Appropriate Staffing for UX groups

As soon as you get your second UX (user experience or Information Architect) person on staff you start thinking about “staffing” or more suitably “appropriate staffing.” How does one go about figuring out what is the appropriate staffing levels that you need to request in order to execute against planned work and roadmaps.

Here are 5 basic questions about staffing UX groups to keep you one step ahead:

  1. Workload – How many people for how much work? To even start addressing this question you need to build your understanding of what is on your organization’s roadmap.  If you don’t have these documents get your group involved in the strategy. SEE Strategic Planning Process & User Experience. Start conversations about what is coming down the pike for your industry in terms of “knowing the large,” perhaps your user based is going into heavy mobile adoption or international shipping regulations have eased and this should influence how much work you think your department will have over the next 18 months.
  2. Balance – How many UX people to how many visual designers OR product managers OR IT developers/engineers? Look to the amount of augmentation or reductions that are going on in these other departments.  Build out your ratios for what you think makes sense in order to work well with these other groups and get work done. The main concern here is you don’t want to be the bottle-neck that is always holding up the work.
  3. Bench Depth – What level of experience do you need, what proportion among the different levels of experience? How many fresh out of college grads can you really afford to hire even though they might be cheaper.  How many seniors can you have without eliminating career paths for promotions. Build a wide base pyramid, and give it a smooth slope.
  4. Experts or Generalists – Do you need to hire for your particular situation experts that  have years of experience in mobile, e-commerce, or intranets? Or if someone is a good UX person, the particulars of the context is irrelevant? Over time I am starting the believe that a good UX person can make the jump across these different experiences, but in terms of fielding a team at least 20% members need to be knowledgeable in the particular community of practice.
  5. Soft Skills – What skill set beyond UX?  Explain things to people outside of UX? Do you just hire people who can do the work, put out great wireframes/prototypes? Or do you need people who can explain it and show the connections to different business models and conversion metrics or KPIs? A good balance is  at least one good softskill person for each introvert/non-presenter.

The most significant thing to understand about figuring out the appropriate staffing for your UX group is growing the right culture.  An important ingredient in your culture mix is the people. The decisions you make in staffing have a huge impact on your culture, so make sure you are growing and changing your culture in the right direction.

Other Resources

Does your UX Organization Chart Look like this? An Organization chart for UX and Interaction Design groups.

UX Value Mandala (for my view of some important UX values a UX group should strive for)

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