How to Take a ‘Human-Centered’ Approach to Business

by Laura Belyea, COO at Talivest

When you’re in an employee-facing role, be it as a manger, HR professional, CEO, or otherwise, it’s important to have a degree of empathy and compassion.

Also known as taking a ‘human-centered’ approach, this mindset involves putting people at the heart of a business. It extends from customers through to suppliers and employees.

In doing so, the aim is to be a more intuitive, responsive, and forward-thinking organisation. This can impact productivity, turnover, employee retention, brand loyalty, and many other areas. It’s no wonder that a human-centered approach to problem solving is becoming more widespread.

In this article we’ll look at how businesses can adopt a more human-centric approach through ‘Design Thinking’, even in these uncharted times we find ourselves in.

Identifying stakeholders

But first, before we can delve deeper, it’s worth understanding who your stakeholders are. These are integral to a company culture and DNA.

Typically, these might include:

  • Employees, including new starters
  • Customers
  • Suppliers and clients
  • Business partners
  • Shareholders
  • Unions and third parties
  • Agencies, freelancers and consultants

An introduction to Design Thinking

When thinking of a human-centric approach to business, Design Thinking is a concept widely used. It has been adopted by major brands from Google to GE with great success.

From onboarding best practice, to customer service policies, it involves empathy and understanding at every stage.

While there are different variations of the strategy, it typically tends to have five core elements to it. And whether you’re dealing with IT teams, hiring managers, or new employees that are onboarding, these core principles can be widely used and adopted for business success. Let’s take a look at them:

Exercising empathy

At the first stage, Design Thinking invites you to empathise with your end user, or audience.

We prefer to call these stakeholders’, which we identified earlier. If there’s a problem to overcome, putting yourself into the users shoes is a great place to start, since it’s about understanding issues from other perspectives. This is key to a human-centered approach to problem solving of any kind.

Defining needs, problems, insights

The next stage is identifying the problem, calling upon your previous observations to guide you. For instance, virtual onboarding may be a challenge in the current climate, or lack of face-to-face interaction with colleagues.

Once you can define and understand the issue, you will be better equipped to tackle it.


Empowering creativity is a key principle of a human-centric approach, and it should involve all team members as part of the process. Creativity is at the heart of coming up with new ideas to tackle existing problems, and is everyone’s responsibility to contribute to.

Using diversity across teams will only benefit  this, helping to shape and form new ideas that continue to bring new ways of working together.


Much like testing a prototype, this is the point where teams test their ideas together. Once again, calling upon an empathetic approach, it’s useful to think about how real users would respond to the solution being proposed.


The final stage in the human-centered approach to problem solving is testing. This isn’t just putting your idea to market and sitting back, but it’s the continual observation and invitation for feedback, to grow and improve with your users.


By putting people at the centre of your business, you can better understand their viewpoint and exercise empathy in responding to their daily challenges. In terms of employee engagement, this should be part of every touchpoint, from onboarding best practice through the long life-cycle of an employee. Organisations that value this approach, will continue to push boundaries and stay ahead of the competition.

About the author

Laura’s role is to successfully support the growth and strategy for Talivest, as well as provide product support with her expertise within the HR industry. Previously posts were director of HR & operations in Telefonica, Elizabeth Arden and ICON