Ready to get “inspiHRed”?!

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When summer approaches, it is a good moment to look back and think about this ending 2016/2017 academic year. It has been particularly exciting for me because for the first time I have a run a full-year module/project on Human Resource innovation for the super students of the International HRM Master at the Ciffop (school specialized in HR at Paris 2 University – Panthéon Assas, in France). I am really grateful to Yasmina, in charge of this Master, who agreed to give it a try together.

We started the year working with the students on the basics of innovation and design thinking and on how to apply them to Human Resource Management. It was also the moment of inspiring them by sharing some examples of successful HR innovations on the market. Later in the year, I trained them to become innovation catalysts, that is making sure they could facilitate innovative approaches and methodologies in the organizations in which they work. Indeed, these students work part-time in HR fields such as training & development, compensation & benefits or career management in a variety of sectors and companies such as L’Oréal, LVMH and Schneider Electric among others. Based on these new approaches, around 20 HR innovation workshops and experimentations run by these students took place in these companies with great feedbacks – well done guys!

One of the deliverables we asked to students was to identify some of the best HR innovations on the market and centralize them on the first existing HR innovation database. Under the name of “inspiHRation” this database created by the students has more than 50 innovations in the HR fields worldwide, and future students of the Master should continue it…

Just to mention a couple of examples, did you know that employees at the dutch home care organization Buurtzorg fully manage their training in an autonomous way? Were you aware that when some Zappos staff log in their computers in the morning a picture of a co-worker appears, and they have to guess his/her name between 3 options as a way to connect employees? Did you know that Deloitte proposes in New Zealand a fun online interactive game in order to know if you would fit in their company and values? And what if I told you that several HR hackathons have already taken place in the world?

This is just a bit of teasing. I let you now surf and discover this great HR innovation database. You will be able to navigate via tags or categories such as recruitment & employer branding, training & development, career & performance and other HR subjects…

You find here the link to the “inspiHRation” HR innovation database.

Enjoy!

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HR Design Thinking

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Design Thinking is mature enough for more and more people knowing and using it, but also new enough for it to be useful to start by providing a definition.  Tim Brown (CEO of IDEO, said to be one of the most innovative design companies in the world) defines Design Thinking as “a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity”. It is also described sometimes as an innovation methodology/technique or a problem-solving approach.

According to Brown, there are 3 phases in Design Thinking, that are described as follows: “inspiration,” for the circumstances (be they a problem, an opportunity, or both) that motivate the search for solutions; “ideation,” for the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas that may lead to solutions; and “implementation,” for the charting of a path to market. Projects will loop back through these spaces—particularly the first two— more than once as ideas are refined and new directions taken”.

One of the key characteristics of Design Thinking is that it is an empathic human-centric approach. This means that the person (eg. the customer, the user, the employee) is at the core of the inspiration-ideation-implementation loops mentioned. This is also why empathy is a critical success factor in Design Thinking. And now comes the question I have been asking myself for a while now… if it all starts with observing and understanding the preferences and drivers of human beings in order to come up ideas and proposals that make them more satisfied… how is it possible that Design Thinking is so rarely used in the Human Resources Management field?!

Indeed, I strongly believe Design Thinking is going to become a major trend and approach in HR in the very close future. Therefore, better understanding HR Design Thinking, its power and its implications is crucial for HR professionals. I am not saying HR Design is not at all applied in HRM (I will actually provide some examples below), but I think it is really underused taking into account its potential to fully reshape the HR function.

First of all, what exactly is HR Design Thinking? According to Deloitte University Press (see references), applying Design Thinking to HR means “to focus on the employee’s personal experience and to create processes centered upon the worker. (…) new solutions and tools that directly contribute to employee satisfaction, productivity, and enjoyment”. In other words, it is all about “designing a productive and meaningful employee experience through solutions that are compelling, enjoyable, and simple”. To do so, according to the author, HR professionals need to start working in questions like “What does a great employee experience look like from end to end?.

In practice, and following IDEO’s philosophy, HR design thinking can take the form of rapid prototyping workshops powered by collective intelligence aiming to boost subjects in HRM by putting back the employee experience at the center. More concretely, it involves aspects like identifying innovation or improvement needs, brainstorming and idea generation, building-up concrete tangible prototypes and finally testing and improving them through series of feedback and new prototypes. Brown advises to “seek outside help”, which in this case would mean to involve non-HR professionals, such as managers, experts or even students. Another advice is to “try early and often”, what highlights the fact that failure is also a key element in Design Thinking. Indeed, some of the learning and improvements you will achieve during this process are only possible by trying and experimenting things, failing, learning from it, trying again, failing better, further learning, etc. That is why one of IDEO’s mottos is “fail often to succeed sooner”. In that same direction, I personally like very much the sentence “sometimes you win, sometimes… you learn!”. This aspect has a strong implication in the corporate culture of a given company: you will never manage to be innovative unless you encourage experimentation and grant the right to fail. This also explains my opening quote: Thomas Edison did not fail at inventing the light bulb… he just found 10,000 ways that did not work until he came up with the one that did work…

Let me share a few examples of HR Design Thinking that can be found on the market. Let’s start with the field of Learning and with a company in the telecommunications industry facing a very high turnover of the sales agents in their retail stores. Upon arrival, these employees were asked to learn in little time a very large amount of information about the company’s products and services, what explains that 2/3 of them left within their first 60 days. As a traditional training program was not seen as an adapted solution, the company decided to leverage on Design Thinking to adopt a brand new approach to training. They started by observing and studying the sales agents in their stores (identified as representative “personas”). This allowed the company to build a “journey map” which highlighted the key learning needs of each sales agent over their first months in that position. Based on this, the company proposed an app which made the agent’s life much easier. To start with, the could begin discovering the company and its offer even before joining. Once in the company, this app gave them access to internal development resources such as social networks, coaching and videos which supported their progression in a personalised way, also adapting it to their specific stage in the learning journey. Thanks to this stimulating Design Thinking approach, the company improved both the turnover and the satisfaction of their sales staff, but also the business results of their stores and very likely the image of the HR function as a key Business Partner for the company. The essence of this short case study by Bersin  (2016) is summarised in this central idea: “shifting from instructional design to experience design”. According to Deloitte, other companies such Deckers Brands and Nestlé also leveraged on Design Thinking to propose highly experiential and engaging learning programs. Looking backwards, the case of the telecom company follows -without a surprise- the “HR innovation cycle” I shared some time ago: opportunities identification -> HR innovation design and implementation -> HR added value and recognition.

Mars, Inc. also leveraged on Design Thinking to renew some HRM subjects such as talent attraction and C&B according to an interesting MOOC on Design Thinking proposed by the University of Virginia. Deloitte proposes other examples such as Adobe applying Design Thinking to performance management, Zappos to redesigning the candidate experience and DuPont to leveraging on digital tools to improve employee experience. As we can see, Design Thinking can help rethink, boost and reshape any HRM field, what highlights its huge potential for HR professionals. Beyond HR, a book called “design your life” just released by Stanford professors invites you to apply Design Thinking even to your full life…

On top of being a strong collective intelligence booster and a powerful team building exercise, facilitating innovation workshops is something fascinating I have the chance to have done for a while now. So, did I manage to convince you that Design Thinking can be a new and powerful way to rethink Human Resource Management in your organization by becoming more employee-centric? If yes, how ready is your organization to think a bit out of the box and embrace HR Design Thinking? Deloitte shares three interesting figures: 79% of the Executives consider Design Thinking is important; the readier a company is to embrace Design Thinking, the faster it will grow, and finally, the most value-adding HR teams are almost five times more likely to be using Design Thinking than their peers. Food for thought…

References:

“Design Thinking”, Tim Brown (HBR, June 2008)

Global Human Capital Trends 2016 – The new organization: Different by design, Deloitte University Press, 2016

“Using Design Thinking to Embed Learning in Our Jobs”, Josh Bersin  (HBR, July 2016)

HR, let’s play! (Insights on HR gamification)

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I had the chance to do some research lately with my colleague Ludine on gamification and HR gamification and I wanted to share here some of the discoveries I made. To start with, according to Werbach & Hunter (2012), gamification is “the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts”. This means gamification can be applied to any organizational subject, including of course Human Resources.

What are the benefits of gamification? Personally, I would say that FUN is the commodity of gamification. When we play, we have fun, and the motivation and concentration increase, what reinforces our engagement to further play and progress.

But what makes people actually want to play? The best answer we found is given by gamification guru Yu-Kai Chou. According to him, there are 8 drivers that push people to play and progress thanks to gamification. In my own words, these motivation factors are:

  • Living epical adventures that make you progress and learn in real life
  • Feeling you are progressing, reaching new targets and accomplishing new goals
  • Learning or achieving new goals thanks to a continuous creativity-feedback-creativity-feedback loop
  • Owning and developing “virtual objects”, one’s own avatar or one’s online profile. By making them better and better you also learn and progress in real life
  • Learning through the contact with others, for example thanks to the help of a mentor in a game or via a collective challenge with other players
  • Using curiosity to further learn and discover what’s next…
  • Avoiding that something bad happens to you in a game
  • Learning or progressing thanks to the impatience to achieve or access something which is difficult to have

These levers are based whether on extrinsic, left-brain motivation (obtaining/winning something new) or intrinsic, right-brain motivation (enjoying the play itself), what makes them very complementary. It is very useful to understand these motivational drivers in order to make the most of gamification. For example, if you plan to gamify a training, it is key you master and leverage on the drivers that will make participants play and progress.

Let’s look for a concrete example of how gamification was applied to an HR subject on the market. Deloitte decided to leverage on gamification to boost the popularity and the use of its “Deloitte Leadership Academy”, an online program to train its employees and clients.  The company decided to gamify this learning experience using elements like online interactions among users, making them take up new challenges, or allowing them to win progression badges.

Deloitte used at least 4 of the motivation levers we just presented. First, they encouraged user progression and accomplishment by making them receive badges to mark their achievements. Second, they allowed players to enrich and customize their online profile on the platform. For example, employees had the option to connect to their personal networks on LinkedIn or Twitter to upload a profile or a photo. Having a more and more rich and personalized online profile contributed to reinforce their engagement. Third, Deloitte leveraged on users’ curiosity by proposing for example secret badges when a whole team watched the same video in the same week. Finally, learning through the contact with others was encouraged via competition with players with similar levels and scores through a customized top-ten leaderboard proposed to each user.

Some dramatic results confirm the success of gamification for the Deloitte Leadership Academy. Since the use of gamification, there was a 37% increase in the number of users visiting the platform each week and a 47% increase in the number of users visiting it every day. Furthermore, the average user completed online trainings to earn 3 badges and one single user actually won 30 bagdes!

Now that you see clearer on the benefits that gamification can have in HR… how about trying it in some of your current HR subjects? Food for thought…

References

For the win: How game thinking can revolutionize your business (Werbach & Hunter, Philadelphia: Wharton Digital Press, 2012)

How Deloitte Made Learning a Game (Meister, J.C, January 2, Harvard Business Review, 2013) -available at: https://hbr.org/2013/01/how-deloitte-made-learning-a-g/

Yu-Kai Chou & gamification: http://yukaichou.com/