Recognize the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Creating the Best Onboarding Experience for Awardco’s Product Department
Role: Lead UX Designer/Researcher
May 2022 — October 2022
Starting a new job can be scary. It feels like there is so much to learn and so many people to get to know. There are processes that are unfamiliar, and workflows you aren’t used to yet. Onboarding is a key part of the experience and it sets the tone for the rest of your time at a company. If done purposefully, it can provide the right context needed to be successful and help you thrive in any position.
Awardco is an Employee Recognition platform. They strive to “Recognize the Good” in their employees and make them feel appreciated and valued.
When I started at Awardco in May of 2022, I was fresh out of college and eager to get my hands dirty with a new UX Design Project. Before accepting my role there, I met with the Head of Product, Dillon Winspear, over the course of a few months to discuss some problems they were seeing arise, and to see if I could help design some solutions.
We talked about the problems that had come out of scaling the company with hundreds of new employees in such a short amount of time. He had started to notice things getting roadblocked and wondered what could be done to ease these growing pains for new employees.
So, what was the real problem?
There were many questions and I needed more context. I asked myself:
“Was it possible these problems were occurring because there was a lack of context and resources at the very beginning?”
“Can we create a better onboarding experience for new employees that empowers them and provides them with all the necessary resources to be successful?”
I knew I would be leading this project on my own with the help of Dillon, and occasional feedback from the other UX designers. From the beginning of my own onboarding process, I was taking notes. While I listened to welcome presentations, and spent time exploring the platform, I began to think:
“What would be most helpful for me right now?”
“What do I wish I knew already about working here?”
“How can I better get to know my coworkers when I am not a part of a cross-functional team?”
Asking these questions was a crucial step for me, as doing so provided me with an initial understanding of the larger problems in the onboarding process at Awardco, and enabled me to begin my research.
With these questions fresh on my mind, an empathy map seemed the perfect place to start. I was able to identify with the thoughts and feelings of being a new hire, because I was one. I mapped out my thoughts and concerns, pain points, and what I was wanting to gain in this process.
I knew I had these thoughts, but did others feel the same when they were new hires? Is it frustrating for managers when new hires lack understanding? I needed to perform some research to validate these assumptions. After bringing my map to Dillon and discussing my next move, I created and sent out a Qualtrics survey to all recent hires and leadership in the Product Department. With this survey my focus was to collect feedback on all of my burning questions from all relevant parties so I could examine these responses from all angles.
Once the answers started rolling in, I noticed some common concerns among new hires:
- Not everyone had previous experience with cross-functional teams
- Developers did not get the same platform trainings as those in customer support roles
- There were many different and new processes to learn within the teams
At this point, I felt I had enough context to start building an outline for an introductory course. The platform I was going to use to build these courses was “Rise”, an online and interactive training system for employees, because this was the platform already in use for new hire training at Awardco.
The Introduction course would cover all the leaders in our product department, explain cross-functional teams, and Product Objectives at Awardco.
Starting with the leadership, I messaged and met with all the department leadership to gather their job descriptions and raise awareness about my project. I received a 100% response rate with each person I reached out to. With all my communications, I always began by introducing myself and establishing context. I let each person know about the project I was working on, and how I believed their input could add value to the project, and ultimately all new hires.
With time, I became more familiar with Rise, and discovered ways I could make this course interactive without being too overwhelming. I wanted to create other resources for new hires that could be accessible outside of the Rise platform. I figured an article in the corporate wiki that could be linked and bookmarked would be just the ticket! It was also a way that information could be easily maintained and updated in the future as needed.
I wanted to make sure I was matching the Awardco voice and that it all felt consistent to the other courses and presentations that were given during onboarding. I reached out to marketing for help in utilizing these designs. This resulted in the marketing department and design department coming together and creating a shared drive where these files and assets could be accessed by all who needed them. It was a great step in building a bridge between teams to accomplish brand consistency everywhere in the department.
With the research portion completed and the courses beginning to come together, I started to realize what I was really getting myself into. Trying to get feedback and responses from multiple people was a waiting game that had taken months. I started to get worried that maybe my dreams of developing all of these courses within the given timeframe might not be as realistic as I thought. During a one-on-one meeting with my supervisor, I expressed my concerns. Maybe I was in over my head. Establishing those lines of communication and compiling responses from people takes time. I had to adjust my timeline. What could be the MVP here? What would be the most valuable courses for new hires if we had to narrow it down to just three?
It was time to really determine the best course of action. After collaborating with Dillon, we collectively narrowed it down to 3 courses:
- Introduction to Product
- Workflows and Process: Discovery
- Workflows and Processes: Delivery
I wanted to provide knowledge and context for everyone in the product department; not just designers, and not just engineers. I felt it was valuable for everyone to be aware of all the working parts and what was taking place within meetings, so we could truly feel like a team with a shared end goal: having an efficient and usable product that creates value through making employees feel appreciated.
With a new course of action and solidified plan, it was back to work. I had new goals and even less time than I had started with. I began structuring out what the other two courses would look like. I was pretty familiar with what Rise had to offer at this point, so it was just a matter of making sure I had complete and accurate information.
I collaborated with Dillon and other Product Leaders to establish a solid discovery process that covered all the bases and went through everything from scoping to the delivery hand-off. I customized my own doodles and matched the course content to the Awardco voice through using the brand playbook and working with the marketing team.
At this point, I was also communicating frequently with the Head of Engineering and back-end developers to make sure the content was sufficient. I set up a meeting with stakeholders and engineers to establish what the delivery process looked like. It was interesting to see them collaborate and decide on what information was important and needed, and what was up for interpretation.
Based on the feedback from this meeting, I created an infographic that broke down the delivery process step-by-step and could be understood by those who were not engineers.
Throughout the process I had received lots of feedback from Dillon, fellow designers, new engineers, and stakeholders.
With just a few weeks left, I was in the final stretch. I had validated the findings in my research, and curated beautiful courses filled with custom doodles and interactive elements. I had met with stakeholders and solidified the delivery and discovery workflow processes.
The courses were ready to be published.
Within the first week of publishing, there were new hires who completed all of the new courses.
The feedback was overwhelmingly positive! It seemed that a lot of issues could be resolved by just providing more context and creating assets that could be accessed whenever needed. I learned so much about the discovery and delivery processes, how cross-functional teams operate and what makes them effective. I learned how to communicate with stakeholders and implement feedback in order to create a cohesive and valuable experience that can be easily maintained and updated.
This experience has given me such a unique perspective and insight into how product departments work together and how teams can rely on one another to continually improve their processes and workflows. Being able to take a step back and re-evaluate at each point in the process really allowed me to keep the end user in mind and make sure, even with all the roadblocks, that we were going to provide the right solutions for new hires to be successful. There were good times, bad times, and ugly times. Learning how to be self-sufficient and know when and how to ask for help can be very daunting, but I was able to approach these tasks head-on, and with confidence, thanks to my incredible supervisor Dillon and all of the amazing designers at Awardco. I have learned so much from each one of them and I am grateful to now have these new insights and skills. As I explore more UX opportunities, I can’t wait to keep getting my hands dirty.
Please reach out if you want to know more about my courses and experiences: email@example.com