Redesigning feedback for an entirely remote team
In the Spring 2018, I worked through Berkeley Innovation to help Olark, a live chat software system, redesign their internal employee feedback system. I worked with Erika Jin Shin, Kirra Dickinson, and Jemma Kwak, and our project advisor Kathleen Hsu.
The project was separated into 4 major sprints – User Research, Ideation and Prototyping, User Testing and Iteration, and Hi-Fidelity Mockups and Presentation. The entire team worked during all sprints, and I served as the sprint leader for the ideation, overseeing overseeing ideation and lo-fi prototyping.
Olark’s software system aims at making businesses human again by supporting their client’s live chats . The caveat? All employees work remotely!
Olark challenged us to create a new feedback system that would make sending and receiving constructive feedback easy for a team that only sees each other in person once a year.
Previously, evaluation process occurred on an annual basis using a google form. This form format was reported to be lengthy, tedious, and cumbersome. In a remote-first work setting, how do employees accurately gauge their work performance from their team members and manager?
The scope of the project was to explore the needs of Olark employees in order to design an evaluation system that would elicit constructive feedback in a seamless manner.
Areas we wanted to investigate:
Frequency of feedback
What questions to include
Best medium for giving and receiving feedback
We conducted extensive research in order to better understand the experiences and needs of Olark’s employees by engaging in a variety of research methods.
Secondary desktop research: We took time to search the web to learn about the best practices and designs for feedback in a company. We also research how other remote companies implemented feedback systems.
Olaker Interviews: Our team conducted 12 interviews with current employees to better understand the experiences and needs of people within the company. We also learned first hand what filling out the form looked like.
External Interviews: To gain a broader perspective into remote working conditions we interviewed 3 different remote employees from unique companies.
• Olark’s company culture can sometimes feel overly positive, which hinders the ability to receive actionable, constructive feedback.
• Due to the evaluation’s annual timing, peers don’t often know what to comment in addition to running into recency bias
User Pain Points:
• Difficult to give feedback to peers outside of this annual evaluation form
• Process of consolidating feedback for managers is heavy-weight and time-consuming
• Many Olarkers do not reflect upon their feedback and lack actionable next steps to implement growth opportunity areas
Key User Needs
We then identified three key needs of Olark employees that we wanted to make sure to address in our solution.
Olarkers need to feel accomplished and look back at the end of the day and be proud of and happy with their work.
Progress + Personal Development
Olarkers want to know that they’re improving as employees and are on the right track for what’s next.
Olarkers thrive on a sense of belonging to the company and others.
After taking into consideration the interviews we conducted and the key needs that we identified our team was able to create 3 distinct personas that encompass a variety of job functions as well as communication styles and personalities.
Since the feedback cycle is current a year long, we wanted to understand where certain behavioral patterns became present. We created a journey map to visualize the feedback journey from start to finish. We noted the actions employees might take, emotions that might arise, and pain points.
Ideation & Lo-Fi Sketches
taking the consolidated insights and needs from our research and using our personas to keep our users in mind we ideated. During this week we held several brain storming sessions both as a team and individually. Methods we used were figure 8s, rapid ideating on stickies, and sketching.
• Creating a feedback dashboard
• Channels to promote frequent feedback
• Forms to create actionable plans
After agreeing on a dashboard lay out for a feedback portal and a general form for feedback collection our team create a mid-fi prototype using figma, we also kept in mind Olarkers three key needs.
• Site architecture
• Content and copywriting
• Dashboard design and layout
Using our mid-fi prototypes we returned to some of the Olarkers we originally interviewed to validated or correct our design assumptions and get feedback to take into our high fidelity prototype. Throughout usability testing, a few key roadblocks became apparent.
Employees had trouble understanding why they had to complete an action. How was the action relevant and how would it help them?
Our initial assumption was that Olarkers wanted solely free response questions. However, we learned that this was hard to quantify when compiling the data or looking at trends over time.
Confusing Use Cases
We initially dedicated a huge portion of our prototype to a concept that incorporated meeting agendas with user goals. However, as we progressed through our user testing, we quickly saw that this format of combining user goals with meeting agendas didn't make much sense to Olarkers, so we had to scrap this idea. We ended up deciding to keep the goals accessible and personalizable to users.
We used this feedback to quickly pivot in the right direction and continued iterating on our designs.
We finalize design decisions and create a visually appealing prototype suitable for the needs of Olark employees.
Final Interactive Prototype:
Being my second project with Berkeley innovation - I learned the importance of implementing user feedback. A lot of the folks that worked at Olark had great recommendations for our prototype, they just hadn't had the time to communicate their perspective. Making space for diverse perspective is super important even if you don’t think your opinion matters- SPEAK UP!
I love my team this semester- enjoy the wholesome pictures of our semester together and even meeting an Olarker in person 😲!