Project overview: We were asked to look at the process and identify areas where managers and business owners struggle. We had to understand what is the point of friction and how we can provide a solution. We designed a digital platform that aims to enhance employee satisfaction. We worked on the brief for a course of six weeks, mentored by David Mikula and Miki Aso of Friends Studio, New York

Team members: Pedro Bare, Nadine Kabbara, Jump Cheng, Priya Narasimhan and myself.
My key responsibilities were looking after the design, prototype, user flow and conceptualisation. We all contributed equally to the and discovery phase.

This is a hypothetical brief given to us during my Masters in Interaction Design at Harbour.Space.

What do you mean by the ‘hiring process’ ?

When given a problem space that is as wide and as complicated as this one, it was important for us to take our time to truly understand what the term means and what all it entails. According to the Cambridge dictionary, ‘Hiring is the act of starting to employ someone’. This kind of gave us a stepping stone. So, we knew that hiring only starts when someone has been chosen i.e. shortlisted and selected to work at the organisation. Hiring begins when a candidate has been selected. We started doing more desk research to understand what exactly this process entails. Once, we started reading we started discovering that different organisations has different processes ranging from legal requirements to team building to understanding the rules and regulations of the organisation.

  1. Legal: new are asked to sign a bunch of legal documents to avail their compensation, health insurance and other benefits.
  2. Rules and regulations: new employees are usually given a briefing regarding the acceptable code of conduct at the organisation.
  3. Team building: new employees are introduced to their future team in either a formal or non formal setting.
  4. Training: new employees are usually given a trial period from one to three months where the organisation determines whether the candidate is the right fit for them or not.

Depending from organisation to industries these processes change but all of it sounded pretty boring. When we started doing interviews it was clear that these processes were the norm and no body enjoyed them but they were required. We started wondering, why do they do all this in first place? From one of our interviews we got an insight, it’s to ensure the employee doesn’t quit the organisation. We started discussing our own hiring stories and one of them really resonated with us.

The at a corporate job story

This is a story that most of us have heard or experienced ourselves.

Pedro’s hiring story. Illustrated by Priya.

This is when we started realising that the pain point lied in employees and not only in hiring them. We interviewed more people and found out that this story repeated itself multiple times. The typical user journey had 4 touchpoints.

  1. Getting hired. This is when the new employee is happy and excited about his/her new job.
  2. The honeymoon phase. This is the period from when the employee joins a new organisation to when he/she starts having trouble. During this phase the employee performs at a high level and gives good outcomes to the organisation.
  3. The crisis phase. A few months or few years in, the employee starts getting bored of doing the same task. He/she needs something that will boost their motivation. This is the phase where employers can prevent employees from quitting if they are proactive. Employees also need to feel safe expressing their concerns and what they would like in order to continue working.
  4. The break up. This is when the employee feels hopeless and eventually quits. Losing employees is a big loss for employers and organisations as they now have to spend money in trying to find a replacement and invest time into training the new employee.

This is not a new problem, right? Let’s look at the data.

Retaining employees and ensuring employee efficiency has been a subject of since the industrial age. First, let’s look at the definition.

Employee retention refers to the ability of an organization to retain its employees.

From our initial direction we tried to find some data on the subject. One of the key findings was an equation that simply stated:

Retention = motivation + satisfaction

Historically, there have been several famous studies that try to understand how organisations can keep employees motivated and hence remain with the company for longer.

Taylor’s theory of motivation

Frederick Taylor’s scientific management theory, also called the classical management theory, emphasizes efficiency. Taylor’s theory was well received at the time as it guaranteed high outcomes for the organisation but didn’t guarantee employee satisfaction. The tasks were divided into subtasks which were menial, causing workers to feel like part of an assembly line, rather than active participants. The key takeaways from his theory were:

  • Taylor broke each job down into specific tasks.
  • Taylor also believed that workers were motivated primarily by money.

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory of Motivation

Herzberg’s theory was that there are many factors, such as work hours and conditions, that motivate workers other than money. He also found that some factors, such as responsibility, achievement, a challenging work environment and personal growth, can make people happier at work but not necessarily motivate them.

Factors for Satisfaction

  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • The work itself
  • Responsibility
  • Advancement
  • Growth

Factors for Dissatisfaction

  • Company policies
  • Supervision
  • Relationship with supervisor and peers
  • Work conditions
  • Salary
  • Status
  • Security

These theories gave us insights but they were largely general and weren’t written keeping millennials in mind. There was little historical data regarding how to enhance employee satisfaction or happiness. By 2020, more than half of the world’s workforce will comprise of millennials and younger individuals. We needed to understand what motivates us and what ensures our commitment to organisations.

So what motivates millennials?

Quotes from our interviews

We thought the best way to understand this was to ask the people. We did a second round of interviews with friends, families and strangers to gain insight into what causes employees to quit and what ensures they stick around. We interviewed employers or managers, new employees and employees who has recently quit to get a holistic understanding of the problem space.

  1. Work/Life Balance
    Millennials like to mix work with play. They don’t associate working as an activity they need to do in order to live but rather they live to work. Having a good work/ life balance means having freedom to work from remote locations, having flexible hours, measure efficiency based on deliverables rather than hours spent in the office and significant vacations. Working is only enjoyable if it doesn’t feel like a burden.
  2. Recognition
    Almost everyone we spoke to said that they would like to be recognised for the work they put in but barely any of them said that they do. Extending recognition to employees motivates them to work harder. According to data 64% want to be recognized for accomplishments. However, 39% say their companies don’t give recognition or positive feedback at all. Lack of recognition leads to unhappiness and feelings of resentment.
  3. New Opportunities
    Millennials famously have a short attention span, they love to try new things and extend their knowledge base by applying themselves to new problems. This is also another reason why most of our interviewees said that they enjoyed working in smaller organisations as they could try different things. According to data, millennials work a lot more than their previous generations but this work isn’t limited to the time they spend doing their primary job. Many have two jobs or hobbies that they can eventually tap into for an income.
  4. Communication
    Millennials don’t feel comfortable not knowing what is happening in their organisation as they have grown up in the age where everything is communicated over social media. This behaviour extends to their workplace as well. Millennials prefer having a work culture that is less formal and more open in terms of communication. Smaller organisations have this culture but employees in large organisations say they feel disconnected to their workplace.

From this point on we decided to recollect our field research and desk research to gain some insights.

What did we learn?

Quotes / insights from interviews charted across various touchpoints
  1. Millennials like to be coddled — Mentorship allows employees to learn and grow while feeling supported. It was important that employees felt like they could go to someone in times of need. The mentorship also allowed them to grow while being guided by someone with higher authority.
  2. Money can’t buy them happiness — Money isn’t the only factor that ensures millennials stick to their organisation. This doesn’t mean that money isn’t important to them, it is not their primary motivator. As growing number of millennials start their own businesses and take more financial risks
  3. They like to voice their opinions — Employers need to create an environment where employees feel comfortable communicating openly. In the age of connectivity, it is important for millennials to feel connected to their workplace too. This connection is largely attributed by the amount of open communication and transparency within the organisation
  4. They need a sense of belonging — Millennials want to understand how they fit in with their jobs, teams, and companies. This also extends to their own perpetual self discovery in trying to understand what their ‘purpose’ is.
  5. People want structure but don’t want to be micromanaged — Nobody enjoys a boss that micromanages them. It may seem that this point contradicts 1 but it doesn’t. We like to have someone we can turn to in times of need but don’t like someone telling us what we should do.

These insights allowed us to frame how-might-we statements or opportunity statements.

  1. How can we help employers and employees develop empathy for each other to improve communication?
  2. How can we help bring purpose into focus?
  3. How might we provide employees career development plans that motivate them?
  4. How can we improve interpersonal relations at work that promotes healthy communication and improves employee satisfaction?

How can we make this ecosystem better?

We knew that there are multiple points of friction confirmed by the research but now we had to all agree on how we would envision this ecosystem.

What if employers find a way to harvest talent in a way that encourages employees to pursue their interests, goals and motivations while benefiting the organisation?

Keeping the user at the forefront of our design process, we first charted out all the needs of the user in the specific ecosystem.

Employee needs

From this point on, we had to decide on how do we envision this product. Would it be a digital platform? A physical installation? An interactive website? A physical manual? A designed service? 
Before we finalised on what it would be we decided to think about what should it do to give us the right answer.

What should it do?

Our challenge was to help employers have an enhanced hiring experience but we decided to rethink the brief by understanding through research that satisfied and motivated employees are more efficient and provide benefit to the organisation.

Ideal result or outcome from the platform

We thought about looking into the existing ecosystem of products, services and people to understand what works and what doesn’t. We started talking to people and looking at data online. During one of these conversations we heard about IBM’s enterprise social network: IBM connections. We were intrigued and starting looking into how this platform aimed to promote communication and collaboration within the organisation. Although, we weren’t impressed by IBM connections itself due to the platform’s availability to do too many things and not one thing clearly, we felt like we could do something better. We started to think about how we could solve user needs through a series of features and flows.

Flow to solve user needs

We were convinced that an Enterprise Social Network that is designed keeping the needs in mind could solve the existing problems. We started looking at other Enterprise Social Networks to see how can we distinguish ourselves and how can we effectively solve problems.

Detailed competitor analysis

Now that we knew what we were going to design, it was time to design the brand. We wanted a brand that symbolised connection and harmony.

We chose the name as to be “in cahoots” with someone is to be in an alliance or partnership.” We thought we could use this word in a playful manner and let our users know that the platform is all about promoting conversations and collaboration in a friendly, casual and yet formal setting.

How does a digital product solve a problem as old as time?

many problems, one solution: cahoot!

Basing our design with findings in what we found in research. We narrowed down on a few key features for the MVP (minimum viable product). These features were also selected keeping in mind our competitors and existing solutions.

Mentorship: There isn’t a platform that offers mentorship in a way that is voluntary and hassle free. A lot of time, mentors can be your friends who you don’t classify as mentors. We thought about taking a similar approach. What if you could learn from anybody and everybody was encouraged to learn and share knowledge. We wanted to create a platform that suggests you coworkers irrelevant to their hierarchy based on skills you would like to learn. Everyone in the organisation is encouraged to take part in this collective development.

Feedback & recognition: As designers, we thrive on constructive criticism to constantly improve ourselves and consider others’ opinions. While doing our research we realised that this culture doesn’t exist in other industries and generally at work places. Most employees said that they get feedback or inputs from their superiors every quarter or one the basis of projects. Today, most tech companies have diverse teams where people from various backgrounds and skill sets work together to achieve a common goal. These are environments where communication plays a key role in collective harmony and productivity. We believe that developing a culture where coworkers are encouraged to give and receive constructive criticism can improve communication and camaraderie. We wanted to digitise this process by asking coworkers to give each other feedback upon completion of a project or term. This feedback would then be visible to users to see what their coworkers have to say about them.

New opportunities: During our research it came to our notice that most employees in large organisations are unaware of what their company is doing at large. They were only aware of the projects that were concerned with them. This led to employees feeling disconnected to their organisations. We wanted to change this encouraging organisations to share what they are doing with their employees and allowing employees to take part in projects outside their scope if they found it interesting. This was also based on the growing trend in millennials to switch careers. If this switch is beneficial to the organisations its a win-win situation as employees have guidance and organisations don’t have to lose employees.

Guidance and motivation: This was one of the most difficult things to solve as it is difficult to convince people to help each other without the promise of personal gain. We thought a good way to solve many pain points would be by encouraging all employees to set aside an hour of their time every week to meet coworkers. We called it the ‘cahoot hour’ where employees could schedule an informal meeting with anyone in their organisation to learn from them, to teach each other, to guide each other or just talk about stuff that interests you.

Let’s look at the product

We decided to make it a mobile app, given to all employees in the organisation. The profiles would not be based on hierarchy but based on individual interests and field of work.


Onboarding: One of the most important touch point for a new employee was their first interaction with the organisation. We wanted to create on onboarding process that was friction-less. Every employee would be assigned a ‘buddy’ based on mutual interests, age, field of work who would help them get settled in the company.

Onboarding flow for a new employee

User Profile: We envision the product to create basic profiles for all users that allows them to start using the platform without putting in a lot of information. Once the user is familiar with the product, they can add their individual preferences, skills and what you’d like to learn. We consciously decided to exclude employee’s role but show what do they do.

Every employee has a set of skills, interests and learning

Home Feed: We wanted to let everyone know what is going on in their organisation and tailor this feed based on their individual profiles. Here users can view profiles of other coworkers who they could learn something from or who have mutual interests.

Home feed ft. events, articles and coworkers

Connecting coworkers: As mentioned earlier, we wanted to develop a culture where employees are encouraged to talk to each other and set aside time for learning, teaching and social interaction.

View coworker’s profile

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