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Scaling your UX team

| April 20, 2016
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Today’s post is an excerpt from our eBook, 4 Stages of building and scaling a UX team. Enjoy!

Once you’ve established your core team and you’ve had some time to get into a rhythm, chances are you’ll start to think about expanding. There seems to be no shortage of need for UX expertise—especially once everyone in your organization begins to see the value that it can offer.

Filling the roles

This is your opportunity to start filling out the roles. While generalists worked well when you were getting started, a more mature UX team will benefit by having folks dedicated to a few distinct areas of the UX practice. As we’ve already discussed, roles and titles can vary widely between individuals and organizations, so it can be helpful to think about roles in the context of what outcomes that individuals will be responsible for, rather than a specific title.

We suggest breaking your team out into six categories. As you’re building your team, look for candidates that fit into these disciplines:

scaling-your-ux-team-roles

At this stage, you can also begin to develop or hire for more specialized roles, as well. Depending on your organization or product’s needs, you may find that you need to invest more attention in one area than you originally expected. You might need to hire several folks with slightly different job descriptions to take on new challenges. As your company grows and develops new product lines, you might need to hire people to specialize in specific products.

Hire based on the order of needs. In early stages, that may be more towards growth, and once that becomes consistent, can expand towards user experience.

-Ugur Kaner, Memebox

To contract, or not to contract?

When you’re expanding your team, it’s natural to want to just hire someone for every role. Of course, you need a designer (maybe even a few), but do you need one in your headcount? The beauty of having so many talented designers out there is that many are available on a contract basis. Whether it’s long-term or for a one-off project, you can pick and choose the designers you need without committing to a full-time headcount.

Attracting top talent

Once you’ve determined the type of person your team needs, it’s time to start the hunt. Not so long ago, you could post a basic ad on a job board and just kick back while hundreds of applications flooded your inbox. And chances were good that you’d find a great fit after sifting through all of those candidates. But that’s not the case anymore. Employees have a lot more choice when it comes to their employers, which means that you need to be strategic about everything from the title of the role to the job description and, of course, the interview. Just think about it like you would for any great user experience, except now you’re designing one for an employee. Ideally, you’d do this for any employee, but folks in the UX field are especially adept at recognizing— and appreciating—a good experience. Which is exactly what you want for someone on your team, right?

The job description

Attracting UX professionals is more art than science, so try to nix all your old habits and templates when it comes to writing a job listing. Simply listing off years of experience required, skills needed, and responsibilities isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off. Instead, appeal to their inner UX champion. Start with what you know. Share what drives you and everyone at your organization to go to work every day. Share your company’s mission, and lay out how this role will contribute to that goal.

And don’t be afraid to share the challenges you’re facing, too. You don’t need to get specific (we don’t want your competition taking advantage of this intel), but if there’s a key goal that your team is working toward, let applicants know this. Last but not least, be honest and be you. Your personality as an organization is one of the most important characteristics that will determine who will (or won’t) succeed on your team. Like attracts like, so if your company’s brand and voice would never use the word “ninja” in your daily conversations, don’t use it your job descriptions.

A note on education and experience

The popularity of user-centered design and thinking has skyrocketed in recent years, which has led to a plethora of educational and certification programs. And while they may offer real opportunities for anyone interested in beefing up their UX expertise, are they the mark of a great UXer? Education and hiring seem to go hand in hand. But these days, a degree is less and less important, and experience and softer skills are becoming more important.

But it’s not easy to vet candidates in this way. While some higher education certifications may truly be the mark of a talented UX professional, the absence of such accreditation is by no means a sign of a lesser candidate. And don’t forget that the UX field is incredibly diverse. Many talented UXers were educated well before UX had caught on in the education system. And many might not have any formal higher education at all. The UX field is changing constantly, so remember that a certification from a few years ago might not be as relevant as real world experience now. The true test will come during interviews and portfolio reviews, so until then, consider education and certifications as a topic of discussion, rather than a qualification for consideration.