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HSM Theatre - SHE Software presentation

09 April 2019

Think like a designer and start with the people

Health and safety practitioners are used to being called all sorts of things, but “designer” probably isn’t one of them. Yet that’s exactly what they are, according to Julian Taylor and Lauren Fraser of SHE Software, whose informative presentation opened the Health & Safety Matters theatre at the Health & Safety Event at the NEC this morning (9 April). 

Julian set the scene by describing how most practitioners have to deal with what he calls “organisational complexity”, i.e. the fact that many workplaces are spread across a number of sites, regions and even countries and that, in each of these, there are several divisions, departments and teams, and within each of these there many different types of people.

“The difficulty for health and safety practitioners,” he explained, “is how to connect to those people at the bottom. How to cut through all the noise and competing demands on their attention from other departments and functions, and build a relationship with those people so that they value health and safety.”

Another key consideration these days, he went on, is demographics: any workforce is likely to comprise Generation Xers and Yers, as well as millennials. “This now influences how we do safety,” claimed Julian. “We need to talk to these audiences in different ways, but we also need to be careful not to make assumptions – for example, that older people don’t like or engage with tech.”

He then handed over to Lauren, who is a user-experience (UX) designer with SHE Software. She believes health and safety practitioners can benefit from using design principles to solve complex problems. She elaborated: “Design thinking is about applying things with a designer’s mindset and working creatively and collaboratively. Taking a design approach will result in a better outcome, especially in terms of employee engagement.”

She then outlined the five steps of design thinking:

  1. Empathise: develop a deep understanding of all your stakeholders; get to the root reason for non-engagement – dig into the ‘why?’; base what you do on understanding rather than assumptions.
  2. Define: organise the information you’ve collected into “affinity diagrams”, which are a way of clustering results in order to identify patterns, from which you can then draw problem statements.
  3. Ideate: brainstorm and hold workshops to come up with ideas to address those problems and the core needs underneath them. Reframe them as “how might we…?” statements.
  4. Prototype: build an inexpensive, scaled-down version of your idea(s). This will help you figure out which ones are viable and which are not.
  5. Test: put your “how might we…?” hypotheses into practice and test the results. This will help you decide whether to pivot (change direction), iterate (keep going along the same track) or implement (go full steam ahead).

In addition, she offered seven tips based on best UX design practice: simplify as much as possible; make things relevant to your audience(s); build emotional connections; engage the senses; demonstrate value; reward positive behaviour; and create consistent experiences.

Julian summed it up thus: “Think of yourselves as health and safety designers – as powerful, active agents solving problems creatively, in ways that really reach out to and engage people.”