Retain Top Talent with Team-Based Design Principles

By Roy Maurer July 21, 2015

Innovation and modern design principles may be the key to developing the workplace culture Millennial employees are demanding, and may lead to winning talent acquisition and retention strategies, the authors of a new white paper concluded.

Writing for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s Science of HR series, the authors recommended using team-based collaborative design principles and strategies to deeply engage employees.

George Graen, retired professor from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Miriam Grace, senior technical design fellow at The Boeing Company, presented ideas that facilitate and institutionalize innovative behavior across employee populations.

“It follows that professional members of SHRM need to be prepared for more powerful talent-centric approaches as a part of emergent business strategies and to become very familiar with the attributes of workplace culture that appeal to those professionals—many of whom are Millennials—who can strengthen the innovative core of businesses,” Graen and Grace wrote.

Millennials Reject Traditional Career Paths

In a separate study from 2013, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) revealed a disconnect between the expectations of young workers and traditional business work cultures. “Millennials are being hired into critical organizational roles more every day, but they are resigning at a much more alarming rate compared with previous generations,” the authors of that study wrote. “This could be due, in part, to talent strategies that were designed for Baby Boomers, who had different priorities and different expectations of an employer.”

PwC found that employees younger than 30 years old were uninterested in traditional professional career paths and frequently left jobs before they reached their second year of employment. The study also found that more Millennials reject the lack of work/life balance accepted by Baby Boomers, seek more collaborative team-oriented work settings, and place greater importance on mutual trust, respect, support and positive feedback.

“HR professionals can redesign retention strategies to address this disconnect between Millennials’ work and their personal vision for their career and enable young employees to see an attractive path in their future,” Graen and Grace wrote.

A Collaborative Design Culture

The discipline of design, which instructs on the purposeful creation of things, and the methods and tools of design “have moved up the business value chain from enhancing the aesthetic appeal and style of products, to taking center stage in new-product development, and within the last decade, to proving its worth to corporate innovation initiatives,” the two authors wrote.

According to the authors, collaborative design principles in the talent management context include:

  • Valuing employees as much as customers.
  • Valuing workforce analytics as much as customer analytics.
  • Offering employees periodic changes in different aspects of their jobs throughout the course of their careers.
  • Continuously exploring new talent acquisition strategies to match changing workforce realities.

Team-Based Leadership-Sharing

The popularity of design as an innovation method is driving change in organizations and therefore deserves the attention of SHRM members, the authors wrote. The first step is forming an innovation design team focused on talent management.

Innovation teams are expected to encourage individual employee expression, a culture of peer collaboration and leadership-sharing. Leadership-sharing involves building partnerships of respect and trust with other team members who agree to exchange acts of leadership, according to the authors.

“In a sense, the innovation team culture is designed to become a safe haven to try new ideas and have fun in the process of experiential learning and helping the team succeed.” This is where HR comes in: “A transformation of teams into cultures attractive to Millennials may not happen without the proper intervention of HR professionals.” The authors explained that innovation teams need to be trained, coached, supported and recognized for their accomplishments by HR.

The authors cited research findings that team members who share leadership “most completely” achieve the most opportunities to tailor their personal contributions and rewards—opportunities most valued by the under-30 cohort. “This use of innovation teams may be a first step in modifying the culture of the entire organization to value employees as highly as customers,” the authors concluded.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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