Human Resources

Using Design Thinking to Create a People First Performance Management Process

In an illuminating TEDTalk “The way we think about work is broken”, Barry Schwartz encourages us to think about whether it’s human nature that creates institutions or institutions which can shape human nature. In traditional factory lines work was based simply on the exchange of labor for money. However, money doesn’t have to be the only thing that drives people to get up and go to work every morning.

Rather than creating a workplace in which people go to do the bare minimum, designing an institution that allows and facilitates people’s innate need to use their creativity, find purpose and reach their potential will shape the way people feel about work.

The key is to begin questioning EVERYTHING.  

In the race to create more agile, engaged and innovative organizations, companies are now placing the heavy task on HR to revamp outdated processes. Many HR innovators have taken this moment to do some long needed cleaning out of failed institutions and construction of new processes that reflect the unique people and purpose running through their organization.

 

Despite what you may think, this is not reserved for companies with large budgets to spend on Google style perks. Even without the budget, you too can transform your organization in a positive way.

 

Today’s HR innovators don’t take any process, institution or practice for granted. The only way to discover what truly works best is to put yourself into the shoes of the people who work and run your organization and open your mindset to new possibilities. While it may sound intimidating, this isn’t a call to all out anarchy. Design thinking is a highly ordered approach which will provide you with a new lens through which you can view your organization.

What is design thinking?

Until now design thinking has mostly been used to create a customer focused approach to designing and marketing products. However, today HR professionals are realizing they can use this methodology to design better employee experiences. In fact, the adoption of this process has had so much success that Deloitte’s Global Human Capital trends recognized design thinking as one of the top trends to follow.

 

According to Tim Brown, CEO of international design firm IDEO:

 

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

 

The process encourages you to look at three main touch points within the organization to better understand what’s needed. These are the processes, people and technology that your employees come into contact with at each stage of their journey throughout the organization.

 

Which processes are cumbersome? Which need to be abolished? How much support do your people receive from team leads or peers? Are there new solutions which can make your employees’ lives easier?

 

There are two tools which can help you get into the design thinking mindset. One is employee journey mapping. This allows you to map out the stages and assess touchpoints at each step using your people data. The other is employee personas. These fictional characters allow you to visualize and put yourself into the mindset of your employee.

 

Creating a people-centric performance management process

Performance management is one of the most important cornerstones of your organization. Having a strong system in place that will help your people develop and grow new skills will give your company the advantage it needs to meet industry changes head on. At the same time, helping your workforce improve also keeps engagement levels high.

 

Rather than simply an exchange of money for services, today's employees are looking to exchange their time and effort for growth and learning opportunities. In a recent survey, Gallup found that 87% of millennials considered professional development or career growth opportunities to be very important in a job.

 

Professional growth should be seen as an exchange between employees and the organization, but rather than money, it’s about an exchange of value. Valuable knowledge and skills in return for help further developing and honing those skills.

 

Think about the journey...

Think about the 3 different touchpoints (processes, people, technology) your workforce comes into contact with during performance reviews. How do they impact their experience?

 

Process:

  • Who benefits? Is it seen as a process that helps the company identify top and low performers? Or as a process that is meant to help individuals grow and develop?

  • How long does it take from the time when they fill out their self-assessment until the time when they receive their results?

 

People:

  • Who gives and receives feedback?

  • Do managers receive upward feedback from reports?

  • Do people receive training on how to give feedback actionable?

 

Technology:

  • What kind of performance management tools do people use during the process?

  • Is the process straightforward and user-friendly?

 

View the process through the lens of your personas

Everyone will have different objectives, pains and also different experiences with each touchpoint they encounter during the process. Think about the journey from each different point of view.

 

Customer personas are fictional characters used by marketers to represent different types of customers. They’re often given names and bios including their likes, dislikes, pains and objectives based on data collected from customer feedback, interviews and focus groups. The idea is that having a few fictional customers that represent larger interest groups allows you to optimize processes for a wider audience. For example:

 

Julie the new manager:

  • Wants to give her team helpful feedback that will encourage them to improve

  • Nervous about giving constructive feedback to a few team members who used to be peers

  • Expects to have a better idea of who her top performers are and where the team needs to improve at the end of the process

  • Also wants to gain insights into her performance as a team lead

 

Paul the millennial employee:

  • Expects to find out what his strengths are in the team

  • Has trouble analyzing the feedback he received and creating a strong development plan

  • Wants to receive more feedback outside of performance reviews

 

Anna the new tech hire:

  • Wants to be recognized for her achievements

  • Expects a fair balanced assessment but encountered bias in the assessments she received at her previous company: does not trust the process

  • Wants to be able to receive feedback on cross-collaborative projects she participated in

 

Conclusion

When redesigning your performance management process consider how you can optimize it to meet the needs of your different personas. The best way to gain a full picture is to combine these two tools by mapping out the different touchpoints (processes, people, technology) your personas would encounter during your current performance management process. Consider how each would be impacted differently.

 

The insights provided by this exercise will enable you to redesign performance management at your organization in a way that takes into account your wider workforce. There is no one size fits approach to performance management. Design thinking can help you to create an experience that fits your unique organization.

 

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Photo by Michał Grosicki