Designing Better Jobs Through Human-Centered Design
Client: National Fund for Workforce Solutions, Gates Foundation
Washington Uniersity’s Social Policy Institute
Project Timeframe: 2020-2021
As a funder and field builder, National Fund for Workforce Solutions knew equitable workforce development was important, but they weren’t sure why it mattered to employers. They also didn’t know how to involve frontline employees in job quality issues that directly impacted them.
In 2019, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, National Fund invited DI, 12 employers, and 5 National Fund collaboratives to Workforce & Organizational Research Center (WORC) to design better jobs with frontline workers at the center. We used human-centered design to identify, develop, and test interventions that would improve job quality. Just like designing jobs can increase business, engaging employees to solve problems through human-centered design can improve jobs.
DI led employee teams from eight different organizations. Employees represented a variety of roles, levels, and sectors, including early childhood centers, senior care facilities, manufacturing, and food service.
Each employer set their own outcomes, identified their focus area, conducted research, identified opportunities, then developed prototypes to test their ideas. Some of the interventions to improve job quality included:
- Soft skill trainings
- Open forums
- Peer mentors
- New communication channels
DI conducted a comprehensive evaluation to understand this project’s impact. Through post-program surveys, qualitative interviews, and best-practice research, we found that engaging employees in a human-centered design process improved organizational commitment, individual performance, and engagement — key strategic business outcomes that suggest human-centered design is a worthy approach to making jobs better with workers at the center.
To capture what we learned and help build the field, National Fund and DI produced an Employer toolkit to
equip collaboratives and employers with the skills and steps to center frontline workers in job design processes
I have learned to step back more and allow others to find their way. Things don’t have to be perfect. [Now] we’re going to work together, not just me doing the work when others want to step up and take the reins.