Listen to LDS CEO Mimi Brooks in this episode of The People Tech podcast hosted by Mark Feffer of HCM Technology Report. You can listen to additional episodes of The People Tech Podcast at HCMTechnologyReport.com or on any podcast platform.
Mark: Welcome to PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. I’m Mark Feffer. COVID has changed a lot of things, obviously, particularly in business and how business gets done, but what you don’t hear a lot about is how it’s impacted experience, specifically the approach and tools used to design and develop the way people interact with technology.
My guest today is Mimi Brooks, the CEO of Logical Design Solutions. They consult with a number of enterprise companies on digital strategy and design. We’ll talk about their work, the challenge of creating effective experiences with technology, and the rules of the game and experience design, all on this edition of PeopleTech.
Mimi, welcome. It’s great to see you. Your company is very focused on design, and how does design factor into HR solutions?
Mimi: Such a good question. I think in recent years, in particular in the last certainly five to six years, I would say that our company does as much informed design as we do design, and we refer to that as our strategy work, if you will. And I think that relative to HR solutions, it’s really all about finding line of sight before you put pen to paper on the experience design itself.
So how does an employee experience fit into an enterprise ecosystem, if you will, in order to support the services and products of HR? Sometimes I refer to it as the me as a member kinds of things. Things I’m eligible for, services I might need because I’m employed here, et cetera. So I think that strategy comes first around defining what experience is needed here, and then I think design is executing on that strategy. And its fit is as a horizontal, if you will, logically horizontal capability in the HR ecosystem. That’s how I think about it.
Mark: Well, let me go a little bit deeper on that, if I may. I’m wondering, how does somebody do it? How does one go about developing an approach and experience to HR solutions, especially for an enterprise? That’s got to be quite a challenge.
Mimi: It’s a big idea because HR has a little bit of everything in its sphere of influence that affects design. So there’s a bunch of things that people need to find. So findability is a big idea in design for HR. Inquiry management. Answering common questions of people is a big idea. And then you move into the operation side of the model where I’m doing things, how do I do employee self-service or manager self-service things?
And then HR has the engagement and influence side of that design model too, which is all about employees career journeys. How do I engage people? How do I empower teams? How do I inspire them? So HR has a suite of value propositions that are all relevant to design. We design for efficiency, effectiveness, influence, engagement. And in the case of HR, you’ve got to go across that stack of design capabilities in order to deliver a holistic solution. So there’s a lot of breadth in HR designs that have to be covered if you really cover the whole ecosystem. Does that make sense, Mark, when I say it like that?
Mark: It does, and it leads me to thinking about, well, where does all this start? I mean, if you’ve got an HR department of a large company, let’s say, who need to make a solution accessible, who’s generating that idea, and who’s shepherding it through a process?
Mimi: It’s a great question. So that’s a bit of why I was pointing to this idea of strategy first. It’s often because we have a wide group of HR stakeholders across the chasm of services and products that I just said. So if we’re going to create a holistic solution, we’re going to have to engage stakeholders from a cross-functional mix in order to make sure that we’re covering the full scope.
It’s often why the Charo is the sponsor, along with often, other important C-level folks, including Chief Transformation Officer, for example. CIO and IT. Other communications, parts of the business that might have a shared interest in culture, for example. So the way that it gets started is to get good sponsorship and to make sure that that sponsorship is appropriately cross-functional, both within HR and across the business as needed.
And then we set out to align a good design and experience strategy to the emerging operating model for the company. That’s how you do it. And that’s why having senior sponsorship is so important.
Mark: Well, senior sponsorship, I understand senior sponsorship is important. It seems to me that sometimes executives in the rank and file are on opposite sides of a table, as it were, in terms of product design, what a products capabilities have to be. Do you run into that, and how do you resolve it?
Mimi: That’s a great point. I think it’s important that we ask the right questions to the right stakeholders. I really do. I don’t think we should ask executives, how should we design the experience? I don’t think that’s a good question to ask them. I think a good question to ask them is, as we lean forward into the organization of the future, the organization of tomorrow that we’re all trying to build, what are the important capabilities we need to build within the organization? What are the important things we need the organization to be competent in?
I think those are senior questions so that we get line of sight right. And that’s how I think we use sponsors and executives. And also to ensure that we’ve got agreement from the top that we’re not going to do this in silos. Because if you come into midpoint as the starting point, you’ve got a lot of silos in the enterprise, and certainly in HR. So we don’t want to design in a silo, so we need senior sponsorship to ask the right questions to, and then we need the working team, the product team, to help with the design realization itself. So I think that this idea of ask the right question to the right stakeholder is really important.
Mark: Okay. You are building digital experiences basically, and this will sound funny, but how important is the technology? And I’m thinking in terms of when you build something, it’s going to sit on something, and do you really care all that much about the platform it’s sitting on?
Mimi: Yeah, that’s a great question. I would say that initially when we’re trying to get this line of sight that I was talking about, what must the experience be at this company in order to create the enablement in the organization that’s needed? Those questions can be asked with a bit of a blind eye to the exact technology ecosystem that will ultimately implement it in. So the early lines of sight questions are not as important.
Once we start getting a beat on what this company’s experience needs to be, what does the business need, what do people need, the two vantage points that have to converge in terms of the experience, then we ask the question, how can we create that new value, that value on the ecosystem that they have today, and those capabilities they plan on bringing in the future. And then it becomes quite important that we end up with a rational design.
So I would say at some point it’s critical that we’ve got the design rational to the technology capabilities and to important ideas, like sustainability and governance in the future, so that we don’t dangle our clients over the ledge on things like sustainability practices that they may or may not be able to handle in the long term. So critical at the front of the design process, less critical in the strategy process when we’re trying to get the line of sight.
Mark: Have you heard Josh Bersin’s talk about the experience layer?
Mimi: I have, yeah.
Mark: So how does that align with what you are doing? It seems to me that a lot of your work would be in that spot, basically.
Mimi: Yeah, I think that’s right. So the experience layer, the experience platform, the experience design framework, to me, those are all kind of the same thing. It’s really trying to articulate this idea of a horizontal in a world of products, platforms, and verticals. How do we go across that environment, create a personalized, relevant, seamless experience, while leveraging all of the technology capabilities that we have in place?
And we don’t tend to dictate that, Mark. We don’t tend to recommend product or bring in strategic technology. Our clients share those plans with us, and our job is to figure out how we make the experience work optimally there.
Mark: So how do you measure success in something like this? Experience is kind of a squishy topic. So when you’ve built a solution, how do you know that it’s doing what it supposed to do?
Mimi: I think one of the hardest things to do, and yet I think that what should be measured, is what strategy suggested was needed, Mark. Like the strategy effort said, we must enable teams like this. We must make sure individuals can do these kinds of things. We must make sure the enterprise and its knowledge is discoverable in scenarios like this. And what we should be measuring is whether or not we’re moving the needle on those capabilities that we set out to do.
In order to do that, in my experience, that’s a combination of systematic tracking and analytics along with voice of the customer. Are we helping transform the role of managers? We’re going to see some of that in behavior, and we’re going to hear some of that in feedback. So I feel that what we’re measuring is the capabilities and outcomes that were defined in strategy, and to get a finger on the pulse of whether or not we’re moving those needles, we’ve got to take kind of a broad approach to behavior and analytics to see if we’re having an impact.
Mark: And we were talking before about strategies basically. And employee experience is a very human thing, I’ve always thought. So when you sit down and you come up with essentially a production strategy or business strategy for employee experience, does it really work?
Mimi: I think that it’s such an interesting time to be in HR and doing employee experiences, because now more so than at any time that I can think of in my career in doing this, and I’ve been doing it a long time, the focus is really about the human element. Because the operating model, the business model is all about whether we can tap into the human ingenuity in order for our business models to be successful in the future. I think that our experiences have never been more human than they are now.
What strategy is trying to understand is, what’s the nature of new human work? What’s being automated, what is needed for humans, and their uniquely human contribution?which has a lot to do with creativity and collaboration, and best ideas win, and imagination, and all the things that are really contributed by people. So strategy, even though it sounds like a business pursuit, is really a pursuit in understanding people and what they need in the context of the business model. And now more than ever, we’ve got to figure out how we engage our human know-how in order for the organization to be successful.
Mark: If you imagine the Fortune 1000, what proportion of those companies would you say are really thinking about employee experience? Or I guess another way to ask the question is, there’s a lot of talk about employee experience in HR, but do you think that companies by and large are really truly trying to develop a good employee experience?
Mimi: So we work almost exclusively or mostly with the Fortune 500, and then occasionally down into the midsize and smaller market there. So I feel like it’s an audience that we know pretty well. It seems to me, Mark, that everyone that we talk to, whether they’re clients or prospects or people that we just meet in the industry through our own discussions on how we see practices emerging and such, I think everyone has a plan or an idea of their employee experience, and they’re funding it.
I don’t really know any organizations today that aren’t funding something under the employee experience umbrella. So I think it’s pretty commonplace. To me, what I see is highly variable definitions of what their employee experience strategy is all about. That’s where we might not be talking about the same thing. Sometimes a technology-centric plan is referred to as the employee experience. Sometimes a communications and brand-centric plan is the employee experience. So what people mean by the employee experience, strategy and design, can vary pretty dramatically, in my experience, from company to company. So they all prioritize it, they all have it, but what it is could be different.
Mark: Got it. So my last question is a little bit more general, but we’re in this period of real change that’s going on since COVID, and I’m wondering if you think that business models have changed lately, and how all this change is impacting your work?
Mimi: I think that COVID accelerated business digital transformation, and accelerated it dramatically in some industries. We have clients that never had anyone that were remote workers prior to COVID, and now they have a significant percentage of workers that are at least hybrid. So I think COVID was an accelerator to business digital transformation that started right around 2010, and was largely being experienced by digital natives, and people who were disrupting, and early adopters, in certain vertical markets in particular, that became digital before other organizations.
And I think COVID accelerated that, and it became very widespread in terms of the industries that realized that they were going to have to become digitally competent organizations. So I think that COVID was an accelerator. I think all organizations have made major adaptations in their business and operating models in order to survive and thrive in the digital age, which I believe, by its nature, is dynamic and constantly in a state of adaptation. I won’t say change, I’ll say adaptation, because I think that that resilience is a corporate capability that’s needed in perpetuity, at least as far out as we can see it. So I think if companies haven’t changed their business and operating model, that’d be a pretty scary idea.
Mark: Well, thank you very much for stopping by and talking with me today. It’s been great to talk.
Mimi: Thank you so much. Great questions, Mark. I really enjoyed it.
Mark: My guest today has been Mimi Brooks, the CEO of Logical Design Solutions. And this has been PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. We’re a publication of Recruiting Daily. We’re also a part of Evergreen Podcasts. To see all of their programs, visit www.evergreenpodcast.com. And to keep up with HR technology, visit the HCM Technology Report every day. We’re the most trusted source of news in the HR tech industry. Find us at www.hcmtechnologyreport.com. I’m Mark Feffer.
Logical Design Solutions (LDS) is a digital strategy and design consultancy to global enterprises. We create experiences that transform business and help people work successfully in the new digital organization. Clients come to LDS because of our reputation for intellectual rigor, our foundation in visionary experience strategy, and our commitment to enabling digital transformation inside the enterprise. Learn More about how LDS has dramatically improved the way that some of the largest corporations in the world do business.