Why HR should care about goodwill

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So often are we confronted with HR processes and tools that just don’t seem to work for us. Why is that?

Lately, this reminded me of the book probably every UXer knows by heart: „Don’t make me think (revisited)“ from Steve Krug. One of the things explained in chapter 11, is called „Usability as common courtesy“ which makes it more human.

The assumption is that everyone has a certain portion of goodwill reserved when using a software or service. That goodwill makes them resistant to roadblocks or errors in the user journey. At some point this goodwill is spent, and people get frustrated, angry and stop using the process.

Sounds familiar? Because this is not only related to products, but also when we talk about UX in HR processes!

Some things to note about the goodwill reservoir:

  • It’s Idiosyncratic  – peoples reservoirs vary in strength and size
  • It’s Situational  – if you are in a hurry, you have less patience
  • It’s Refillable – if you balance out mistakes, it fills itself up
  • Most worryingly: It’s sometimes very easy to empty

The book provides a great overview how to not treat the reservoir: So here are the 4 biggest killers for all the goodwill and 5 ways to resolve it:  We’ve recently overhauled our internal employee satisfaction survey and used the principles of UX to get more out of it and a bigger buy in. I’ll use this as an easy example of the goodwill framework.

  1. Hiding Information that I want

Your employee usually looks for specific help or information when they get in contact with HR. This goes from hiring a new colleague to asking for how many days of holiday they have left. In case of the survey, this meant, we had to ask ourselves two things: 1. what it is that people expect from a survey and 2. how can we make the flow through it as easy as possible.

  1. Punishing me for not doing things your way

This is one of the cardinal sins, when it comes to interaction with users. Someone on the product or marketing level decided what ought to be the best way to go about things. Usually HR processes tend to be a bit like that because of all the different work regulations in place. But whenever you can, make life easy and don’t punish people for doing something wrong. In our example case, try and find out how people actually want to do things while going through a survey.

  1. Shucking and jiving me

People can sniff out insincerity these days. Especially when you go at them with „your thoughts are really important to us“ etc. Unfortunately, when designing a survey, this is what you want to convey, alongside the important „this is really completely anonymous“. Writing this in the beginning of the survey wasn’t going to cut it. But by involving the company early on we could circumvent that. We had a big town hall meeting before the survey to go through the critical points and specifically tell everybody why we are doing the survey.

  1. Your work looks amateurish

This essentially a way of asking – why do you expect me to care for what you want to do when you don’t seem to care for it yourself? Make no mistake, employees will always see through half-hearted attempts to please or schmooze them and this will turn them away from your initiative. Thinking back to our example, this really means you should show compassion towards the survey and have clear goals in mind what to do with the results.

This sure sounds like a lot of traps to avoid to make a good process. But as usual, where there are things that diminish goodwill, there are some that will increase it!

So here are 5 steps for increasing goodwill:

  1. Making the main things people want to accomplish obvious and easy

This is very straightforward and yet so often, the result tends to be something convoluted and difficult to use. Every user of your project should know at once how to access the core functionalities and do the desired action. If they feel like every interaction happens organically, they are less likely to quit.

  1. Save me steps wherever you can

People are always busy and helping them accomplish their goals faster is one of the best things you can do to increase goodwill again. So next time designing a service, try and be more focused on how to save people the extra second when you ask them to fill in something for you.

  1. Know what questions I’m likely to have and answer them

This goes a long mile in terms of personalized employee experience. The more the process looks tailored to the individual, the more likely is the person to interact with the request. When we designed a survey, we’ve run it by a test-group and noted down the questions the testers had and either altered the process or added additional information to the question itself.

  1. Make it easier to recover from errors

Let’s face it, no process or tool is perfect, neither on the user- nor the backend. A well designed experience will take care for the unexpected and the failures alike, making it easier for the user to get back to the right track again. In designing a survey, this meant giving people to possibility to move through the survey back and forth and alter or skip answers.

  1. When in doubt, apologize

Don’t forget we are all human in this and to make a human experience, we have to acknowledge our own failures, or shortcomings in processes because of resource or other constraints. If you are open about it, people will not lose goodwill about it so easily.

Takeaway: we need more common sense!

I know, a lot of these points sound like common sense and this applies to many things that are mentioned in the „Don’t make me think“ book. But then again, how often are we stuck in process and ask ourselves: „Why is that so frustrating?“ or „Why do they reject my tool?“. I hope, by thinking of goodwill, we can make everybody’s life a bit easier.

tl;dr: Everyone only has so much patience until they are getting frustrated with your service, so make sure to build human HR processes!


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