Scaling a UX team of professionals: essential tips
My company is expanding significantly after racking up some nice victories last year and continuing this year. Our crew has grown greatly since January last year — and it doesn’t include contractors — since I acquired it in late 2020.
This has necessitated managing a lot of change, refining procedures, especially around onboarding and training, while also having a clear scaling strategy in mind.
This is about the things that came to mind as I was navigating that transformation. I can’t pretend to be speaking for anyone other than myself.
Maintaining the culture
The culture is something you don’t want to lose. Nomensa has a fantastic culture, which is built on producing amazing work, everyone helping each other out, and being kind about it, despite its flaws.
With so much recruiting, the last thing you want is for people to bring in toxic behaviors that they may not recognize as such, pulling the culture down with them. Above all, this is about behavior, with existing team leaders actively showing what the expectations are and what is expected of them.
During recruiting, culture is discussed extensively and reinforced one-on-one. I haven’t had to do it yet, but any poisonous behavior has to be dealt with immediately.
Intensified peer review
In light of this, we’ve implemented a ‘practice team’ model. This method uses a cross-section of the studio to form four or five teams with varied skill sets and expertise. They meet once a week to discuss their work.
In a hybrid working environment, this boosts each practitioner’s contact with others in the studio, helps individuals feel more connected, and improves the quality of solutions as more (and more varied) people tackle challenges. This benefits clients as well.
It’s worth noting that this is especially essential when certain practitioners are immersed in client teams with a restricted practitioner structure.
Experience in balancing
This year’s recruitment has been particularly difficult. The UX market is wild, as you obviously know if you’re reading this. When I was in UX for around two years and plainly didn’t know enough about the trade, I saw some pretty mediocre contractors asking for £600 per day.
Recruiting experienced practitioners, on the other hand, has been the most difficult for me. We’ve gotten a few good ones, but it’s taken longer than I expected. However, it makes you think about what you’re giving as an organization…
We’ve promoted a lot inside the team, which helps explain why this hasn’t been an issue. Rather of waiting until someone has ‘proven’ their expertise over a lengthy period of time, we have attempted to promote people early, allowing them to fill in any gaps in their experience while in a new, senior position.
It’s a stretch, but we’ve always hired clever, skilled individuals, and this has helped us hire them faster. It also sends a powerful message to the rest of the world: this is a place where you can grow.
Recruiting for entry-level positions
We have extensively recruited from more junior skill sets in addition to attempting to bring in experienced practitioners. We have a successful grad program in which no prior work experience is required.
I made a blog post on that approach, but the bottom line is that it’s all about finding clever individuals with the proper mentality. When they’re surrounded by other brilliant individuals, they grow rapidly, and I feel this is the best method to maintain medium to long-term growth.
Keeping the T safe
T-shaped are our practitioners. This indicates they have a wide variety of experience and a profound grasp of a certain subject, usually research. We have new specialties (interface design and service design, for example) as we develop and hire more people, but we must retain the T. This implies allowing researchers to prototype and allowing interface designers and service designers to improve their research skills.
Flexibility is required at an agency, both on an individual level and throughout the studio. But, more importantly, I believe that people want to be able to move.
Setting common objectives
We’ve tried to provide objectives structure by combining individual goals (typically centered on growing better at their specialty) with organizational goals (around growth through good people).
This gives them the assurance that they have room to grow while still being a part of something bigger and more interesting.
One of my leadership beliefs is transparency. It becomes more difficult as you progress, but it is more necessary than ever. We have group chats and checkpoints, but a lot of this is one-on-one, and it’s probably the part that takes up the most of my time — especially when you’re trying to get everyone to work together toward a common objective.