the morning time and makes you leave the bed with a goal and excitement to complete it
- Set weekly goals – In addition to To-Do-List it’s good to have an activity for the entire week. I usually chalk out a plan of all weekly goals on a weekend and align all workday activities by keeping track of deadlines and targets
- Choose an appropriate working space – This seems to be an important step in the journey of WFH as it is prudent to focus on the task, which could only happen when your working area is free from distractions. If you are not able to assign a proper area at least assign a desk with required peripherals to work with full concentration
- Set your working hours – The best part of WFH is flexibility concerning working hours. Try to identify the time when you are more productive and build the work schedule around that peak productivity periods. I have assigned a time slot from 10 A.M to 1 P.M and 3 P.M to 5 P.M where I find myself more productive and focused
- Avoid working in PJs – People usually prefer to be in their PJs while WFH; I was going through an article wherein the home lady talked about having less laundry work because of WFH. I believe The mental association you build between your work makes you more productive. It is so advisable to do all preparation of setting alarm, making breakfast, wearing nice clothes because it will help you remain in the right work mind-set. Also it keeps you ready to take any video chat or meeting with colleagues
- Use quality technology – Learn to get the best technology for WFH. Proper devices, internet, tools for messaging, calls and videoconferencing can help you do your job comfortably and efficiently. It also keeps you connected with your co-workers and monitors your contribution to the team efforts
Oh my! Tired of work and related efforts to make it productive, it’s obvious. As the famous proverb says, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”, said indeed. People may get bored if they don’t get time off from work, so you need to have some fun and gamify your WFH experience. Below activities can make the remote work experience fun and enrich –
- Take short breaks – Too much of work and over-commitment to it dwindles the productivity of a person. Breaking the continuity and rhythm with short breaks for taking coffee, snacks, enjoying nature from balcony or terrace, lighter chat with spouse or kids can help you regain and maintain your productivity levels
- Reward Yourself – Linking your work with rewards like finishing a no. of projects before lunch, treating yourself with ice cream, or your favorite snack after you finish answering emails can help you stay motivated and keeps you feel fulfilled
- Stay Socialized – Disconnect and Isolation are common problems in the WFH environment especially for extroverts. It’s therefore important to stay connected with friends, colleagues, neighbors through common chat platforms, meetups, play an online game, group singing. I see one of my LinkedIn connections enjoying dual singing with one of his colleagues and sharing his experience to stay elated during your daily work schedule
- Work on your hobby or learn a new skill – With no commute on weekdays and having little space for an outing on weekends allows you ample amount time to concentrate on your hobby and learning a new skill like a new language, culinary skills, painting. This will help you cure potential boredom during and enjoy your stay at home
- Listen to music – Listening to music throughout the day or during work helps you keep relaxed and lively. Spotify is an audio streaming platform that lets you pick and listen to millions of songs and podcasts in multiple languages
We can also opt for other activities like taking a stroll on a call, taking sound sleeps by setting a bedtime alarm/, and staying connected with family and friends.
The above is based on my personal experience and the strategy I opted for WFH. You can figure out what works best for you if you don’t agree with the above. Sometimes the answer is available or you might need some inspiration from other people in the same boat. Working from home is awesome so whatever you do make sure that your day ends with smile and relaxation on the face so that you remain charged up to take up the next day of WFH
Stay Safe, Stay Home, A Happy WFH