The user experience industry has seen incredible growth in the last decade, as the UX discipline has become both familiar and essential to most businesses, designers, and developers.
Yet with all this growth has come a downside: it’s harder than ever for businesses that rely on UX talent to keep these professionals on their team over the long term, as more and more opportunities pop demanding UX skills and specialties across industries.
So if you’re running a team of user experience professionals—or if you’re looking to hire and keep top talent in the field—here are some tips on increasing workplace satisfaction and giving opportunities for your team members to learn and grow.
Give your team members room for advancement.
Talented UX professionals are in high demand, which means new opportunities, roles, and challenges are frequently available at other companies. To help keep your own UX team engaged—and happily working at your firm—it’s important to give them opportunities to move up within your own organization.
One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to allow your UX professionals to manage projects on a smaller scale, whether that’s a client-facing work or internal efforts that make a difference to the bottom line. Even if these projects are short-term, allowing your UX team to take on leadership roles will keep them engaged and validate their skills.
Help your team keep their skills sharp.
Even the most prolific team member needs to keep their skills up-to-date, and UX professionals are no exception. With the industry changing quickly, both technology and tried-and-true processes like wireframing and prototyping are also evolving. By encouraging your UX team to keep their skills sharp through on-the-job training, online courses, or networking groups, you’re not only investing in their individual success but also ensuring the highest quality work on your own projects, as well.
Some companies go so far as to fund annual training sessions for their teams, but you don’t need to start at that level. Even encouraging your UX employees to study online tutorials or read about best practices in the industry will go a long way towards making your UX team feel valued and invested. But be careful you don’t swing too far in the other direction and make skills training mandatory and burdensome, as that can lead to morale issues of its own.
Encourage team members to set—and review—their goals.
Most members of your UX team are likely highly self-directed lifelong learners who are eager to move up in their field. But it’s all too easy for even the best-performing employees to lose track of their long-term goals as day-to-day expectations, deadlines, and work projects start to pile up.
To help your employees avoid getting buried in the short-term and neglect their long-term goals, encourage at least one member of your UX team to help lead a goal-setting workshop, where team members can discuss what steps they need to take in order to achieve professional (and maybe even personal) goals.
Goal-setting workshops, whether they are held annually or quarterly, help employees to look past the daily grind and see opportunities for growth and advancement in the months and years ahead. But just as important as goal-setting is a second step once employees have made goals: reviewing progress. Take time throughout the year for your teams to review their progress and what may be standing in their way of achieving more.
Allow team members time to explore their own interests.
Google has a famous ratio they apply to their employees: team members are expected to contribute 80 percent of their time at work towards company-endorsed projects and 20 percent of their time at work towards their own creative endeavors (this is known informally as the “20 percent rule” at the company.)
While this may sound like an odd way to structure their employees’ time, the results speak for themselves, with Google employees coming up with breakthroughs for existing products in this 20 percent creative time (products like Google News, for example, are said to have been brainstormed during this period.) More importantly, employees feel refreshed and energized by being able to apply some of their work time towards outside creative pursuits.
While your company may decide on a slightly different ratio of work versus creative time, it’s important to allow your employees a “pressure valve” activity to avoid burnout and exhaustion. This is especially true for user experience professionals who often come from creative fields like visual design.
Retaining qualified creative professionals isn’t as difficult as it may sound. Utilizing some of the techniques above, you’ll be able to keep your employees engaged, focused, and happy while producing great work for the long term.