This article is a review of an individual study project. The time to complete the project was only two weeks (part-time without a team). I delivered a interactive prototype of an MVP. It was a new web-platform designed for Human Resources.
During all the recent studies projects I have a concern with time. Because I used to plan the sprints during I worked as a Product Owner. Also because I knew that if I can improve my time management, I can go further in designs and take care of the details we usually couldn’t. Time seems never enough. But compare with the other recent studies projects, this one was really generous. Also, I developed it from scratch, with the sole need of being a desktop app, with all the freedoms. I realized that I had the time and freedom to do whatever I want. I saw in this project an opportunity to design interactions(IxD) inside the two weeks sprint, without neglecting any stages of Design Thinking.
The two final prototypes
I developed a new software as a service for Human Resources to use in Small and medium companies. A web platform to publish the benefits of a company, get feedback and encourage their employees to request what they need or want. I named the app “Bene-fits.io”, an app to manage perks and rewards that fit with your Start-up. The MVP had two dashboards depending on the role of the user in the company. One for H.R. managers or C.E.O., and another for the employees.
In an imaginary scenario, there is a 3-year SME enterprise that sells online sustainable clothe name it Chennai. They don’t have an HR manager, her C.E.O., Valentina, takes charge personally. Claudia is employed, and she has her opinion about the benefits she receives. (read more about the Personas creation on Appendix -1-).
I delivered the two prototypes made in Principle, so the testers can interact with it like it was a real product.
How Claudia interact with “Benefitsio” app
The employee can access a subdomain created for the company she works. In this example, Claudia access to the URL Chennai.bene-fits.io. There she has a dashboard where can see all current perks and rewards.
If she wants to get one of the benefits, she can see the information in a list for each benefit. The list has a step by step instruction to obtain it, with text and links to slack channels. (The page can be integrated with the slack of the startup!)
If she doesn’t feel comfortable with a benefit she can complain about it. She can rank it with emotions, and send an optional review. By default, these reviews are anonymous so the employees feel free to express what they think.
From a button in the dashboard, Claudia can suggest a benefit to be included. If she wants to recommend a determined company she can add a link with more information. Her recommendation is anonymous by default too, but if she wants she can include her name.
If she is navigating the web and saw an idea that likes to recommend it, (as a pet nursery for example 🐈), she can use a chrome extension that opens a widget to send the suggestion directly from that web.
How the employer manage the benefits
When the Valentina, the CEO, log in “Benefitsio”, the dashboard is completely different. She has an inbox where receive all the suggestions from the employees. She can follow up on the process of each suggestion. She has a folder for each status. For example, approved is a folder to find all the suggestion that match with the goal of the company.
If she wants to add a new benefit from scratch, is with the same button for the employee. But because of her role, this benefit is automatically approved.
She sees a dot notification every time she receives a new suggestion. She can approved or archived it(if it’s not approved) dragging to the stack she wants. Each stack is a preview of the folder. When she drags a suggestion, automatically it’s approved and moved to the correspondent folder.
The interaction remains in each flow step. Dragging in to the right to continue with the suggestion, or to the left to discard it. As a Kanban board, she can move from column to column, stack to stack, or folder to folder. For example, Valentina has two suggestions approved. She can move the “Pet in the office” idea to the active stack, so it’s available for the employees. Is mandatory complete extra information to activate a benefit, like the step by step to obtain that benefit. So, when she activates a benefit a pop up will ask to complete the missing information.
Valentina has approved a benefit that fits with Claudia’s needs.
The concept arises from research.
During the first week, I set the project with preliminary research about H.R. and I started to schedule interviews. I didn’t know what product I would create. I had to design a B2B web platform for small startups that start to grow. So I reached contact with tech companies with no more than 15 employees to find ideas and opportunities. The community was really helpful, I use LinkedIn and Slack to reach them. Also, I interviewed bigger companies and Consulters to have a more complete vision.
I decide to work with Benefits management because I want an area I can explore and propose a new solution. The benefits in small start-ups are administered informally with direct dealings. Companies downplay it. But while a company going through big changes, the benefits could be very useful for “employee engagement”. Benefits management it’s a non-existent area in small companies, and there is no software related.
Managers are familiar with workflows such as Kanban
The second week began with interviews focused on Benefits Management. I interviewed 4 C.E.O. & H.R. (responsible for making purchasing decisions), 3 employees who could use the service, and 1 Project Manager (who could give me an objective opinion).
The smaller companies don’t usually have an H.R. The management of benefits is done directly by the CEO. But the most surprising was that the tools they use to manage these benefits were software that was designed for very different tasks. They write task related to maintaining benefits in Kanban boards: Asana or Trello, they even write down in Jira!
During I did comparative research, I have found some tools that are useful for getting feedback from employees such as the Leo chatbot, Office Vibe or Honestly.
Factorial is the only H.R. web platform that includes benefit management. But with a very different approach, rather tax. The small companies are not so interested in tax saving, because the amount with few employees is insignificant.
What do Startups need?
Benefits are not so common in small companies, but all have ones (benefits detail in the appendix -2-). Sometimes they have Perks. Also, they give rewards to teams or individuals that achieve a certain goal. The main problem is that the rules for obtaining perks or rewards are usually unknown. It’s handled informally. Employees complain that follow the employer’s interests that are not clear. This generates a perception of inequity and employer favoritism. Also, some benefits are useless for the employees. They say that seems not meant for them, doubting the honesty of their intention.
The benefits are valuable for the company. The benefits are a way to help and thank the employee, to improve their work experience. Helps besides to create an organizational culture, where everyone shares the same values. And they must be diverse since employees value different benefits.
Growing startups need to reward their employees with personalized perks to generate an organizational culture to align with their brand.
Employees of successful startups need to select perks because they deserved a useful reward that helps their own life without ulterior motives.
At the end of the research, I started to draft the first ideas for the app. It was a kanban board that helps the Managers administrate the benefits the company give, to help find the ones that are aligned with their brand but also are useful for their employees.
The Design of both dashboard
I had to build an MVP, to devise the app I listed the tasks I ought to include. I did a MoSCoW technique to decide, from a list of tasks I got from the interviews, which ones must be included.
I recognize I have two different users, so I include 3 main tasks for each role (detail of other tasks in the appendix -3-).
I made a user flow to detect the main views by which to start working. First I drew hand sketches that I could test and change fast. Then I moved to the computer, with the help of the Sketch app, to design more in detail. I ran usability tests to validate the most critic design desitions.
The main challenge with the employee’s dashboard was to get their feedbacks of the current benefits. The testers didn’t leave negative reviews. I made changes in the paper prototype. I had to add a checkbox to send it anonymously. Also, I changed the 5-star rating, adding an extra option (dislike) for complaints.
The star-ranking looks like a public review. The users got concerned about their privacy. And the dislike was too aggressive. I change the review to an emotion rank, I add the anonymous as default, and all the inputs as optional.
From the wireframe to the final design, I redesign the card layout so the main tasks could be seen with the naked eye.
For this board, I started to develop some interactive prototype with Principle from some uglies drafts. Were rustic prototypes, but I could create it in less than an hour. This let me tried better how the testers interact.
The proposal seemed very complex at the beginning. Most of the iterations of the design were made with a more finished quality. First I included one column of the Kanban board per page. On the top, I included a floating bar to navigate between the different pages. The bar should look like a timeline. Also, a Button let the user switch from one column to multiple columns. This design was very unintuitive for the user.
I added a little preview of the other columns on each side. I wanted to help the user realize that a single page was part of different steps. I changed the bar from floating to a fixed one, that looks more like tab navigation. The users started to understand the flow, but they didn’t imagine they can drag and drop the cards between the columns.
I tried other different solutions. But in the end, the prototype needed two main changes. I modified the tab navigation to an aside navigation with folders (that reminds to email software) and I add stacks cards to indicate the next and forward step.
The users interacted intuitively with the final solution.
This was just a prototype to present the concept. I created a roadmap to improve the product. I need to work more in the layout, to have more cards on the same screen, and prevent scrolling. And also include tasks that were excluded in the Moscow prioritization:
For the next 3 month.
- Work more in UI (Aesthetically and functionally).
- Test deeper the interaction, focus on usability.
- Design Stories in the backlog related to Vote & Label benefits.
- Full integration with Slack.
- And the flow to create users.
For Next 6 month
- Filters and summary of similar perks requested
- Company “areas” to apply for custom benefits only for them
- Integrate with email services.
- Rewards (not only perks)
- Add more roles for management.
Conclusions of the projects
I figured out that the users get engaged with the organization of the suggestions in stacks. How they can drag in from one step to the other. The design would be really different if the interaction wasn’t included at the beginning of the process. The architecture of the information would be different. The layout would be different. All design decisions changed by how user interact with the application. This needed to be tested from the beginning. And it would have been very difficult to add it later. Work with interactions from scratch wasn’t impossible.
- Align organizational culture with the values of the company.
- Have a happy environment that encourages personal development.
- Employees feel rewarded and proud to work harder.
- Not all employees feel motivated by the same benefits.
- Employees get discouraged when you reward only one of the team.
“My startup is like a family, we change the destiny of our employees impacting in their life. We want everyone to feel part of a company that is changing the world.”
- Get what I deserve, without having to claim it.
- Select the perks I need, and get support for that.
- Have interesting benefits that help my work life without take away valuable time at home.
- The benefits seem to not be honest, are behind a goal of the CEO, and do not respond to what I want or need.
“I was a fundamental piece in the development. And they compensate me with a taco Tuesday that I really do not know if it interests me. While my boss has lunch at the restaurants she wants.”
Perks, and Rewards
This is a list of what the interviewees talked about when they said benefits.
- Discounts with other companies
- Internal company events
- Beer, Coffee. Free meals.
- Extra money ( Bonuses and prizes)
- Travels payed
- Uber Free
- We work (worldwide co-working space free)
- Events, seminars, congresses, courses.
- Classes in the company. (like English’s classes)
- Day offs
- Home office
- Hardware, software, and elements to work
- Pet nursery
Should & Could Features
- Vote the new perks
- Read rules and join it
- Add custom labels related to company goals
- Give benefits as one-time reward
- See suggested perks
- Promote benefits with team on Slack
- Login with my user, and filter only my benefits
- See other employees ideas and vote for it.
- Create new employee
- Create company areas to apply custom benefits
- Send survey.
- Statistics from ranks and surveys
- Summary of similar perks requested
- Give benefits for birthday
- Deactivate a perk