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Greetings earthlings

Service design and customer experience. Name a more iconic pairing.

Well, what about service design and employee experience?! Say no more. 

For this edition of Ask A Service Designer, I'm so excited to introduce two of the most creative and thoughtful designers I've had the pleasure of working alongside. Sarah Eastman and Leonice Cheung are part of a team at Shopify within the HR (human relations) department. They have generously agreed to share an inside look at how they approach their work, and how service design can be used internally to improve employee experiences. 

Take it away, Leo and Sarah!

Q. How can HR teams leverage service design approaches to make better employee experiences?

Our HR team designs and delivers programs and services for employees. This includes everything from onboarding, to changing roles, to taking parental leave, and much more. 

These experiences shape our company environment and culture and have a direct impact on what it’s like to work at Shopify. There are many touchpoints across our programs and services and employees interact with various people, tools, and systems in HR. On the backend, there’s a lot involved for our HR team members who deliver these programs and services! 

In 2019 we were about to kick off a project to explore improvements to our internal processes to make it easier for our HR team to deliver services. We saw an opportunity to use service design to design services that met the needs of our employees and were simple and efficient for our HR teams to deliver.  Our HR team has always been intentional about putting people at the centre of what we do. Service design gave us a lens to use to think holistically about both the employee experience and the backend business processes. It also gave us a set of tools, like user research, journey mapping, co-creation, and prototyping, that helped us take a human-centred approach.

Unique aspects of doing service design in a HR team

  • You have great access to your users, they are your coworkers!
  • HR designs programs and services to support employees at work (hiring, onboarding, career growth, recognition) and in life (benefits/perks, leaves, vacation). There are lots of opportunities to create meaningful experiences. 
  • Administrative processes have the potential to have a big impact on employees and their experiences at work.
  • There can be challenges working in the HR space. Parts of the design process, like engaging with users (employees) to do research, prototyping, and testing can be new and uncomfortable, especially since many HR teams are used to keeping changes to programs confidential until they launch. 
  • HR teams may also be constrained by software with limited customizability, by legacy systems, or by lack of technical resources. 

You will see some of these facets come to life in the following example projects: 1) helping to reimagine our onboarding program and 2) improving the name change process for employees.

Case Study: Helping to reimagine Shopify's onboarding program

When new hires join Shopify, their first experience is the Startup onboarding program. Startup is designed to welcome them aboard, orient them to our product and company, and prepare them to start their new roles. The Startup onboarding experience was originally designed and delivered as a three day, in-person experience. With a permanent shift to remote work in 2020, the team needed to reimagine onboarding and turn it into a digital-first experience.

When Shopify went fully remote, we had to reimagine our onboarding program as a fully digital experience

We partnered with the onboarding program manager to design and facilitate a collaborative, co-design sprint to go from research to a prototyped experience. 

We brought together members of the onboarding team to participate in a modified version of the 5 day design sprint. We started with research conducted by our Talent Research and Insights team. After building a shared understanding of what new hires were enjoying and what they were struggling with, we were able to identify ‘how might we’ questions. We then facilitated rounds of brainstorming and had each participant create a storyboard with their vision for the new onboarding experience.

Storyboards and outlines of the new onboarding program outlining the vision and direction for a fully remote experience.
We ended the sprint with a prototype for the new, digital first onboarding that included objectives and learning outcomes, activities, and delivery methods. After our sprint the onboarding team used the prototype to successfully run a pilot with a group of new hires.

Case Study: Improving the name change process for employees

Our HR team is responsible for programs and services, as well as more administrative processes. Name changes are one of those processes that can feel administrative on the surface, but are really wrapped up in larger identity changes. We worked on a project to improve the name change experience for employees.
While changing your name in a HR information system may feel administrative, it can go much deeper and connect to employees sense of identity

When we kicked off the work, the name change process was unclear and didn’t always create a great experience for employees. Old names sometimes reappeared to colleagues in unexpected places and employees had to reach out to our HR Coordinators, who then acted as a go-between with our IT team, who actually made the changes.

We interviewed employees who recently changed their name and asked them to share the highs and lows of their experience. Then we ran a workshop with HR and IT team members and used those research insights to ground our work. We had the group collaboratively map the current state of the process to identify pain points and opportunities and then we mapped a proposed future state. Following the workshop, we prototyped the touchpoints for our proposed future state and tested them with employees and stakeholders.

User research, journey mapping and service blueprinting helped us to understand the front and backstage perspective of the name change process

We partnered with our IT team and Shopify’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group (ERG) to launch the new name change service. Our research informed the solution we built, as well as the collaborative approach we took in partnering with the ERG.

We simplified the name change service so that requests could be submitted directly to the IT team, who would act as the employee’s single point of contact.  We provided employees with transparency and choice by outlining two different approaches for email address changes and the impacts of each, so employees could make an informed decision for themselves.

We equipped employees with a checklist of systems where their name appears and made it clear whether IT could make the change or if the employee would need to, thereby reducing the chances that their old name would reappear.

What we wish we knew starting out doing service design in a HR team

Looking back at everything we have done in our two years bringing service design approaches to HR, there are definitely some hard won lessons learned. 

  1. Storytelling: Communicating what your team does and the value we bring is just as important as the work itself. You need to be a good storyteller and take opportunities to share in a memorable way that resonates with people.

  2. Less is more: Learn who your stakeholders, collaborators, and contributors are and when you need each group. Early on “collaboration” meant bringing everyone who had context together, but we quickly learned that there is such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen.  

  3. Avoid jargon: Terms like ‘blueprinting’, ‘actor’ etc. aren’t immediately understood outside the service design world. It’s easier and more accessible to use terms people will understand, like ‘mapping’ or the ‘people’ and ‘tools’ involved. 

  4. Start small: Projects where you have a team with a clear goal and where you can make an impact quickly are best. 

  5. Have a backup plan: When it comes to new ways of working, like testing with users or running a pilot, you can overcome nerves by keeping testing / piloting groups small at first and having a plan to ‘pull the plug’ if things aren’t going well. 

  6. Prototyping looks different: Less like wire-framing and more like building a knowledge or content resource and testing that out with employees or the HR teams delivering services. It can also look like creating a delivery plan for a program that can then be tested by a facilitation team and piloted.

Employee experience and service design resources

Shout out and thank you to Leo and Sarah for taking the time to share their experiences and lessons learned. If you're hungry for more, read this detailed interview with members of the Employee Experience Research team, Lisa Madokoro and Taylor Kim. And for a look at how other organizations are approaching service design in HR:

One last thing...

I'm super excited to be helping to launch the pilot of Huugo - a new career exploration service for Canadians!
Screenshot of Huugo webpage. Headline says feeling overwhelmed when it comes to career exploration and transition? Huugo is here to support you. Sign-up by July 16, 2021, to be part of our first cohort, with a button that says sign me up.
Huugo aims to make career exploration a little less lonely and messy by connecting you to resources and community.
From our research, we heard things like:

“I want to know what real people’s day to day jobs look like!” 

“I feel like there are a lot of jobs I would be good at but I have no idea what they are or how to find them.”

“I’m sick of job matching tools that don’t take my situation into consideration.”

If you can relate, you might be interested to sign up for our service pilot and help us to shape the future of career exploration! Learn more and sign up here:

Until next time,
Copyright © 2021 Made Manifest Inc, All rights reserved.

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