Design Thinking has become a buzz word in the field of engineering and business. Design Thinking is a new concept which aims towards tackling complex issues through a human-centric approach. Because of its solutions-oriented design, many businesses are using it to innovate and develop new products or services. It can not only help in improving the user experience for a particular gadget but also address social problems (ex- water conservation efforts from government agencies, tackling malnutrition problems in children, The Sternin’s work in Vietnam). Many organizations, whether public, profit, not for profit is using design thinking to develop better products and services. But the best aspect of design thinking is that it is not only confined to businesses or social problems but can also be used at a personal level to develop solutions for our day to day problems. Appropriate use of logic, intuition, and reasoning can help us implement design thinking to handle any life situation.
Life is full of challenges, and none of us is exempt. However, life situations of every individual are different, but there are common challenges and conditions which create suffering and end in disappointment. But these are the instances which help us learn and become a better person if we tackle them appropriately. If we see from a development perspective, our life challenges give us an opportunity for personal growth and self-improvement if we embrace them joyfully. We can easily overcome them and become the best version of ourselves by handling them tactfully with patience. We are talking about the application of design thinking in solving our life problems because it helps us identify our problems, brainstorm bold new ideas to make a better impact on our life. This leads to fruitful results making our lives more agile, happy, and contented. Let’s explore how we can align the concept of design thinking with our life’s challenges-
Empathize – This is the first stage where you encounter the situation. It might be any condition or challenge of your life like/ career, love, relationship, business, health, or financial issues. Applying design thinking to the situation, we empathize with ourselves to know why the situation has developed, how and when it is impacting us, and our behavior. In short, we visualize the situation, pattern; identify the relations and implications of the same.
Define – Once we identify the situation we try to identify the incidents which trigger the situation, for example, if I’m not feeling energetic during the day, is it because I slept late, last night, or didn’t exercise today. My fatigue feeling activates my senses to identify any situation that leads to such behavior and can help me avoid such incidents.
Ideate – After identifying the real problem we now can work to find out ways to overcome them in the best possible manner. Here we can brainstorm to generate ideas to address the situation, like working on a morning routine, setting up a bed-time alarm, etc. The intention is to address the problem by generating as many solutions and compare them to select suitable ones. You can ideate on the possible ways that you can take to achieve a bigger objective (i.e. resolving the problem statement)
Prototype – This involves the selection of the most appropriate course of action after evaluating all the ideas or solutions identified in the last stage. In the above example, we will focus to see the alignment of identified ideas with the user, whether they are in sync with user lifestyle, daily routine, personal or professional commitments. Based on this we can apply fresh insights to advance or modify the identified solutions.
Test – This is one of the most important steps of the design thinking process. It helps us identify which solution works best for the user. Considering the above problem, the person decides to work-out in early hours, but is not consistent because of a busy morning routine. It means that the identified morning work-out solution doesn’t work for him. Similarly, some activities are energizing, while others can drain energy in your daily routine. Hence this is the step that tests out things and helps us know what works or whatnot.
We should keep in mind that design thinking can be applied to solve any problem of life which helps us in building our future. Think about the technology world that always strives to develop more unique features and applications for their gadgets to meet consumer needs. It keeps them busy ideating, prototyping, and finding innovative solutions for developing more advanced user-friendly products and applications. Likewise, we can apply design thinking to any of our life challenges by continuously defining, prototyping, testing, and making adjustments until we are happy and contented with the results. So, let’s design our lives and address all of it’s challenge with the gift of design thinking.
We at HRletes apply the same concept to our clients’ need and help them provide customized solutions with quality deliveries.
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.
We have seen the challenges small and mid-size businesses face in managing the greatest asset – its workforce. Often leaders are endowed with the responsibility of overseeing HR but lack of knowledge and tools creates multiple complications. It’s very important then to view HR from a perspective of a specialized HR consultant or firm as they can bring a lot of structure, order, and professionalism to business by developing one organization’s HR strategy. But companies struggle to identify an appropriate time to hire an HR resource. Small businesses spend around 18 – 40 hours a month on HR-related stuff as they fail to consider and hire an HR specialist at the appropriate time. It’s imperative then to identify when to hire an expert for managing HR issues.
Before we identify the appropriate time let us just know some situations that draw your attention towards hiring an HR resource.
- When hiring becomes a challenge in the absence of JDs
- Attraction and retention of potential employees becomes a challenge
- When there is a mismatch between the company’s culture, environment, Vision and Mission
- The company lack HR processes resulting in improper business functioning
- The organization is struggling to become compliant with laws and regulations
- Identification and alignment of core competencies with organization goals is a challenge
- When there is no T&D plans and the company is looking to create one to improve performance
- Organization need help to build healthy employee relations
- The company needs to develop an appropriate PMS process
- Management needs consultation and solutions on HR related matters
The above situation is alarming for the organization to look for a dedicated HR resource or a Consultant to take care of its HR needs. Any business growing in size and complexity demands to hire a specialized HR but sometimes it is tough to decide as the above-mentioned situation mostly arises with increased headcount. Now to avoid critical situation business owners should keep other factors also in consideration and look for HR resources beforehand. The best way to identify and do this is to plan the HR resource when the business decides to do the following –
- The company has chalked out periodic growth plan – When you have rapid expansion plans it’s nice to have dedicated HR resources who can support recruitment, on-boarding, and other HR matters to run the operations smoothly.
- Building a company’s culture – Business owners are aware of the culture they want to build in their company but have no time to develop it effectively themselves. An HR expert can help to set out, create, and protect the desired culture and strategically develop it along with business growth.
- Looking to establish strong communication – People forms the core of any organization and HR acts as a bridge to connect them with Leadership. A proper HR communication strategy keeps the employee engaged and help them succeed. Organizations that plan for the long run prefer to link corporate communication to business strategy to develop effective and consistent business operations. An HR expert can help to develop a formal and comprehensive communication strategy to establish consistent communication with employees and help build a recognizable employment brand.
- Build on employee relations – Business leaders who believe in developing a happy and productive workforce, plans to establish good employee relations. Such an organization promotes healthy employee relations at the workplace to extract the best out of each individual. So if you are having the same belief, hiring a People expert seems to be a viable option. A human resource professional plays a key role in binding the employees and act as a mediator in preventing and resolving workplace issues. But this skill doesn’t come naturally to every start-up founder, so it’s advisable to hire an HR consultant to strategically handle the matter of employee relations.
- Business needs more attention – When the owners handle HR responsibilities themselves, keeping cost at a minimum and sacrificing time to focus on more revenue-generating activities, then it’s time to look for a dedicated HR professional. They can help you upgrade your HR and takes it to the next level while you take care of your business.
We cannot undermine that HR forms an essential part of any business. Small businesses without a clear defined HR role and well-trained HR professional face many challenges on their HR front. Whether you have one employee or 100, people management is always paramount. So thinking of an HR early would be a wise decision to avoid a messy situation. A right HR approach in any business maximizes efficiency as it helps find and retain employees important for growth and meeting company objectives. It is advisable to let go of certain HR responsibilities to an expert with a clearly defined HR strategy at the appropriate time.
Our last edition talked about common challenges of SMBs. Handling of HR stuff and related issues are either the responsibility of the owner or any other leader. But complex HR issues cannot be dealt with by a business manager all the time because of pre-assigned responsibilities and having less or no domain expertise. Eventually, it leads to a loss of productive time, reducing their interest in HR stuff. The business owners must identify and understand such issues to tackle them at the earliest, as the business workforce grows.
Now let’s focus on finding solutions to challenges that we identified. Following steps can be taken with planned actions –
- A well-defined recruitment strategy – It is crucial for any business to hire the right people at the right time with affordable cost. Although the performance of a new hire can never be assured, steps can be taken beforehand to develop a robust recruitment strategy. Following steps can be taken –
- Developing a complete job description for all the positions
- A fool-proof screening process
- Use of psychometric tools in the hiring process
- Promoting strategies like WFH and hiring freelancers/contractors
- Creating workforce diversity for new dimensions of knowledge and experience
- Developing a strong referral policy
- Internal Job Postings
- Keeping good records – As an employer, you are responsible for recording and maintaining your employee’s information. The employer needs to trap employee’s demographics along with the employment journey within the organization. The Easiest way to do this is listed below –
- Make an employee file
- Implement a proper HRMS system to record details electronically
- Conducting annual HR audit to assess the record-keeping process
- Setting deadlines and protocol for record submission and completion
- Build a skill matrix to identify the current competency and skill level
- Developing a formal on-boarding program – Small businesses should create a structured induction program for new hires so that the trade, policies, people, and culture can be detailed. Following steps are advisable –
- Making a pre-on-boarding process to involve new hires
- Developing a detail induction and orientation plan with specific timelines involving key stakeholders
- Developing manuals and handbooks
- Hiring a Trainer who specializes in Induction programs
- Involving the senior leadership team to share Vision and Mission
- Introducing an accurate payroll system – Systematic payroll is crucial to get an error-free payment to employees and calculate the right amount of government taxes. The general steps to be considered can be –
- Consolidation of correct salary inputs with supporting documents
- Setting a payroll cycle with specific timelines
- Use of appropriate payroll software or agency
- Conducting monthly payroll audits
- Create a monthly reporting system
- Introducing a DBMS – Every business directly or indirectly captures, compiles, and uses data for day to day operations. Companies must have a robust database administration system to increase proper visibility of information related to employees, customers, and the market. Below points to be kept in mind –
- Developing a well-defined data strategy for collection, compilation, usage and accesses ability of data
- Selecting a suitable DBM software or agency to design the process
- Establishing checkpoints to ensure data safety
- Developing a backup strategy with a support system
- Setting up of an integration platform using technology
- A Total Rewards strategy – Employees respond to benefits, rewards, and incentives. Employees feel engaged when they are adequately compensated and rewarded. SMBs should, therefore, design a meaningful compensation strategy that can motivate employees’ performance. It can be done as below –
- Carrying out a job evaluation process
- Conduct compensation/Remuneration Surveys
- Defining a Total Reward strategy based on compensation philosophy
- Compensation benchmarking
- Develop pay grades and ranges within the organization
- Identifying suitable incentive plan, benefits, and perquisites
- Establish a PMS cycle
- Developing policies and processes – Policies are rules and procedures are specific actions that guide an organization in meeting its objectives. They set expectations for employees’ behavior and outlines steps for it. The following steps can be taken into account while developing them –
- Identifying a problem statement or challenge to address
- Idea generation and brainstorming
- Taking the management buy-in
- Experimentation and implementation
- Assessment and modification
- Documentation and communication through appropriate channels
- Sufficient Training Programs – Employees are the company’s best asset. Businesses that invest in their workforce enjoy faster growth and competitive advantage. But mainly small businesses devote less time to train new hires because of non-tangible ROI. Employees consider development, a motivating factor for growth, which in return increases the efficiency and productivity of the organization. I advise the following steps to design, develop and implement an effective training program in any organization –
- Analyze the performance problem
- Set a process for TNI
- Identifying the goals and objectives of training programs
- Designing the training materials
- Implement the training
- Evaluate and modify if required
- Developing a compliant culture – Employment laws form a major part of any organization and govern small businesses as well. It helps develop an ethical culture and helps in brand building. An HR should keep the following in mind –
- Completion of registration, licensing and permits for business
- Identifying the applicability of employment and labor law
- Keeping an eye on recent changes and amendments on laws
- Consult a compliance expert or agency
- Handle compliance and regulations with a serious approach
- Setting proper communication channels – The informal method of communication is not appropriate for any growing business. There should be a formal source of communicating the company’s information, values, and business performance with decisions. Any company can look for following steps as per suitability –
- Starting a newsletter with a proper email marketing strategy
- Launching Intranet tools
- Encouraging feedback from both internal and external customers
- Documenting the company’s values, policies, and procedures
- Conducting periodic surveys
- Implementing conflict resolution techniques
We identified multiple challenges surrounding SMBs and strategies to address them. Small businesses have options to tackle these challenges through a well-designed HR system and practices. Outsourcing all or some portion of HR is usually a popular solution for business owners in today’s competitive global environment. Alternatively, SMBs can hire an HR Consultant to advise on critical HR matters. Experienced HR professionals can streamline the processes through best practices, strategic initiatives, and change management. It is only when the organization can retain quality talent and sustains a long term growth.
At HRletes we understand your requirements in your frame of reference and deliver the solutions with a design thinking approach. Our comprehensive services, including Hiring, Payroll Administration, HR Outsourcing, Compliances, HRMS help your business improve HR functions. We take care of your Human Resource Management while you focus on your business.
So let us LETES with your HR issues and concerns