design thinking, engagement, inspiring, Leadership

Design Thinking Makes It Safe for Employees


There is so much focus today on employees. What do they want? How do we help them be healthy? How do we connect them with the company mission? How do we give them purpose, such that they bring their best self to the job? Countless articles like ” Show Me The Money. The ROI of Employee Engagement” by Justin Warner speak to the worth of employee engagement and yet it remains a mythical unicorn, worth its weight in gold for companies like Basecamp or Zingerman’s Mail Order that have invested years in the way they work. Employee engagement naturally resonates as part of that investment.

But this type of change is never easy. Much like trying to break a bad habit or make lifestyle change like losing weight, transformation is hard work. Why? Because at the root of all that is holding you back are things like fear and trust.

I was fortunate enough to help out on the first HR Hackathon in Detroit, an idea launched by Nicole Dessain of Talent Imperative. Christina Chateauvert and other volunteers believed in the idea enough to take it to Detroit with the first topic being, “How might we collaborate with employees to co-create an improved employee experience?”

What was the top idea from my breakout group in the HR Hackathon? Making it safe for employees, of course. Not “safe” as in body harm but “safe” as in psychologic safety. Being able to give direct feedback. Being able to say what you think without fear or repercussions. Eliminating this fear and building trust.

It wasn’t surprising to me. Trust, fear or similar theme almost always surfaced in the transformation work I did. It starts there because if we can’t talk about what is wrong, we definitely can’t fix it. Also having those tough conversations alone can bring people closer together.

Problem solving frameworks like Design Thinking are key to surfacing these issues in a collaborative environment but the work of digging in and solving it still needs to follow. And you have a choice as an employee. You can scoff that this is the next fad or you can realize this is an investment the company is making to help you. Realizing that transformation is hard work, it’s the little steps and the first steps like this HR Hackathon in Detroit that start the movement. You just need to dig in.

Photo Source:  1st Detroit HR Hackathon, September 13th, 2019, Wayne State University










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