Design Thinking in HR: Solving Business Pains with Innovative Solutions

with Arkesh Mishra, Head of People at Walmart US Tech


Interview by CT Leong, Host of the HR Impact Show podcast.

Interview Key Takeaways

  • Embrace design thinking in HR for creative problem-solving.

  • Engage stakeholders in developing solutions that resonate with their needs.

  • Experiment with new ideas and iterate based on feedback.

  • Leverage technology in combination with design thinking to enhance HR systems.

In this episode, CT Leong interviews Arkesh Mishra, about the transformative role of design thinking in HR. Arkesh discusses his experience in crafting a capability framework at Walmart, showcasing how design thinking is pivotal in evolving HR practices. This approach has become foundational in talent-related decisions, signifying a major shift in how HR operates within the organization.


He explains how this framework has improved clarity in job descriptions, enabled targeted learning and development, and created a more transparent and objective promotion process. Arkesh also discusses the role of technology in streamlining these processes and shares his moonshot goal of infusing AI into talent management.


Design Thinking and Capability Frameworks

Arkesh takes pride in the capability framework developed at Walmart, heavily influenced by design thinking principles. "Our journey began with the aim to define a comprehensive set of capabilities. Design thinking guided us to balance functional, technical, and behavioral aspects effectively," he shares.


This framework mirrors design thinking’s user-centric approach, focusing on empathy and iterative problem-solving to tailor HR processes to the real needs of the workforce.


The Essence of a Common Denominator in HR

The Walmart capability framework, developed through design thinking, acts as a universal standard across their talent management system. "Design thinking helped us articulate what roles like software engineers entail at various levels. This common language has streamlined our understanding of career progression and skill requirements," Arkesh explains.


This approach fosters a more cohesive and transparent HR strategy, aligning individual roles with organizational goals.


Redesigning Promotion Processes

Arkesh discusses the transformation of Walmart’s promotion processes, a direct result of applying design thinking. "We reenvisioned our promotion process to be more transparent and fair. By empathizing with our associates, we were able to create a system that truly understands and supports their career development," he elaborates. This shift highlights how design thinking can bring a more human-centric and equitable approach to HR practices.


Technology's Role in HR

Arkesh emphasizes the significant role of technology, enhanced by design thinking, in streamlining HR processes.

Arkesh shares the evolution of their promotion process, stating, "When we started the process, we started with Excel Sheets. It was painful for everybody involved in the process, managers, people partners, and so on. So we said, this is not a sustainable nor a scalable model."

To address this challenge, Walmart leveraged technology to streamline its promotion process. They initially used Microsoft PowerApps, a no-code platform, to create digital workflows. However, they soon realized that the platform was not built for the scale they required. Arkesh explains, "That's where we again leveraged technology and brought in-house software developers to build it out on a more permanent platform. This platform has amazing UX, seamless usage, and the feedback is amazing from managers and people partners alike."

This reflects how design thinking can drive the selection and implementation of technological tools in HR, making them more adaptive and efficient.


Design Thinking to Workforce Development

Further elaborating, Arkesh discusses how design thinking extends to broader workforce development initiatives. "We've applied design thinking to identify skill gaps, create tailored learning programs, and anticipate future workforce needs. This approach ensures our training and development initiatives are not just comprehensive but also highly relevant and impactful," he states. Here, design thinking becomes a tool for foresight and innovation in workforce planning.


Robust Promotion Process Through Design Thinking

Arkesh describes how design thinking revolutionized their promotion methodology. "We crafted a promotion system that truly understands what each role entails and what our associates need to succeed. This clarity and alignment are outcomes of our commitment to design thinking," he adds. This example demonstrates how HR processes, when reimagined through design thinking, can become more transparent, fair, and effective.


Future of HR: AI, Design Thinking, and Beyond

Arkesh shares his vision for the future of HR, emphasizing the synergy of AI and design thinking. "Integrating AI into our talent management systems through a design thinking lens opens new possibilities for innovation and efficiency.


This combination will redefine how we approach HR in the future," he predicts. This outlook underscores the potential for emerging technologies to be harnessed effectively through design thinking methodologies.


Conclusion and Future Outlook

Arkesh Mishra’s experiences at Walmart underscore the significant impact of incorporating design thinking in HR. This approach not only refines current practices but also sets a path for future innovations in talent management. 

Looking ahead, the next frontier lies in the infusion of artificial intelligence (AI). Arkesh envisions AI being used to redefine job definitions and capabilities, as well as to transform the way organizations work. As technology continues to advance, HR leaders must stay agile and adapt their talent management systems to leverage the full potential of AI and other emerging technologies.


As HR continues to evolve, the integration of design thinking, coupled with advancements in AI and technology, will be key to building dynamic, responsive, and people-centric HR strategies.


"The most important thing is if we were to pick a problem, that problem truly resonates with the most pains that the business wants to address."

Arkesh Mishra



Note: Based on a conversation with Arkesh Mishra on the HR Impact Show, this article delves into how design thinking can revolutionize HR practices, particularly in the realms of talent management and capability development. All quotes are verbatim from the transcript of the conversation.



Arkesh Mishra

Head of People at Walmart US Tech


LP-articlefeature-template (6)


Arkesh Mishra is the Head of People for Walmart U.S. Tech, overseeing people strategies for over 13,000 tech associates globally. He focuses on boosting developer productivity, enhancing AI skills in tech talent, and optimizing organizational efficiency. Arkesh’s work is dedicated to fostering an inclusive environment that promotes talent growth and leadership development.

With a rich background in Organization Design, Talent Architecture, and People Strategy at Walmart, as well as consultancy roles at Aon Hewitt and Gallup, he is passionate about shaping organizational culture and using AI for talent advancement. His leadership is marked by innovation and strategic thinking in the HR and tech fields.

Connect with Arkesh on LinkedIn



HR Impact Community


Join us at HR Impact, to learn and connect with a community of HR leaders just like you. This is the space where top people leaders share actionable insights and practical playbooks in fostering a high-performing workplace of the future.

Sign up as a member today for community updates on the latest HR resources and exclusive event invites!

💌 Become an HR Impact member today

Get inspired and connect with HR experts from