Feb 03 2021

Designing for the Empty Chair (Webinar Synopsis)

“The global pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in 2020 and the pace of change will only continue in 2021 and beyond.”

by  Swechha Mohapatra, Principal Consultant - Digital HR, hrtech.sg

Why Employee Experience is gaining importance Post Covid?

The global pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in 2020 and the pace of change will only continue in 2021 and beyond. Business and particularly HR leaders have been represented as a great opportunity to reimagine and redesign processes and technology to deliver optimal solutions that engage their people and deliver high impact HR for their organisation. To achieve this, Human-centred design principles are central to delivering a great experience for your people as they navigate to a better normal. HR leaders are now realizing the importance and prioritizing the overarching employee experience that encompasses all the key “moments that matter” across the employee lifecycle– from being present and productive, to the values and culture of the organisation or how employees learn, advance, and grow in their careers.

The webinar “Designing for the Empty Chair” held on 29 Jan 2021, revolved around Employee Experience Design and its importance in designing a compelling EX strategy for HR Professionals. The session, jointly organised by hrtech.sg & IHRP, in association with Asia HRM, Human Resources & Finance Community, and Singapore Polytechnic focused on designing experiences from the perspective of the end-user to enable HR Professionals to keep “Employee First” by placing them at the centre while designing a compelling EX strategy.

The session aimed to provide multiple perspectives of Senior HR leaders, as they shared their experiences, and insights on delivering the ultimate people experience particularly on building user personas and how to apply these to map their journeys and develop scenarios that will help to evaluate, select, and deploy the right solutions.


Covid-19 accelerated companies’ digital communications strategy by an average of 6 years while 97% of enterprise decision-makers believe the pandemic sped up their company’s digital transformation. This was corroborated by the poll administered during the webinar where 20% of the respondents mentioned that they already had a Digital HR vision to fuel workforce design while 40% were working on it.

David Guazzarotto, Managing Director APAC, Leapgen, kicked off the session sharing the key components of the Leapgen Employee Experience Design Methodology:

What is Design Thinking and why is it important for HR?

Just as numerous consumer-facing processes and interactions have been retooled and simplified to provide a more satisfying customer experience, design thinking has been gaining popularity amongst HR as it finds itself in the front & centre of organisation transformations – which includes not only the technology but also the people.

Design Thinking is an iterative process which seeks to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding. Design Thinking revolves around a deep interest in developing an understanding of the people for whom we’re designing the products or services.

Design thinking is a creative problem-solving method that is centred around the end-user- HOW developing empathy is important while designing processes for the target user and also helps to understand WHY (purpose of the transformation or change) – as it is not only important to focus on the METHOD or the technology but also the MINDSET for a technology implementation or transformation to be truly successful.

David suggested that while embarking on this journey HR practitioners need to - move from being reactive to being proactive in understanding the needs of their people, provide humanization when we have traditionally focused on reducing what we consider high touch interactions to achieve digital transformation goals, and lastly to keep people at the centre we need to move from a state of hearing and sympathy to actively listen and empathize.

David shared the Leapgen Experience Design Methodology, which is broken into 3 PHASES - Learn, Innovate, and Deliver. These three phases further embody the principles of DESIGN THINKING- Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype & Test. David added that while design thinking models stop at the above at Leapgen the phases – Deliver, Deploy and Measure are equally important to Employee Experience Design.

The first step to Human-centred design – begins with putting the person at the centre of the picture and using Personas to define audiences and stakeholder groups.

Key benefits of the defining user persona include a greater understanding of the workforce, encourage empathy, uncover workforce needs / common frustrations, refine and improve experiences, anticipate future opportunities amongst others.

The next step in the design process is to consider the needs of individuals, groups, teams and organisations and how these intersect and ultimately map these on the employee journeys by building scenarios to identify the key “moments that matter”. This helps to understand the magnitude of differences & other critical aspects of HOW & WHERE we can improve the processes to scale those personas to achieve the required outcomes.

The above example represents the Onboarding scenario and the Journey map on the various stages a new employee goes through during the onboarding process.

Employee Experience - Putting the design principles into practice 

Daniel Chia, Head - HR, Samsung Electronics shared the HR Practitioner perspective and mentioned that the employee experience design journey has to be associated with the term “Hire to Retire”. He reiterated that the experience journey has to start right from the time the candidate is applying for the recruitment process to join the organisation and care should be taken to focus on every aspect of the experience from Hiring to Onboarding to L&D to Career Progression to Exit.

The Psychological Contract - Why does it matter? 

Prominent Academia Prof Jay Narayanan, Associate Professor (Management & Organisation), NUS Business School while sharing the HR & HRTech Academic Perspective focused on the organisational obligations as part of the psychological contract between the employee and the employer. He stressed on important aspects, which are usually missed by most organisations, such as the need for maintaining fairness in both processes & outcome; providing autonomy based on the individual needs; and effectively bridge “empathy gaps”.

Using Technology & Design Thinking to Enhance Employee Experience 

Frederik Skyggebjerg (Head of Solution Consulting APAC - Unit 4) shared the HRTech provider's perspective and spoke about the importance of a cloud-based platform to enhance employee experience. There is a 30% increase in demand in the services industry owing to the pandemic, he added. Having said all this, Frederik mentioned some key pointers that make Unit4 a unique platform:

  1. Unit4’s platform does fewer things as compared to competitor platforms. However, this enables them to become a more flexible platform that can be scaled according to the needs of the organization.
  2. Talent is the greatest asset an organisation can have, and hence Unit4’s platform focuses on attraction & retention of talent.
  3. There is an increased focus on Employee Engagement which makes Unit4’s platform the most modern ERP platform in the industry that focuses on HCM, Analytics, Finance among other areas.

Need to Prioritise HRTech adoption and Nurture the Ecosystem 

As a key member of the ecosystem Karina Kuok(Head of Professional Practices & Community, Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP)) shared the HR Policy Influencer Perspective said that through parallel research and surveys, they found 3 trends influence employee experience:

  1. Consumer Grade User Experience: The current workforce is tech-savvy, with access to some of the best technology at the tip of the finger. To ensure a seamless experience, it is necessary to upgrade internal software to consumer-grade level.
  2. Growing acceptance that work can be done from anywhere: A hybrid workforce is a future, with accelerated tech adoption in organisation and a work from anywhere anytime regime, employee experience becomes a key area of focus for all organisations.
  3. Increasing presumption that employers should care: It is expected out of all employers that they show care towards their employees thereby enhancing the employee experience. 

HRTech Investors and Vendors- Emerging Trends and Innovative Products 

Sharing his views as a HRTech Investor , Daniel Callaghan, Managing Partner, Workplace Accelerator spoke about Employee experience being forgotten despite the importance of the “employer brand” which has come to surface lately. He mentioned that “employee experience starts way before they are an employee” and shared some key pointers:

  1. There needs to be a focus on getting the hiring experience correct by making sure that the overall brand image is portrayed and you are getting across the messages that resonate with the community.
  2. Remember that every touchpoint with the candidate in the hiring process is an experience and we want to make it as seamless as possible.
  3. He also spoke about pre-employment verification and background screening being radically improved from being a manual process to an improved and automated process.
  4. Performance and Culture will no longer be supported by the physical environment.
  5. There is a rise in tech and solution with companies reinvesting their funds in employee engagement and development by mobile learning.

Taking action - How to Translate Design Outputs into Actionable Outcomes.

The panel reiterated the need for HR leaders need to get involved in creating a workforce experience that works for today’s new model of work and stressed the importance of a seamless digital experience of work by adopting a human-centred approach. When embarking upon a Digital Transformation journey- key success factors not only lie in the adoption of technology, but re-evaluating what transformation end-state looks like. A coordinated effort across HR, IT, and the Business teams is a necessity to deliver the seamless, rich experience needed now by many organizations.

Design Thinking must be leveraged in 2021 to create journeys and experiences that make it easier for the workforce to find and leverage information and tools, period. The time is NOW for designing for the workforce.


Watch the recording of the webinar

Webinar Q&A

If you want to receive a copy of the Presenter Slides & the Designing Thinking Infographics + Handouts, do reach out to info@hrtech.sg

Swechha Mohapatra (IHRP-CP, Associate CIPD) is a Principal Consultant – Digital HR at hrtech.sg and has over 7 years of global experience in various Talent functions. She is a passionate HRTech evangelist, a member of the member of the IHRP HRTech CoP Taskforce and an avid learner who is certified Six Sigma-Green Belt with a background of MBA (Specialization in HR and IT) and Master’s in Labor Laws and Labor Welfare. .


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