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Addressing the problem of employee retention via weekly surveys called check-ins.

My role: Product designer, and branding advisor.

The tools used: Sketch, Adobe CS, and Invision.

The team: PeopleSpark's CEO, one front-end engineer, two back-end engineers, one sales person, and one product designer (me).

Date: April 2015 - March 2016


The challenge
An overwhelming amount of data is proof that employee retention is today one of the biggest concerns for startups and large corporations a-like. It is expected that by 2020 the turnover rate is projected to increase from 20.6% to 23.4% (source: The Hay Group).

The solution
Foster and measure employee happiness, by designing an app focused around the strong correlation between consistent employee and manager conversations and employee retention. 

More specifically, gauging employee happiness through quantifiable data produced via weekly or bi-weekly "check-in" forms vs one big the annual performance review with HR.


After discussing the challenges in detail directly with PeopleSpark’s CEO, engineering, and sales, it was clear that my role would be pivotal and involve not only all phases of product design (from research, prototypes, testing, and final deliverables) for the desktop app, but also involve responsive web design work and branding.

Our goal was to get a fully coded MVP in three months, then test, iterate and continue improving the product’s offering, and in 6 to 8 months have a fully developed and polished version, tested and ready for the market (with a responsive website and branding to go with it!).

Jordi Romero’s MVP and Nikkel Blaase’s product thinking framework. were important reference points as a product strategy to hit the market asap.

jordi romero mvp.png

After a clear understanding of the problem and what we’re trying to build as a team, I was ready to embark on the research phase.


From a managers perspective:

  • Determine what specific pain points that create a disconnect with current employees and how to develop a delightful and simple survey experience

  • Identify what meaningful information (data) to collect from employees and when to collect it, that could foster retention


From an employee’s perspective:

  • Determine what specific pain points that create a disconnect with managers and how to develop a delightful and simple survey experience

  • Understand what’s the right way to create an experience that contributes to happiness and engagement vs just creating "another thing to do"


Hypothesis, Method, Conduct & Synthesis

In our hypothesis we believed that we needed more frequent and open channels of communication vs a yearly sit down with HR, but found out in the end that it was not just the frequency but the type of questions that needed to be asked. For example, we found out that a bank of questions for a quick and easy on-boarding, along with the ability to customize questions your own was critical. 

The method of user research I performed was via surveys and contextual interviews by presenting the user with a traditional yearly performance HR form and a few very early screens about what the tool might look like.

In the conduct phase, I understood that we were discovering insights and it was not just information that we already knew, so in our synthesis I was able to prove but refine our hypothesis as mentioned.

Competitive Analysis

After running a competitive analysis, I understood that there were currently other tools in the market offering similar solutions, giving us a strong opportunity to capitalize a still under developed area of the Human Resources digital space(employee happiness and retention), by creating a more customizable tool, with a stronger brand, and a delightfully yet simple user experience that doesn’t feel like another thing to do.


Additional Details on Customer Interviews (via Surveys and Contextual Interviews)

I interviewed 9 people between the ages of 22 and 44, which were mostly female. Half of the interviewees heard of some of the competition, allowing me to gather additional insightful information.
Key findings:

  • The employee participants want an app that integrates well with Slack, offers a simple and user friendly solution. They also voiced wanting anonymity in fear of repercussions when being too honest. A mobile app as most of their check ins happen during Friday, when they’re mostly on the go.

  • The HR participants want a tool that can integrate with other popular HR software such as Bamboo HR. 

  • Executives and CEO participants couldn’t emphasize enough the importance of an app that can create comprehensive and user friendly data from each submitted form to measure trends and quantify employee happiness.


Once the research was completed, and there was enough information to go by, it was time to build a persona or personas to refer to, as a guiding point thru each evolving sprint and release.
Persona Building
Based on the research results it was clear that the motivations to use the app where different amongst users. The primary persona being the employee, and the secondary being the HR personnel. For the first release, the core focus was with the employee, while keeping in mind a great experience for HR as well. 
Primary Persona
Raul Dominguez - Software engineer
Secondary Persona
​Holly Arquette - HR director


In addition to building the persona(s), a framework to empathize, and a storyboard to navigating through Holly’s day to day experiences and challenges were created.

A Framework to Empathize

After gathering insightful information via market research and customer insights, it was time to emphasis the primary persona’s needs as a basis for design opportunities via Framework POV (point of view).


“Holly is a 44 year old mother of two and head of HR at her company. She loves to watch the morning news, and always gets on time to work. She needs to assist in helping upper management create more honest and seamless channels of communication between managers and employees because the turnover at her company continues to rise.”


Communicating user and business needs to stakeholders
At this stage a good understanding on what needs to be designed after thorough research and planning happens, via user flows, task flows, and a strong sense of customer goals. These can sometimes help communicate user and business needs clearly to stakeholders and make it easier for proposed features to be developed.


Customer goals: What do customers really care about?
Establishing customer goals from the get go is an essential point in the product design process. These goals have been identified by narrowing down on primary research findings earlier on.

  1. Build a world-class employee retention app built around comprehensive data with the ability to quantify happiness over time.

  2. Allow user control and flexibility thru empathic UX/UI design as well as via key app features such as anonymity, custom survey questions, frequency and more.

  3. Integrate well with other common tools and HR tools such as Slack and Bamboo HR.

  4. Offer a mobile solution for answering questions late in the week and on the go.


User Flow: On boarding
Product Design

Task Flow: Creating a Check-In


Sketch Design
Before prototyping, and once having formulated ideas based on research, sketching those ideas out on paper is always a critical step, and serves as a conduit for building better low fidelity prototypes.


Low Fidelity Prototypes

Prototyping... a crucial step in the Lean UX process. Low fidelity prototypes help us present to the team and to  3-5 participants so we can validate our ideas, and iterate upon feedback. 


Brand Guide and UI Kit

As time went on through each sprint and the product design process was coming along, I simultaneously collaborated as time permitted with the creative agency Fuzzco and PeopleSpark’s CEO to discuss concepts, colors, and typographical treatment for PeopleSpark while presenting ideas of my own as well. Designs for a UI Kit are developed at this stage, and again as time allows contacting 3 to 5 potential users to see how they might also imagine PeopleSpark’s identity and UI elements can add value.

Designs by Fuzzco

High fidelity prototypes (mobile)
Below, designs for PeopleSpark's mobile app for employees who prefer to complete their "Check-ins" on the go.

mobile ps.jpeg

High fidelity prototypes (desktop)
With good brand guidelines a validated low fidelity prototypes, the next step is to create high fidelity static screens and interactive prototypes thru a combination of Sketch, Adobe CC, and Invision. For any micro-interaction prototypes, I typically use Principle. Below a quick look at the hi-fi static screens.


Guerrilla Usability Testing

Test Objectives

  1. How easy is it to create a Check-in.

  2. Test the overall flow and general user behaviour inside the app.

  3. Identify if it’s simple and time efficient to on-board a new user.

Test Subject

High Fidelity Interactive Prototypes for PeopleSpark (Desktop)


In this case, only remote testing was performed, where I had sent the Invision prototype link to participants, along with instructions and objectives. This can also be performed in person with the same set of instructions and objectives, while observing and asking for feedback.


Number of participants: 6-10

The age demographic, personality, and age demographics to be tested were based off our initial personas, and the recruiting plan was to re-connect with employees, executives, and HR personnel to gather insights we were in touch with from the beginning. 

Results (success metrics)
Overall, the product resonated well with the participants, which is typically a good reflection of thorough low fidelity testing. The final designs were handed off to the developers, where we worked side by side to translate the designs to code and suggest fixes on minor interactive imperfections and UI design.

Responsive Web Design (bonus)

In addition to working on PeopleSpark's product, and contributing on branding, I was tasked with designing PeopleSpark's responsive website design. Below are some images from those designs.

Web Design
res 2.jpeg
des 3.jpeg
des 4.jpg
res 1.jpg


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