HomeMy WorkUser Research
I led, planned, and executed a user research program and created deliverables that summarize findings.
Image 1-2: Key research deliverables included 8 different journey maps (left) and at-a-glance guides (right), among other artifacts. A core part of my design strategy was to present findings in many formats, so that employees could learn about users in ways that suited their needs.
Project Description
I led, planned, and executed a year-long user research program and created deliverables that summarize findings.
About the Client
The client is Mercer, a top human resources consulting firm that is part of a Fortune 250 company.
How Problems Were Identified
Problems were identified based on changes in our user base, stakeholder feedback,  business needs, and our product roadmap.
This project took three months to execute. It took 4 weeks to interview globally representative users, 2 weeks to manually analyze results, 2 weeks to pull data and run surveys, and 4 weeks for design, review, publication, and promotion.
Figma, Indesign, Sketch, Invision, Zoom, Survey Monkey, Excel.
Raw research data, journey maps, personas, user profiles, presentation decks.
Image 3: The client for this project is Mercer, a top human resources consulting firm that is part of a Fortune 250 company. The image above shows their headquarters in Manhattan, NYC. Image Source: JLL / 1166.
Project Structure
My Role, Responsibilities, and Skills
I was in charge of the entire project; I wrote the brief, coordinated the team, conducted research, analyzed results, created deliverables, managed stakeholders, and presented findings to senior business leaders.
The Team
Michael Walker, Project Lead and User Researcher
Jen Scopaz, Project Coordinator
Mike Moore, Interview Assistant
Richard Fischer, Interview Assistant
Barb Fiorillo, Business Sponsor
Marybeth Hill, User Research Consultant
The Opportunity
Opportunity for Users
How might we better understand user needs in order to help them accomplish tasks?
Business Opportunity
How might we better understand and leverage data about employees in order to help them generate more revenue?
Process & Deliverables
1. Define Project
I wrote a project brief to align my team.
2. Align Stakeholders
I created a 54-slide deck to educate and inform stakeholders. I presented this deck to stakeholders and answered their questions about the overall research initiative.
3. Plan Interviews
I created an interview script to ensure that qualitative data collected from interviews aligned with project goals.
4. Identify and Prepare Interviewees
I handpicked 40+ participants from a screened list and emailed them a pre-work exercise to complete before the interview. I specifically chose participants that would represent all backgrounds and all parts of the business.
5. Conduct Interviews
I scheduled and facilitated interviews with the help of multiple note takers. I used an interview checklist to ensure that all project goals were met for each interview.
6. Analyze Interviews
After each interview I recorded findings, questions, and ideas for future research. I then sorted interview-specific insights into a custom interview findings spreadsheet.
7. Affinity Mapping
I manually sorted digital post-it notes to identify patterns in the research findings and form persona groups.
8. Survey Users to Check Affinity Mapping Findings
I wrote a branched survey in order to check qualitative findings against quantitative data.
9. Incorporate People Data
I worked with a data analyst to review people systems data and assign data-based attributes to personas.
Image 4: A draft "wireframe" for a journey map deliverable.
10. Draft Deliverables
I drafted the layout of deliverables such as journey maps, profiles, and at-a-glance guides. I used drafts to set stakeholder expectations and socialize the proposed format with the target audience.
11. Design Personas Images and Names to be Diverse and Inclusive
I worked with experts in Mercer's Diversity and Inclusion function to make sure personas were truly representative of our Mercer's base. This process included gathering broad colleague feedback on images and names, sourcing new brand images, and a requesting review from Mercer's racial and ethnic diversity business resource group global leads.
12. Design At-a-glance Persona Overviews
At-a-glance guides included key statistics about each persona taken from broad data about Mercer employees. Examples include the percentage of the overall user population each persona represented and the average tenure of each persona. Qualitative data such as top pain points is also included. The Overview was designed as a quick reference and as an asset that could easily be inserted into a presentation slide.
13. Design Journey Maps
Journey maps showcase a day in the life of each persona as they complete tasks that are essential to their role. These maps help contextualize pain points, issues, and unmet needs. They also indicate the range of emotions employees experience while completing tasks.
14. Design Detailed Persona Profiles
Persona profiles summarize all information about personas in a written format. They are for people who prefer to read long-form articles or for people who like to print files, mark up text, or write in the margins. They are also easier to open and read on the standard issue laptop available at Mercer.
Figure 5: While almost all of my interviews were virtual, I did have the chance to run an in-person stakeholder workshop. During this session I led global company leaders in exercises that required them to take the perspective of Mercer personas. This helped them internalize the research.
15. Socialize and Share Results
I created an internal site to host research and final deliverables. I presented research and final deliverables to senior stakeholders and colleagues. I also published information about my research process on my internal company blog.
“Research deliverables are very objective and show clearly defined places where someone can help”
Quote from a web developer who consulted research deliverables to better understand how their work could support user needs
Problems Solved
Problem 1: Understanding Context
Employee tasks and needs were recorded in existing research, but no contextual information was available.
Problem 2: Uncovering Driving Factors
Systems data about employees was available but failed to provide insight into motivation, emotion, or driving factors behind task completion.
Problem 3: Charting the Unknown
A new group of employees was added to the company. Needs, tasks, goals and issues for this group were unknown.
Image 6: I created 8 different journey maps to contextualize pain points, tasks, goals, motivating factors, and emotions for representative groups of Mercer employees. The journey map for a consultant is shown above.
Outcome 1: Understanding Context
Systems data about employees was available but failed to provide insight into motivation, emotion, or driving factors behind task completion.
I conducted 45-minute interviews with 40+ employees from around the world in order to understand what a day in their life is like. I used affinity mapping to identify patterns across interviews.
I created 8 journey maps that illustrate a day in the life of each employee persona. These maps contextualize tasks in order to reveal employee goals and core issues.
Image 7: I created many deliverables to help Mercer employees learn about users in ways that work best for them. For colleagues who preferred to work with printed documents I created exhaustive 11-page reports that contained all interview insights and data from my research. This was an important step in making the research accessible to all (e.g. people who have dyslexia or want to translate large portions of the text.)
Outcome 2: Uncovering Driving Factors
Systems data about employees was available but failed to provide insight into motivation, emotion, or driving factors behind task completion.
While conducting interviews I asked employees to share how they felt while completing tasks and why. I also collected direct quotes from employees.
I paired systems data with emotions and motivation findings in all project deliverables to paint a full picture of employee needs.
Image 8: I created 8 at-a-glance guides that combine key quantitative and qualitative insights. Mercer has a deck-focused culture and the deliverable is designed so that colleagues can easily use it in on a presentation slide.
Outcome 3: Charting the Unknown
A new group of employees was added to the company. Needs, tasks, goals and issues for this group were unknown.
I conducted interviews with employees from the new group, used affinity mapping to identify patterns, and checked for accuracy by using a survey.
New employees closely mirrored an existing persona group. In order to help readers understand how groups are represented in research findings I created at-a-glance guides for each employee persona that show population size and geographic distribution data.
“This research is excellent. I'll start using it with our executives... it's one way we can have a more client-centric approach to everything we do”
Quote from Mercer's Strategic Initiatives Leader to the CEO
Project Status
This project is complete. All deliverables are available for internal use at Mercer.
What I Learned
I further developed team and project coordination skills. I also learned how to work with Human Resources and diversity and inclusion experts to go above and beyond best practices for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
What I Would Do Differently
I started the research program by collecting qualitative data and then reviewed quantitative data. If I did this again I would have assessed all available quantitative data first and used qualitative studies to explore gaps in the data.
Next Steps
I am currently giving internal talks at Mercer about research findings, and using research to jumpstart new design initiatives. I am also thinking about how to update research to better reflect our post-COVID world.
Image and reference credits: Stock photos and brand elements used in this project belong to Mercer.