Why You Should Use Design Thinking to Integrate Learning into Day-to-Day Work

Posted by Julie Hiipakka on July 18, 2018.

Maybe it’s happened to you: your employee satisfaction scores for learning are low. Training, or the lack of quality of training, comes up in worker exit interviews. Does it feel like learning in your organization is something that has to be endured so people can get back to their “real” jobs?

That’s a bad feeling for you, your organization, and your employees. And yet most organizations understand they need to help employees develop new skills to keep pace with a business environment in constant flux. People want easy access to answers and to be able to tackle new tasks and challenges. Something has to change.

Our new series of articles, Understanding Employee Experience, discusses a spectrum of key touchpoints that employees encounter throughout their tenure with an organization. Learning is one of those essential touchpoints and can—if executed properly—be critical to the life cycle of an employee’s career. So, how can organizations make it work well?

Applying Design Thinking

High-performing organizations take a specific and differentiated approach to employee development: work is learning, and learning is work. The two are so tightly intertwined that one’s experience as a learner is identical to the experience as an employee. Through this “work-is-learning” approach, companies can enrich employee experience while helping individuals perform, leading to the sense of mastery that instills self-confidence.

Design thinking1 is a critical aspect of this process. That means using anthropological techniques (e.g., conducting interviews and directly observing employees at work) to understand who your workers are and what they’re doing, as well as to identify knowledge gaps that could be holding them back. The approach is similar to how consumer electronics companies put prototypes in consumers’ hands to see how they’re used. The process reveals pain points, moments of delight, and areas to improve. This understanding helps companies give workers information they need, when and where they need it, in ways that recognize the differences in those moments. If a tenured employee needs an answer to a specific question, being able to contact an expert via chat addresses that need much better than being told to take a 30-minute online course.

Using design thinking can lead to employee learning experiences that are far more engaging and authentic—and it can empower workers to enhance their performance. Our High-Impact Learning research has found that organizations that leverage design thinking and other practices to create what we call designed growth realize significant business outcomes.2 That’s a win for workers and for organizations!

If your organization is working on new employee experience initiatives and you’d like to be interviewed as part of our research, please reach out to Madhura Chakrabarti (mchakrabarti@deloitte.com) or Robin Erickson (rerickson@deloitte.com). In addition, be on the lookout for an online survey later this summer.

Bersin members can download and read the full article, Understanding Employee Experience: Learning. Bersin members should watch for our continuing articles in this series that take a deeper look into the many aspects of employee experience today. Not a Bersin member but want to know more? Visit the Bersin website. For more insights into employee experience, please see our blog series, which continues over the coming summer weeks.

Jeff MikeJulie Hiipakka Vice President, Learning Research Leader

Julie leads learning research for Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Julie has over 20 years of experience in learning and development, talent management and recruitment in consulting and in-house roles. Her practitioner experience includes creating global onboarding programs, using peer-created learning within leadership training, multiple mergers and integrations, and leading a globally distributed team. Julie helps organizations create business impact by connecting learning, talent, and organizational change efforts to organizational goals and strategy. A Certified Professional in Learning and Performance, Julie holds a master’s degree in communication from Florida State University.

1 “Design thinking” is the focus on “user-centric” design, studying the behavior and working scenarios of employees and designing solutions that fit into their work lives, versus designing processes or programs that have to be rolled out to the workforce.
2 High-Impact Learning Organization: Maturity Model and Top Findings, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Dani Johnson, 2017.

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