Best Buy: UX Career Matrix

Introduction

Challenge

Create a Culture of Excellence for UX Designer / Researchers

eCommerce had just hired a new Director of Experience Design and new Practice Leads for each discipline within design, including UX, UI, Visual Design, Content Strategy and UX Writing.

The original intent of this project was to evaluate the ability and performance of the UX Designer / Researchers

As a new Practice Lead, I took this as an opportunity to establish the cornerstone of UX culture at Best Buy.

Company / Role

UX Practice Lead at Best Buy Canada

Best Buy Canada has a flat organization following a squads / tribes model. Leadership was horizontal, requiring strong “leading through influence.”

My role included:

  • People leadership: hiring, evaluation, promotion, conflict resolution, performance improvement
  • Practice leadership: defining UX in the organization, goal setting, critique and feedback, mentorship, community collaboration
  • Design operations: systematic improvement of processes, templates and artifacts, and design systems

Goals for this Project

There were three primary stakeholders for this project:

  1. Design Leadership
  2. UX Designers
  3. Engineering and Retail Collaborators

Primary needs identified were:

  1. Hiring diverse skills and levels
  2. Consistent performance evaluation
  3. Nurturing talent with clear goals
  4. Building team accountability
  5. Enriching culture & values

Approach

While this was an internal design project it followed a familar design process:

  1. Understand Stakeholder Assumptions
  2. Search for Examples (Competitive Analysis)
  3. Ensure all Skills are Represented (Information Architecture)
  4. Define a Functional Framework (Content Design)
  5. Evaluate and Iterate (Usability)

Design

Several iterations resulted in a final artifact of two parts:

  1. General Traits of a UX designer from a birds-eye view
  2. Detailed UX Skills required for the role

(Contact me for a detailed review of the iterative design process, including a talk and slides I did for the Vancouver User Experience user group).

GENERAL TRAITS

DETAILED SKILLS

Evaluation

Finding a method of evaluation that allowed consistent measurement and clear direction proved challenging.

Self-Assessment

Junior designers consistently ranked themselves higher than more senior designers.

During self-assessment it was discovered in repeated trials with several survey methods that junior designers didn’t understand the specifics of the descriptions of more advanced methods.

INITIAL SELF-ASSESSMENT

Early iteration of generalized traits.

DETAILED SELF-ASSESSMENT

This is an early iteration of the User Research skills section.

Collaborative Assessment

Building recognition by identifying successes and challenges through specific examples.

Collaborative Assessment had two key elements:

  1. One-on-one identification of successess and areas that were opportunities for growth
  2. Building a culture of identifying examples of “What good looks like”

Once a quarter I would go through the relevant columns in the career framework with each designer and ask them to identify examples they had seen for key skills.  We also discussed which skills each designer was targetting for growth and who on the design team they could use as a mentor in those areas. In this way I built a culture of identifying “what good looks like” and a collaborative learning environment where designers leveraged eachother for improvement.

COLLABORATIVE-ASSESSMENT

Outcomes

This process met the initial goals with several resounding successes.  The most amazing outcome was that designers ran with this on their own and in groups without leadership involvement.

Results

  1. Culture of Excellence
    • Designers documented their wins and examples of the best of what we were doing
    • Experts emerged in various subject areas and the team leveraged each other for growth
  2. Excitement about Career Growth
    • A clear representation of what the field offered gave designers targets that they could get excited about and a path to grow their own practices
    • The design team was accellerating their learning and toolbox of skills and capabilities
  3. Consistent Skill Measurement
    • Each designer knew exactly where they mapped on the career ladder through specific examples
    • Performance improvement was well documented each quarter
    • Hiring managers and committees had a specific guage to measure applicants’ skills
  4. Map of Team Skills
    • The capabilities of the team were documented within a fine-grained skills matrix to show where our strengths and weaknesses lied
    • Diverse capabilities and skills could be targetted during recruiting and hiring

The impact of this drive for excellence on our collaborators showed up as an increased demand for UX involvement in more projects in a wider field.  Leaders in other areas were hearing of our successes and asking for UX beyond eCommerce, in the retail stores, in the warehouse and in the employee enterprise experience teams.

Through the excellence this project brought to UX, I was able to triple the size of the UX team in 3 years.