Conducting UX research: HR insight 2019

Introducing the project

In the second of my blogs from the Zegami UX universe I am introducing a new report that I have spent the last month putting together. It’s a qualitative research piece centred on getting a deeper understanding of how HR professionals work, the challenges they face in the modern workplace and their relationships with technology, the organization they work in and the wider HR community.


It has been well documented that Zegami recently entered into a new partnership with the US-based company Live-Tiles, and have initiated a shift in key infrastructure technology to Microsoft. On the back of this, Zegami has identified a potential opportunity in the global market for an HR solution that democratises the usage of data.

With all this in mind, I was tasked with generating research that will better equip Zegami to make decisions on how we can best help HR teams get better value from the data that they hold.

There are a 3 key challenges for a UX designer when putting together a research report, which are explored below:


Challenge #1 – Is there anybody there?

With any research project that concentrates on a specific demographic or role/persona, one of the biggest challenges facing UX Designers and Researchers is getting access to ‘real’ people. Obviously talking to Senior Managers in an HR department is harder than talking to “18 to 30-year-olds” or “people who own a car”!

Thankfully I got lucky!

Through a combination of partners of work colleagues, husbands of friends, old employers and existing clients I was able to conduct very productive interviews with a really good representation of the HR community:

  • The HR Director from a global Ed-tech company
  • The V.P. of HR for a multi-national corporation providing B2B IT services
  • An HR Data Analyst for a global telecommunications company
  • An HR manager for a medical research facility
  • An HR consultant
  • An HR business partner from a city-based investment bank
  • The CEO of a US-based IT company.

All these great contacts meant that I was able to gather ‘real-world’ opinions and experiences that are essential for producing compelling and legitimate insight.

org intro

Challenge #2 – Say what?

Once the contact list is assembled and the interviews are booked in the diary, the next challenge is deciding what to ask. How do you get the most out of a 30-40 minute interview. What are the killer questions that unearth the nuggets of insight that deliver real value to me in my UX role and to the wider Zegami team?

After a number of conversations with various stake-holders around Zegami (a cross-functional representation of opinions and requirements), I was confident that the shortlist of questions in my pocket would deliver what was needed for everyone.

Good research should feed into all aspects of a business, thus providing a consistent, solid base from which to build desirable products, effective marketing campaigns and effective business strategies.


Challenge #3 – The art of listening

It’s important for any UX’er to understand that the questions they have are merely there as a stimulator to start interesting conversations. A means to an end. A good listener should be able to kick-off an interview in one direction and then quickly adapt to other avenues of investigation on the back of the answers and insights received.

The real skill is to move the interview seamlessly in any direction to maximise the insight gained. Listen to the participant to identify key points that are being made, and properly drill into them as and when they are presented.

This is easier IF the participant is relaxed and trusts the interviewer. It is vitally important to make people feel at ease in what is, after all, a less than ordinary situation with a total stranger asking questions!

The key to all this, from where I sit at the table, is empathy. The ability of the UX practitioner to express a natural empathy with a person’s situation, ensuring that it is not superficial or forced. And the key to this is listening – really opening your ears to concentrate on every word. Only then can you fully understand what you are being told, what it means and how it makes the participant feel. It’s an emotional connection as well as a professional one.


The end product – distilling data

So, after the interviews are finished, I’m left with a big old heap of audio recordings and notes. These all need processing. Common threads and stories need identifying and the evidence behind these needs to be organised into a compelling and coherent format.

Constructing a report that is accessible and concise, based on a number of face-to-face interviews is another key skill for any UX professional. It is a combination of good communication skills, UX intuition and design flair that allows a good UX designer to present research findings in a way that captures key evidence and presents it in a way that convinces others to take a course of action.

At the end of the day, this type of output is a working document that should be employed to ensure that design and development decisions are based on reality not assumptions.

Here is a link to my report. The only thing I have stripped out of this is the list of key recommendations for Zegami. That’s sensitive information!

This has been a very worthwhile exercise which has given me key information that will help Zegami build a solution to make a real difference to all those HR people who use it.