Workplace technology exists to contribute to the organization's success. In some cases, that means making operations more efficient. In others, it means breaking down silos and leveraging the full power of available data. But how is success achieved?
For some companies' senior executives, the answer is to add a new technology solution. When they discover one they think will save time and money, it gets forced onto their employees. But that approach is problematic and will often backfire.
All they can see is how the technology's promise of greater workplace productivity might help them save a few bucks.
What they should be thinking of are their employees.
Here's the problem: You can’t expect your employees to embrace new technology just because you told them to. While that method might seem easy enough to you, it can actually make things much worse. It can trigger employee frustration and resistance — which will lead to a major drop in both productivity and profit.
Your employees, their behaviors, their experiences, and interactions with the workplace interact in complex ways. For technology solutions to work in your office, you can’t solely focus on the technology — your primary focus has to be the hearts and hands of your company.
In her book Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design Kat Holmes, the director of inclusive design at Google, wrote, "The objects and people around us influence our ability to participate."
"The objects and people around us influence our ability to participate."
Kat Holmes, Director of Inclusive Design at Google
Your job is to show people how the new technology will improve their workday and help get them on board. Otherwise, problems are sure to arise. This is where having a human-centered design mindset comes into play.
Human-centered design is a creative approach to solving design and management problems by involving the people you are designing for throughout the process to ensure you're developing solutions that are truly specific to their needs and goals.
According to Design Kit, an IDEO.org human-centered design learning platform, human-centered design involves 3 phases.
In the modern workplace, you have to account for a wide range of variability. By working directly with the people you’re designing for and putting yourself in their shoes, you can develop a clearer understanding of their wants and needs.
As with most design processes, empathy is key when it comes to successful human-centered design. Unless you genuinely care about their pain points and goals, employees will question your motives. So start out with empathy, get curious about uncovering useful insights, and then leverage what you discover to solve problems and make improvements.
This is where your brain wheels start turning, as you try to make sense of what you’ve learned during the first phase and then come up with possible design opportunities and prototype solutions. Here, you should work on refining the good, bad, and crazy ideas you come up with. From there, it's time to start building those tangible solutions that are well-aligned to the people you’re creating them for.
Before the next phase can begin, make sure your ideas have been validated by the people who will be using the new technology. This can be done by collecting their feedback. Without relying on employee testing and input, you won’t know if your design ideas are on track to meet their needs.
During the last phase, all of your hard work and solution dreams become a successful reality. It's not a magical process, it all comes down to the prep work you've accomplished in the previous steps. Because you tailored your solution and considered their concerns and challenges, the implementation phase will be a breeze. Now you can be sure that you're delivering something that is actually worthwhile and effective.
There's a mass rejection going on in the workplace.
With the high demands placed on the workforce across nearly every area of their lives, they don't have time to get bogged down by clunky technology that is difficult to learn, tedious to use, or disconnected from their other systems and apps.
Convenience and efficiency rule the day. And human-centered design helps achieve those goals.
Besides implementing the three phases of human-centered design that are mentioned above, here are three additional ways you can start taking a human-centered design approach with your business.
Focus on people for better business success. Without people, you’d have no business. It’s not advanced technology that makes you truly successful — although it can certainly help. At the center of any good business is the people who are using those tools and making a day-to-day impact. What’s good for the people is good for your business, so with a human-centered design mentality in mind, your first step is to think about the people you’re designing for, and then consider the business and technical aspects after. By focusing on the human aspects from the start, you are offering a path to success by making it all possible for your employees.
Have an employee mentality. When it comes right down to it, your employees are the users of the technology and office design you create. This means every design decision must be made by asking yourself an important question: “From a user’s perspective, does this idea make sense?”
When you have this mindset, you are more able to figure out what people’s latent needs are, meaning you will be solving problems and identifying ones that have yet to be uncovered. That’s what global design and technology consultant company Nurun has done, and it’s brought both their business success while also helping their clients succeed in a big way.
Use bodystorming. The Institute of Design at Stanford defines bodystorming as “a unique method that spans empathy work, ideation, and prototyping. Bodystorming is a technique of physically experiencing a situation to derive new ideas. It requires setting up an experience — complete with necessary artifacts and people — and physically ‘testing’ it.”
It’s a necessary step to take whenever you’re developing or changing any type of physical environment. If you’re ever stuck in the ideation phase, bodystorming with a small group of people is a great way to generate and collect new ideas.
Like the concept of human-centered design, human-centered technology is focused on the needs and abilities of human users — in this case: your employees. The goals of human-centered design are to make technology more efficient, safer, and enjoyable for people to use.
Poorly designed technology isn’t sustainable and won’t be readily adopted by your employees. People have high expectations for the tools they use. After all, they have a say in which technologies can adequately fulfill their needs. Even though most employees are able to adapt solutions to bridge gaps and fit their use case, mismatched technology introduces a whole host of new problems to overcome. That's why, when it comes to choosing new technology systems, it pays off to choose human-centered ones. And you do that by deeply knowing your users and getting clear on what their needs are. From there, you validate your ideas by getting their feedback on the technology you think would be beneficial for their workday and for your organization as a whole.
Everyone benefits from human-centered design. It provides the solutions that people want and need while helping to build a company culture that embraces and promotes empathy and understanding. Human-centered design is a great foundation for connection, purpose, and better workplace experience.