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Defined By Design – Applying Design Thinking to Recreate the Work Experience

Defined By Design – Applying Design Thinking to Recreate the Work Experience

The world of work of the 20th century has forever changed. In the 21st century technology and the Internet of Things has impacted every sphere of our lives, and is increasingly transforming our lifestyle and professional experience. In our personal lives mobile devices and tech tools/toys, an “always on” connection to the Internet and applications that enable ease of communication and lifestyle fulfilment, have become the norm; and thus an expectation in the workplace.

Gen Ys and millenials  -“digital natives” – who have grown up with technology at their fingertips enabling access to social media, information, and edu- and entertainment, want the same level of sophistication at work.  Incumbents entering the workforce want – and some expect – employers to provide the same at work. These digital natives want to work more independently or rather inter-dependently connecting with peers and colleagues via technology working from home, wifi-hot spots, social business hubs… and occasionally from an office. Technology has created a virtual world that enables more flexible work, yet traditional companies seem to be lagging behind in incorporating new tech into their infrastructure. This may present a detractive factor for a young workforce that seeks a higher degree of self-determination, a deeper sense of personal growth and development and want to be more stimulated and motivated. To compensate, digital natives bring their personal devices to work to remain connected and engaged with online social networks.

So what can IT do to accelerate the integration of new tech for a seamless work experience?

Nonetheless, creating a new value proposition for a new generation workforce requires an innovative approach. HR is grappling to define models that accommodate an increasingly mobile and contingent workforce. Design thinking can help.

How can Design Thinking redefine the work experience?

It is important to understand that creatives and HR/OD/OrgDesign must work together to garner the value of design thinking. HR is one of the few areas that is almost entirely about people, and a good DT facilitator can help uncover some great insights.

  • Taking a Human Centred Design approach a New Workplace Experience (NWX) requires an empathic understanding of employees needs, but equally knowledge of organisation design and development to incorporate these needs into new tasks, roles, structures, processes and systems that support the business.
  • It is important that an understanding of the meaning an “employee” experience is gained as a fundamental cornerstone of the process. As HR or OD practitioners we might sometimes assume employees ‘buy in’ to the corporate brand value, when in fact employees may be disengaged and have no attachment to the brand proposition.
  • First define what your team looks at as an ideal EVP before mapping out chain-links and dependencies to everyday life at the organisation.
  • Collaborate to workshops and co-create experiences that respond to the individual and what emotions and responses the experience will generate.
  • Facilitate individual and teamwork to define a desired journey map of the desired experience accommodates ‘me” and ‘them’ into the strategy. Using creative interventions such as theatre and artefacts can create symbolism for values and those of the employing company.
  • Create a narrative of the journey to assist make sense of the experience and bring everyone together to become part of a common story.


So what’s next for companies that want to redefine work for a next generation workforce?

Design thinking in workforce transformation is relatively new but if we consider market competition for top talent companies should look to design thinking to compliment their OD capability. HR and designers are encouraged to achieve a meeting of the minds and invite young people to join conversations about what they want in an employment experience. They may just provide some great ideas to get started…




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