Evaluating one's career growth can be a daunting task. It's a common problem that young professionals can feel unengaged and have had times of feeling stagnant in their career.
As stated by Sheryl Boswell, Director, Marketing, Monster.ca. “Smart employers mentor their younger workers, ensuring clear career growth paths, and they know how their performance will be measured and rewarded – this will help these younger workers stay engaged and improve retention.”
Exploring this problem space, I followed the 5 steps of design thinking—empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.
I conducted interviews with 7 young professionals who have 3 months to 4 years work experience, whether in a full-time, part-time, contract or internship capacity.
I first drafted a research plan that included important assumptions, goals and hypothesis. Collating the data I gathered through primary and secondary research, I then analyzed and synthesized my findings with the use of an affinity map, grouping details from user pain-points, motivations and behaviours. I uncovered 3 key insights:
01 Growth & Learning
"You're working towards your ideal job... when you're engaged, satisfied and constantly learning."
People are quite satisfied with their career as long as they have continuous growth and learning opportunities, whether presented to them or actively seeking it within their role. When they don’t feel this need is met employee engagement significantly decreases.
02 Goal Setting
"I recharge and take time to think about where I want to go in the next 1, 3, 5 years."
Most have a set goal they hope to achieve but tend to have trouble understanding whether their current actions are working towards achieving those greater goals.
03 Seeking Feedback
"Feedback is helpful for me as a motivator."
Receiving feedback from direct managers, their team and even clients is a huge motivator for encouraging one’s growth in their careers to clearly understand which areas they can improve on and continually grow.
Focusing on the 2 most feasible, desirable and viable to tackle, I was then able to define the core problem.
Analyzing these insights, I realized I needed to shift the focus of my problem space. I discovered that the main issue was difficulty in finding ways to help young professionals understand growth in their career. I then defined my 'how might we' question to:
"Frustrated with inaction, [constantly thinking about] what can drive me to kind of get to the next step?”
“[Before] I would have goals and aspirations, but I wouldn’t think critically as to how I’m going to get there actionably.”
“[A career is] Anything with growth opportunities and something you see yourself doing.”
“I think you are working towards your ideal job and you’re in a good one when you’re engaged, satisfied and constantly learning.”
“I journal or do quarterly and monthly reviews.”
"[In times of feeling stagnant] I recharge and take time to think about where I want to go in the next 1, 3, 5 years.
To keep a human-centred perspective in tackling this problem space, I crafted my persona, Lucy, and mapped her journey throughout her career as a young professional working within the same company a little over a year now. In crafting the persona and journey map, details were taken from observations and analyses from user interviews.
After synthesizing research, it was time to shift to a divergent mindset and explore potential solutions and ideas.
With endless ideas and features in mind, I needed to focus on the minimum viable product (MVP). I listed down user stories to focus on Lucy's goals and address her needs. A common theme I found was tracking skills progression. Based on my interviews it was common for young professionals to feel stagnant and lost. I came up with the solution to provide a tool to help them better understand their growth by providing a historical view of how they have improved through time. This also helps them to be more actionable in achieving their career goals and keeping these top of mind at work.
As a skilled long-term employee I want to assess my skills regularly
As a skilled long-term employee I want to view skills related to my field
As a skilled long-term employee I want to be prompted to check-in with my progress as I work on a skill
With a solution in mind, it was time to lay this out into one cohesive task flow that begins from viewing the home page, adding skills, adding journal entries to reflect on her progress and lastly, saving her entry and viewing her added entry.
With a set task flow and a clearer picture of the screens needed, I began creating drafting screens starting from sketches to lo-fi then mid-fi wireframes. With each iteration I conducted a round of user testing with 5 participants each to further refine my idea.
Before refining each wireframe, I conducted user tests to observe how people respond to the general concept of this app.
Persona: You are a young professional working in a specific company for 1 year.
Scenario: You had just gone through your annual review with your manager and have defined a few skills you'd like to work on throughout the next few months.
Tasks: Home page overview, review 'About Levels', add skills, add corresponding level to skills, 'My Growth' page overview, view details of skill and add a journal entry
To analyze results after each round of user testing I used a rainbow spreadsheet to visualize common patterns in users' behaviour. In addition to this, I used a pass or fail matrix and prioritization matrix as another guide to help me prioritize which changes to implement, taking into consideration the user value and the level of effort it takes for me to execute.
Having gained valuable insights from each round of testing and having a clear overview as to which ones to focus on, I was able to implement changes that bring high value to users and entailed low effort for me to execute.
Having refined my wireframes and with a solid solution in place, the next step was to design hi-fi wireframes. I first grouped the key screens to focus on for the pages and components I needed.
Key focus areas:
03 Journal Home Page and Journal Entires
In ideating the User Interface of my app design, I drew inspiration from various types of apps, making sure to pay attention to patterns and trends for the 3 main sections I needed to work on.
I referred to a lot of financial apps like Wealthsimple and Wealthica as a prime example for displaying growth and levels. Exploring various imagery for skills tracking, I searched for career frameworks imagery for various types of graphs. For the reflective feature of the app, I referred to journalling apps like Jour and Stoic.
With inspiration to draw from, I began searching for resources that would match the look and feel I was aiming for. Throughout producing the visual identity of this mobile app, I followed Brad Frost's 'Atomic Design' approach starting from foundational elements (atoms), grouping these elements to components (molecules) and finally, piecing these together into pages.
I started with crafting the brand story that aimed to motivate, emphasize growth and encourage reflection. I came up with a brand name, Propel. A tool to help you propel your career to greater heights.
I then went onto finalizing considerations for the foundational elements of the app—colour, typography, icons and illustration styles.
With foundational elements in place, I grouped these together into components, making sure I follow a cohesive look and feel to the visual identity.
From defining the problem, to determining the minimum viable product and finally designing elements and components, it was time to move onto designing the final prototype.
The first step to tracking one’s skills progression is adding a skill. In these screens, it has 2 main sections. Defining a skill you want to work on and evaluating your level with this skill.
The key component of my app is tracking one’s growth. These are the different states of the “Skills Progression”pages from an empty state to having added skills and lastly, adding entries and tracking these entries.
The final component of the task flow is to add journal entries as a user reflects on how they’re working to improve their skills. The user will go through answering 4 questions to help them assess how they’re improving, what’s working and what next steps they can take to further improve.
How could habits and norms change if Propel were to be a success?
Propel will help users focus on how their day to day habits on honing specific skills contribute to their career goals
Propel will help young professionals be more reflective in times of feeling stagnant in their career paths
Upon adding more and more journal entries, though not shown in my prototype, there would ideally be an avenue for users to see at a glance their growth. This will help young professionals be more aware of their progress, no matter how small.
One common feedback I gathered was that people wanted to view their growth in other types of graph views. Some mentioned a linear graph or bar graph. It would be worth exploring and testing this to see which graph type would be most effective to highlight in the app aside from the radial graph.
It would have been worth exploring which graphs or visual cues would suffice in illustrating personal growth earlier in the process.
Another avenue worth exploring would be to add a task flow of viewing one's historical growth. The key component of this app idea is understanding one's growth. As a user adds more journal entries, it would be worthwhile exploring how this will be highlighted and added on the app.
It would have been worth conducting another round of exploratory interviews with other participants after gathering insights from my first round to better understand what "career growth" means and looks like to young professionals.
To encourage engagement with the app, some users also mentioned how it would be difficult to always remember to add entries. Adding the ability to set notifications for check-ins would be a taskflow worth exploring as well. Figuring out a way to encourage this habit to one's current workflow would be beneficial as well.
I could have considered 'notifications' and having a set timeframe earlier on in the ideation phase to make the process of reflecting on one's skills progression more effective.
With a hi-fi wireframe and finalized prototype displaying the minimum viable product of this app, it was time to think of the bigger picture in marketing this product. To start, I designed a supporting marketing website that shows at a glance, the value it would bring to users. This was a great challenge to be intentional with copy and messaging.
I then thought of various ways to translate the mobile app view onto desktop to better integrate to users' workflow as they go about their regular work day. Here is rough idea of a mock up when viewing the product on a desktop.
Collaborate and somehow integrate resources for up skilling. Brands like Coursera, Udemy, Skillshare and others that ties into the focus on professional development of this product.
Add a pay to play element where users can share select information they’d like to show their manager, team, the HR department or executives to help organizations better manage employee engagement and achievements.
Hey Brad, Ana, Joey and Renee!
Thanks for reading all the way to the end! With all the ups and downs of this one helluva course, I learned so much from each of you. Here are some virtual cookies as a thank you for everything!
🍪 🍪 🍪 🍪
I make a mean apple pie in real life, by the way.
Hope I can share some with you all (somehow) when life goes back to normal