Improve human resources practices — by design

Shelly Williams
Shelly Williams

Each day we have the ability to embrace change and make good choices. With each decision, we have the opportunity to make a difference. As I listened to the audio book “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life,” this concept resonated for me. The application of these philosophies has touched every facet of my life.

As a human resources professional, the concept of designing your way forward offered a new perspective. Typically, HR professionals analyze the statistics, survey employees and management and research industry trends. Next, we formulate a recommendation based on analysis and research. What I don’t observe is organizations or HR professionals applying the concept of designing a life to their business practices and models. Daniel Pink, the author of “Drive,” put it this way: “‘Designing Your Life’ details a process of building a satisfying, meaningful life by approaching the challenge the way a designer would. Experimentation. Wayfinding. Prototyping. Constant iteration.”

“Designing Your Life” had such an effect on my thought process and life I decided to step outside my local network and interact with one of the authors, Dave Burnett. Thankfully, the Internet provides a great deal of contact information on professors and authors, and it was a relatively easy to connect with him. After a couple of calls and texts had been exchanged, I decided to schedule my summer vacation to attend a one-day intensive training session in San Francisco.

One example from the book examines the recruiting process and the pitfalls to which most organizations and hiring managers succumb. Generally, the manager or supervisor requests authorization to hire a new employee for a specific position. Next, the recruiting manager receives input from the hiring manager about the position, job duties and essential functions of the role.

Frequently the conversation goes something like this: “I need someone who’s familiar with all of the organization’s computer programs, is a self-starter with excellent communication skills, motivated, friendly, approachable and a superstar. In fact, if they could walk on water, they’d be the perfect fit. Also, do you remember employee X? I’d like to find someone who has the same zeal and customer service skill set.”

As you likely suspect, the recruiting manager, as well as most of us, realize the individual described doesn’t exist. The process was doomed before it even began.

The design process challenges you to look at the position with a fresh set of eyes. Don’t just focus on computer programs that could be obsolete before the new hire completes the hiring process. Explore and apply the design process. Include new and diverse perspectives you might not have incorporated in prior processes. You might be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

As a mother and grandmother, I remembered something I’d overlooked. In my more youthful years, the way I experienced a new job was through immersion. I could hear the voice of my parents echoing in my head: “How do you know you don’t like something until you’ve tried it?” If you haven’t tried it and you’re absolutely certain you detest it, most likely your decision was significantly influenced by someone important in your life. As a society, it would be advantageous to embrace the notion of encouraging individuals try new things. Statistically, 27 percent of college graduates work in professions unrelated to their majors, and employee engagement has fallen to an all-time low.

After applying the knowledge learned from the book and workshop, I rediscovered the responsibilities of my profession that bring me joy and trigger energy that intensifies my drive and propels me through tasks I find less gratifying. Why not give the gift of joy to yourself and your organization in the new year by applying design concepts? Happy exploration.