Why value relationships over metrics, when the world consistently tells you to make decisions based on data and profit? In the next decade, strong relationships and community will be the most valuable assets a business has – but that future has to be purposefully designed. It won’t just happen on it’s own.
With more than 80% of Gen Z and Millennials believing that it’s acceptable to leave a new job before six months if it’s not as advertised, I’d say not purposefully investing in forming (and maintain) strong relationships with your people and your customers is a huge mistake.
Especially if the internet finds out that you purposefully create sub-par conditions for your own staff, just to please shareholders. Gen Z will find out, they will turn you into a meme, and will ridicule that decision while making sure all of their friends know not to work at your company.
Now learning how to welcome this next generation to the workplace is a process that hundreds of people way smarter than me are trying to figure out, but I wanted to showcase a way of thought that I learned while building my company (Apex Communications Network) and use on a daily basis.
Enter… Human-Centered Design
Human-centered design is a process that puts people at the center of problem-solving, and is often used to develop products, services, and experiences that meet their needs and preferences.
In short, the seven steps I’m about to go over can be used as a guide through how to think about making change in your organization. This can be change in any context really, but for today – let’s focus on Gen-Z entering the workforce.
Step 1: Empathize
The first step in the human-centered design process is to empathize with the people you are designing for. Which (wait for it) means you HAVE TO SPEND TIME WITH THEM. If there’s one thing that drives me up a wall, it’s when I hear something along the lines of “well we read over all of the latest reports” in a strategy meeting – right before I’m told of some plan (that makes no sense) for how to interact with a group of people they’ve never actually even attempted to get in touch with.
Ideation is no replacement for experience. Get out there, and talk to people. At the minimum.
Step 2: Define
After empathizing with your group, the next step is to define the problem you are trying to solve. In this phase, a lot of the time I like to “follow the conversation” and prioritize trying to solve for things that the most people brought up as a PITA (aka Pain in The Ass) problem that wished would go away.
Remember, the problem statement you end up with should be specific, actionable, and focused on the needs of your users – not built around some product or service you THINK would be great for them.
Don’t focus on asking questions for how to build a great office culture, if 80%+ of the people you talked to want to remain remote.
Step 3: Ideate
The ideation phase is where you generate a wide range of ideas and potential solutions to the problem identified in the define phase. This involves brainstorming and exploring a variety of possibilities, without limiting yourself to practical considerations or constraints.
Let’s expand on this whole “remain remote” problem we defined in the last step. Maybe a potential focus in the ideation phase could be on building a stack of relationships with people that produce badass home office furniture and smart home tech to deck out your employees houses. You could even send your remote team some (high quality) branded swag so they can rep in their hometowns.
Build culture, but in the right way.
Step 4: Prototype
In the prototyping phase, you create a tangible representation of your ideas. This could be anything from a rough sketch or storyboard, to a physical or digital prototype. The purpose of prototyping is to test and refine your ideas based on feedback from your target users.
Which means… you guessed it… you’re going to half to talk to them again.
You should be starting to get the sense that there is no point throughout this human centered design process that we’re not, in some way, engaged with our user. The great thing about the modern day, is that you don’t have to send out letters in the mail and wait for responses – you can ask “would it be cool if your job supplied an office furniture allowance” on LinkedIn and have 20 people respond in an hour.
This comes in real handy in the next step.
Step 5: Test
The testing phase involves sharing your prototypes with your target users and gathering feedback. This can be done through user testing, surveys, or other feedback mechanisms. The purpose of testing is to validate your assumptions and ideas, and identify areas for improvement.
With the world of social media, newsletters, video streaming and virtual events – it’s easier now more than ever to rapidly and effectively test your solution and get feedback quickly. You just have to do your part in launching the tests, and being purposeful about asking questions on how to make things better.
Step 6: Implement
After testing and refining your prototype, it’s time to implement your solution. This may involve creating a final product or service, or making changes to an existing one. The implementation phase should be focused on collaboratively creating a solution with your community that addresses a need.
Having a community to assist in large scale implementations, like that of adopting a new Generation into the work force, is invaluable. When you have a positive culture and tight nit community, it shows.
More senior employees naturally feel an instinct to help the next group grow. They enjoy mentoring and helping others understand their part in the puzzle. Once this type of culture is established, it continues to grow and grow until it becomes an unspoken part of the culture.
Phew… glad we’re finally done.
On to the next step.
Step 7: Iterate
The human-centered design process is iterative, meaning that it should be repeated as needed to refine and improve your solution. Long story short, this is not a one-and-done process. Once you learn how to go through each of the steps of this process you should make it a goal to layer this type of thinking over your day to day life.
Start thinking about others when you make decisions during the day.
By constantly asking questions and iterating on your design, you can create a solution that continuously improves based on user needs and preferences over time. In short, as long as you keep asking for feedback and create culture open to innovation – you can create solutions that are truly centered around the needs of your users – not of your own.
Long story short, Gen-Z has reached the point where they are no longer “coming” into the workforce. They have arrived – full force. With projections saying Gen-Z will make up close to 30% of the workforce by 2025, starting the conversation with them now is critical.
Don’t let me say I told you so five years from now…
Cause I will.
Go get started.