The UX of learning a new company

I hired a new UX Designer who is in the process of learning about the company.  It got me thinking about how many people go through this same process.  I am sure there is a bell curve of people who have ample time to learn and others who are thrown into the deep end on day 1 before they ever finish their paperwork.

A new employee needs time to adjust to the new culture, people, processes, technology and a myriad of other factors.  How could they possibly know the little quirks of your organization?  How will they know the TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) that people use without realizing they are confusing new people?  Are we just hazing them?  Putting them through torture to ultimately bond with them?  It seems counter-productive to me.

Looking at the situation, I gave a checklist and process to the new UX Designer.  I said that each day for the whole month should be filled with the following:

  • Watch every video created by the company.  Education, promotional, usability, whatever.
  • Shadow sales reps as they work an opportunity.  Notice materials, techniques, process.
  • Shadow sales consultants when they demo the product.  Notice the stories they tell including analogies and metaphors.
  • Shadow a support rep as they solve a customers problems.  Notice the tools they use and the UX issues you could glean from the customer.
  • Shadow a training consultant as they teach a customer how to use the product.  Watch how the customer learns (or doesn’t) at each step of the process.
  • Shadow the account management folks to see how they deal with strategic accounts.  How do they turn frowns upside-down?  How do they create happiness?
  • Shadow the engineers and product managers as they meet to talk about the product and make decisions.
  • Daily checkins to talk about what you learned and UX
  • And of course, use the product yourself.

Is it reasonable to ask this of every employee who joins the company?  I imagine that it would create alot of shadowing.  The truth is: Hardly anyone does any of this.  Everyone is thrown into the deep end and it’s “sink or swim”.  I don’t think this is optimal, but certainly it is the way things usually work.  Employees try to learn as they go and not look stupid at any point.

This experiment with the new hire, who will be doing the list above for several weeks will be informative.  My hope is that she will be able to produce higher quality work at the end of the first month than she would if I started asking for designs after just a few days of learning.

Do you wish you were given more time when you started at your job?  How will you train the next person you hire?  It’s always worth thinking about, even if you don’t change the process.


4 responses to “The UX of learning a new company”

  1. Steve Crepeau Avatar

    Overall I like your list. What’s noticeably missing is speaking with as many representative customers as possible. Many would consider that to be vitally important for a new UX Designer trying to ramp up at a new company.

    Far too often companies start to adopt an insular view of ‘what the customer wants’, without actually speaking with the customers. That can be very dangerous!

  2. Jeremy Barnish Avatar

    Hmmmm. So talk to the customer by proxy. What about spend the day with someone who actually has to use the product.

  3. Glen Lipka Avatar
    Glen Lipka

    Although I did neglect to include that in the list, she absolutely is including some customer face time. With that said, talking with customers is something that is very often done incorrectly. Talking with customers takes practice and skill otherwise it can be just as dangerous as not talking to them at all.

  4. Dan Avatar

    I believe it would be important to make sure and highlight the most wonderful thing about the product or organization (even if it doesn’t really have to do with their job). Get them to love the company, get passion and buy-in that they are part of something good. In non-profits this should be pretty easy, but it might be harder in a stapler factory.

Whatya think?

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