Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Mon, 06 Apr 2020 08:09:07 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Copyright 2020, Sutherland Innovation Labs - Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Life as an Intern at Sutherland Labs Mon, 30 Mar 2020 12:11:12 +0100 Life as an Intern at Sutherland Labs

Hey I’m Nadina and I’m currently part of the Head Start Programme run by the H foundation, which connects young creatives with work opportunities to gain experience working in the industry. Being on this scheme meant I was given the great opportunity of a five week placement at Sutherland Labs!

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

Having recently completed my placement, I have developed a range of new skills and knowledge as well as a project that I can add to my portfolio of work. Coming from a spatial design background, UX design was an avenue I had never considered and the design processes were all completely new to me, which at first felt a bit daunting. Being thrown into a new design environment was made a lot easier by my mentor Simon Wood, who carefully planned my time here to ensure that I gained a good understanding of the UX design processes by getting me to create my own project.

I was initially given a brief overview of the different stages involved and then explored these in detail week by week. The first stage involved coming up with a hypothesis and research, which consisted of myself developing a discussion guide around my chosen subject area of opportunities for young creatives just out of education. It was great to interview participants through both an online questionnaire and in-person, finding that the in-person interviews allowed me to gain a better understanding of pain points that I had not considered.

The next couple of weeks involved defining my hypothesis by collating my feedback and creating journey maps and user personas to help me decide where my design response would fit in. I found this aspect of the design process quite interesting since the feedback and responses I received ended up changing my hypothesis to a different direction. This really highlighted to me the importance of the research stage and responding to participant feedback as my assumptions before the interviews were different from the responses I received.

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

The final two weeks of my placement involved learning Figma and using it to create wireframe models as well as experiment with UI design elements. Using Figma was a great way for me to analyse the flow through pages and play around with design layout and fonts.

Although my time at Sutherland Labs has come to an end, the support and knowledge I have received here has given me the confidence to follow through with my project and continue to develop it further.

This post was authored by our recent intern Nadina, thank you Nadina!

To find out more about the Head Start programme visit the h Foundation, or to enquire about internships at Sutherland Labs please contact Jessica McDonald.

Global Research in a COVID-19 World Tue, 17 Mar 2020 16:31:43 +0100 Global Research in a COVID-19 World

In this increasingly uncertain world, where social distance is likely going to characterise the next few months, we have to come up with a Plan B for how research is to be conducted.  The article below, published by the UXalliance suggests ways in which to try and mitigate and overcome these issues, so that research can carry on as best as possible.

When travel bans were introduced and social distancing became a norm, alarm bells started across the research community. Personal interaction and communication is the heart of what we do. What happens when you can’t travel and meet users?

The UXalliance is a global research organisation that’s collaborative to the core, and we’ve been constantly sharing experiences and learning from each other as COVID-19 has spread globally.

We have put together some tips to help you with your research:

Tip 1: Consider your options delay vs. continue

Products still need to be developed, otherwise targeted benefits are lost (and expensive product teams can’t be idle).

The options are:

  • Delay research and wait for it to clear. Be aware that this could take months.
  • Press ahead without user engagement and risk sub-optimal products long after COVID-19 recedes.
  • Continue with research, but possibly with some tweaks and adjustments.

Tip 2: Use local UX research companies

The good news is that UX research is now global and there are strong research providers who can help clients who can’t travel. Many are used to working remotely for international clients. In fact, it’s the core of what we do at the UXalliance. The research providers can become the in-house team’s eye’s, ears and hands on the ground, localising research, streaming sessions and sharing video/audio globally. The impact of COVID-19 varies considerably and they know what is achievable locally (they also understand any necessary workarounds, for example where bandwidth isn’t great).

Tip 3: Implement safety measures to protect and reassure participants & researchers

COVID-19 is about good hygiene and we’ve seen extra safety and hygiene measures protect and reassure. These vary in degree depending on the local COVID-19 status.

The World Health Organisation have published detailed guidelines, see:

In terms of recruitment, we suggest you adjust the screeners to eliminate potential participants that may have contracted the virus and high risk groups. Also, have extra time buffers in case of no-shows and self quarantine occurring.

For the safety of the participant, make extra efforts to sanitise any surfaces touched between sessions, follow WHO good hygiene practice, and maintain a social distance between moderator and participant during the session.

Image Credit: UX Alliance

Image Credit: UX Alliance

Tip 4: Adjust your research methods

Research is happening in even the most infected countries. The choice of workaround depends on the objective of the research.

Immersive research feels the most vulnerable to disruption. How can you really immerse yourself in a customer’s experience halfway across the world when you are grounded? Diary studies combined with a “co-immersion” workshops with a local UX research team are a great workaround. Here, the local team can perform the context immersion, record it and walk you through the deeper insights in a debrief session. This may actually work better as you the “foreigner’ may not be there to bias the audience and you get to understand the localised social behaviour firsthand. Combine this with diaries and user-generated video it can be a good way of bringing you closer to the users lives.

Focus groups are also vulnerable (it’s not really the time for bringing together groups of strangers in confined spaces). We’ve seen technology help through the use of remote video hangouts and other forums instead. Collaborative tools can also get participants working in a common digital space, for example Whimsical, Miro and Mural. On Friday 13 March 2020, the Italian team at Assist Digital in Milan, conducted the first remote focus group and made use of some of the tools to enable interaction.

Collaborative tools can help you work with focus groups remotely (Miro)

Collaborative tools can help you work with focus groups remotely (Miro)

We looked at every type of research and found some good workarounds to get depth of results with a few tweaks here and there. We’ve been trialling these, iterating and improving. The optimal mix will depend on the research needs, if you do need any help with a workaround, feel free to get in touch.

Tip 5: Plan for Time zone differences

If you’re not travelling for international research, you’ll need to work effectively across time zones. It’s a natural disruption the UXalliance has worked with for some time.

Finding the cross-over times, is key to briefing and debriefing teams and running pivot sessions. Beyond this, you can use comprehensive checklists for activities which can happen asynchronously. Working with research partners familiar with global testing ensures this process runs smoothly.

Tip 6: Create workaround for technology restrictions

Video streaming and screen sharing are possible across platforms and are very effective tools. This is straightforward in many parts of the world, but limited bandwidth can make this tricky elsewhere.

We typically find three scenarios for remote viewing:

No technology restrictions for streaming — The best-case scenario is where you observe the session real-time and collaborate with the local team using online chat and boards. This is possible in many countries, especially in the major cities. It’s a great contingency in most instances.

Unstable bandwidth — Near-live viewing involves a lag of up to 5 to 10 minutes to the stream. The lag creates a buffer, which ensures smooth viewing if there are large fluctuations in bandwidth in a country.

Local researchers will know about this and can guide remote observers on the possibilities to collaborate with the researchers. The sessions are typically sequenced to ensure feedback is provided and observers remain engaged.

Insufficient bandwidth — Delayed video upload can be used when the bandwidth is too limited. In this situation, a session video is uploaded either just after a session or within a couple of hours. With sufficient briefing, piloting and periodic check-ins (e.g. half-daily), it is still possible to engage remote observers.

One thing is clear: we are in unprecedented times! And COVID-19 gives us some unique challenges when doing global research. However, as Rahm Emanuel already said: “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.“ So let’s adapt to this new situation and make the most of it. The good news is that we’ve never had better technology or global know-how to deal with these challenges!

Keep Calm and Carry On Researching!

Want to hear more from the UXalliance local experts? Why not join us Friday 20 March 12:00 PM — 1:00 PM (GMT) for a live discussion on how to research in the times of COVID-19.

Signup today for FREE:

Please note the above article was co-authored with UX partners, and we have been given full permission to share it.

Labs Library: Volume Three Thu, 27 Feb 2020 15:36:05 +0100 Labs Library: Volume Three

Welcome back to volume three of Labs Library, where our library continues to grow and we strive to keep you as the reader informed on the latest writing in the industry. 

For this edition we have chosen three books that provide practical frameworks for action and everyday use, administering the team with a fresh insight into solving real life problems.  We hope you find them useful, and keep your eyes peeled for future Labs reviews!

All Image Credit: Sutherland Labs

All Image Credit: Sutherland Labs

Form Design Patterns by Adam Silver 

This book gives both a fundamental and practical guide to coding and designing forms for the web.  Great for both experts and those who are new to the field, it provides an informative yet understandable step by step account of real world problems.  The book continues to drive interest throughout as each chapter focuses on real world issues that form designers face, and offers a methodical solution for each.  We loved that the book is centered around the fact that every user is different, but the end goal remains the same; inclusive design for all.  Our design team refers back to this book again and again, and would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the area, regardless of their background.

Think Like a UX Researcher: How to Observe Users, Influence Design, and Shape Business Strategy by David Travis & Philip Hodgson 

This book challenges readers to rid oneself of their preconceived ideas about what User Experience (UX) means, and how to think laterally.  The book encourages the reader to look at their own practises and transform them in order to optimise their portfolio. What is most useful about this book are the multiple ‘call to action’ features which can be found at the end of every chapter, making it easy to refer back without having to reread the chapter.  What we liked most about this book is, regardless of whether the reader is a designer or not, it highlights the importance of UX research for business success. From Researchers to Designers to Analysts, we really think this book is a must read for anyone looking to better understand UX.

Jobs to be Done. A Roadmap for Customer Centred Innovation by David Farber, Jessica Wattman & Stephen M. Wunker 

In this continually evolving economy no business can afford to let themselves stagnate, however, knowing how to stay one step ahead is notoriously difficult.  The aim of this book is to pinpoint those winning ideas that will resonate with your customers and keep you ahead of your competitors by focusing on customer centered innovation. The ‘Jobs Method’ provides a framework to look into customers behaviours to create alternative perspectives and provide insight into understanding what customers want, and why they want it – even if they aren’t sure themselves.  The book argues that people purchase products and services for a reason, and businesses need to understand what drives these decisions. What the Labs team liked about this book is that it provides the foundational concepts needed to successfully implement the framework at hand, as well as providing a framework for action. A must read for anyone looking for a fresh insight into how to reimagine the customer journey.

Sutherland Labs Engaged as BBC UX Design Research Partner Tue, 25 Feb 2020 16:58:55 +0100 Sutherland Labs Engaged as BBC UX Design Research Partner

We’re delighted to announce that Sutherland Labs has once again been selected as one of the agencies on the BBC UX Design Research Roster.

BBC workshop

In a continued relationship the Sutherland Labs team will support the development of products, platforms and services for audiences across the UK and globally. In previous years this has seen our team partnering with the BBC to gather insights into audience habits, behavioural patterns, needs and preferences across the BBC’s online offerings, such as Weather, News, World Service and children’s services.

This new roster place us alongside agencies from a wide range of specialisms and we’re excited to begin work!

Read about recent BBC engagements: BBC World Service: Understanding User Needs In India.

To find out more about our media and communications experience, contact Simon Herd.

Employee Experience: Getting Started Isn’t As Hard As You Think Tue, 11 Feb 2020 10:25:55 +0100 Employee Experience: Getting Started Isn’t As Hard As You Think

New technology, shifting consumer behavior and increasing demands are changing the expectations of candidates and employees. Employee Experience, or EX, seeks to address this challenge by accounting for all of the touchpoints and experiences that employees (or candidates) have with your organization.

Given the vastness of these touchpoints, it’s understandable why some companies struggle to get to grips with EX. But there’s good news: designing an effective and compelling EX isn’t as hard as you think it is – if you know where to start.

employees at work

Here’s an inside look at how to identify problem areas in the EX and build human-centred design solutions that reduce effort, boost engagement and enhance the customer experience. 

Identify the most relevant area

To simplify EX, we look at the entire end-to-end experience through the lens of attracting candidates and retaining top talent. These are then split into six key segments that make up the EX journey:

  1. Searching
  2. Applying
  3. Onboarding
  4. Performing
  5. Developing
  6. Exiting

At each stage, candidates or employees want employers to deliver on specific needs and values. We call these the ‘pivotal moments’. 

The first step, then, in designing a powerful EX is to identify the problem areas that need addressing. Let’s take a quick look at how this works in the real world.

Reimagining an onboarding process

At Sutherland Labs, we recently worked with a global provider of financial markets data and infrastructure, to reimagine its talent acquisition and onboarding as part of a wider look at its EX. 

They approached us with a challenge – how do we reimagine our talent acquisition and onboarding as part of a wider transformation effort?

Through the discovery of crucial employee insights, we established candidates hired by talent acquisition were then passed onto HR for onboarding, creating a disjointed process. This uncertain and negative experience left a bitter taste in the mouths of new employees. 

To combat this, Sutherland Labs helped them make its talent acquisition function responsible for the end-to-end employee experience, which meant onboarding would start at least two weeks prior to the employee’s “first” day with the company. This employee-centric solution lead to a much improved first impression.

Augment quantitive with qualitative insights 

To uncover which stage of the EX journey you should focus on, it all begins by speaking with and understanding your employees.

First, identify the location and the people you need to speak to. It’s ok if you can’t speak to all of your employees, but you should speak to a representative group where you can gain real-life insights.

Typically, we’d suggest speaking with at least 25 to 50 employees. This qualitative understanding will enable you to identify specific pain points and find out what candidates and employees really think.

Why is this so important?

Well, quantitative tells you the WHAT data, but it doesn’t tell you the WHY.

Qualitative insights give you the WHY and provide context into the behavioral rationale and unspoken insights based on observation. These conversations allow you to explore real people and real challenges in real workplace environments. In a sense, this process means you should go on a journey and walk in your employees’ shoes.

This is in stark contrast to the traditional HR approach. Most organizations use generic surveys that rely on large swathes of data covering topics such as satisfaction and engagement. According to research from LeadershipIQ, 78% of companies are failing to generate positive results from engagement surveys.

In fact, the validity of these surveys often depends upon how well the questions are drafted. Plus, you have to consider whether employees are even motivated enough to give you honest answers.

Discover the why and employ a human-centred approach

Quantitative research can be a great indicator of what is going wrong, but qualitative insights intentionally work with a small group of representatives to allow you to dive deep and discover the why.

In this case, the why will be specific pain points and frustrations in the EX. 

When you identify the moments and influences that matter to top talent, you’re able to reframe and redesign them so that you can turn any negative experiences into positive ones.

So, how can you go about doing this?

There are a few different ways. It could involve voice of employees, in-context research or focus groups. Whatever the specific mix of methods, it’s important to include at least one element that is done in person. The observation of unconscious behaviors, workplace dynamics and environment provide subtle clues and insights that inform a more holistic approach. 

As Margaret Mead notes, “What people say, what people do, and what people say they do are entirely different things.”

When you identify the moments and influences that matter to top talent, you’re able to reframe and redesign them so that you can turn any negative experiences into positive ones.

The resulting experience is one which fully meets the needs and behaviors of intended users, and also brings about positive, sustained outcomes for the business. 

If you’re interested in learning more about employee experience, we’d love to welcome you to our EX event, for more information please contact 

Reimagining Graduate Hiring in Healthcare Thu, 21 Nov 2019 15:59:44 +0100 Reimagining Graduate Hiring in Healthcare

Our client wanted to rethink their entire approach to hiring graduates.

The global healthcare and pharmaceutical brand was investing in graduate programmes in EMEA, but a low proportion of these graduates converted into full time positions.

Graduate insights report

The Challenge

Leaders were questioning the effectiveness of graduate hiring in EMEA, and wanted to see a more strategic approach that would better serve the needs of the business. The hiring and retention of new capabilities is critical to the long term health of the organization and for building a talent pipeline for the future.

We devised an approach to help our client understand pain points in the current graduate experience, identify opportunities for innovation, and to build a strategic roadmap for the future.


Research activities

The Approach

Voice of the Customer Research

We knew that exploring graduate needs was important, but to improve internal confidence and create a shared vision for the future we wanted to view the challenge from many different perspectives. To gain a wide view we began with a ‘voice of the customer’ study, during which our teams carried out over 150 in depth interviews and focus groups with business leaders, HR and Talent leaders, graduates and hiring managers from 5 key sites across the organization.

Strategy Workshops

Next, we analyzed and unpacked these insights in collaborative workshops with the client, mapping out graduate journeys and creating behavior based personas. These artefacts were used as communication aids internally, and also helped to illustrate design recommendations to create a more user friendly user experience.

All activities fed into and culminated in a clear and executable strategy for graduate hiring, which was tailored to be delivered to different levels of the organisation.


“When you’re designing workplace systems to support graduates you need a deep understanding of their needs, behaviors and expectations.”

Anton Artemenkov – Creative Director, Sutherland Labs

The Results

Strategic Roadmap

We helped to develop a holistic, multi-year, EMEA-wide strategy for graduate hiring and development which received full leadership support.

Key insights were translated into workstreams spanning Planning, Attraction, Selection, Onboarding, and Development stages of the graduate journey.

The client has since launched a Planning Toolkit to help capture capability and business needs and ensure they are hiring strategically for the future. As well as, a  new ‘go to market’ approach on campus and a marketing campaign to enhance their Attraction strategy.

“The VOC Research has really helped us to accelerate this initiative and ensure we have the customer at the centre of our approach – thank you!”

Vice President HR EMEA, Global Healthcare and Pharmaceutical brand 

]]> An Employee Led Digital Workplace Strategy Wed, 23 Oct 2019 14:43:23 +0100 An Employee Led Digital Workplace Strategy

Our client had ambitious plans to improve the daily working lives of employees.

The financial institution had a workforce and working practices were disparate and varied, spanning 7,000 employees in 25 countries. They wanted to build a strategy for digital channels and workplace tools that would increase productivity, build community and lead to more contented employees overall.

The Challenge

To develop a strategy to meet these aims and increase the likelihood of employee adoption, we needed to ground ourselves in the needs of their employees. Our goal was to understand employees day to day challenges and pain points, their preferred tools and workarounds, and to do this at scale to account for employees in multiple locations across the world.

Exploring employee needs

The Approach

To capture insights from a large number of employees we began with a survey, which helped us to refine the focus for subsequent rounds of immersive fieldwork. Over the next 2 months, our team travelled to six countries to interview and shadow a range of employees in their own work environments to understand their workflows, day-to-day working practices, tools, and obstacles. We also used remote interviews to reach employees in another six countries, and to ensure we covered a representative range of roles and responsibilities.

I used to think innovation was in motion here, but I just don’t see it happening as quickly as it should be. Or it’s change for no apparent reason.

Sample participant

Employees in the workplace

The Output

The insights from all rounds of research gave our client a rich picture of how employees really work, including the organisational culture, tools and processes, and current challenges. This fed into their overall digital workplace strategy, with more specific outputs including:

  • Behavior-based personas as a tool for creating empathy for employees amongst stakeholders making strategic decisions.
  • Digital channel strategy recommendations including collaboration tools and internal communications, broken down into quick wins and long term goals.
  • Employee experience best practices which were rolled out as use cases across the business.
Design thinking to improve candidate experience Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:21:26 +0100 Design thinking to improve candidate experience

Our parent organization, Sutherland, asked us to experiment with new ways of approaching existing recruitment challenges through a Design Thinking approach.

talent acquisition workshop


In an extremely competitive marketplace, how might we better attract the right talent? How can we improve retention by better understanding the end-to-end recruitment and employment journey of our employees? These are some of the questions Sutherland Labs have been tackling in our own organization – working alongside our Talent Acquisition teams.


We used immersive research to ‘walk in candidates shoes’ to understand a candidate journey throughout the recruitment process. We created behavioral personas, helping to segment, identify ‘star’ target audiences and better understand their idiosyncrasies. We also created journey maps that gave a visual representation which help to articulate pain points and crucial insight that often lead to ideas for improvements and solutions.

Talent acquisition journey maps


The insights helped our colleagues to reframe the story during the recruitment process, which in turn impacted their messaging, advertising and social media activity. The results have included a significant increase in social media followers and engagement, following a reworked advertising campaign. The project also contributed towards wider strategic goals of improving employee engagement, and aided a change of mindset within HR functions.

Rethinking in-hospital entertainment Tue, 14 Jun 2016 10:17:09 +0100 Rethinking in-hospital entertainment

Our client, global provider of hospital entertainment systems, asked us to analyze customer experience of their current system and inform the design of a cleverly user-centric new one.

TV remote and tablet


TV, radio, games, other interactive content: hospital bedside entertainment has the power to positively transform patient experience. But many patients in this study were not engaging with our client’s current system and opting instead to use their own devices. We were called on to conduct deep analysis of patient needs. Our findings then inspired the design of a revolutionary new system – to make hospital stays infinitely more entertaining.


From registering for the first time, to tuning in to the radio or finding a good film, we first identified key user tasks. We then conducted interviews with staff, patients and family members across different wards – Elderly, Stroke, Children, etc. – to find out how these tasks could be carried out most efficiently. Insights from discussions, interviews, focus groups and a visit to the client call centre were then translated into different personae and journey maps. The outcome? As many as 50 different propositions to guide development of the new system.


These propositions included: a friendlier, more accessible user interface; a promotional loop on the homepage to raise key feature awareness; a simplified VOC library structure to enable easy browsing; and extended account management features for families to enable them to make purchases on a patient’s behalf.

Hospital ward
Designing a better patient experience Tue, 07 Jun 2016 13:37:57 +0100 Designing a better patient experience

From billing and online payment to registration and insurance, effective healthcare requires effective administration. And, for a joint study by Sutherland Healthcare and its non-profit partner, this was a starting premise.

User on iPad


Our globally renowned healthcare client asked us to observe administration across its facilities and decipher what was working well, and where there was room for improvement – with a focus on billing, registration, online activity, signage and numerous other non-clinical issues.


Our starting point was to closely observe over 100 patients and staff in a variety of settings across its two hospitals and contact centre, considering factors such as environment, education and general operations in order to enhance day-to-day experiences. Our six main areas of exploration were as follows: transition from paper to online processes; online self-service; medical payment issues; education and awareness of costs in relation to healthcare; healthcare insurance; and the possible overuse of brochures and posters in medical environments.


Our research enabled us to identify pain points in the customer and staff journeys and to offer inspired solutions. These included: a new patient portal providing self-service registration and access to clinical information; text message reminders and late running notifications; a mobile app updating family members on patient status; cost estimator tools to make costs more transparent; online application and payment for financial aid; a loyalty programme; and a new strategy to increase awareness and uptake of health insurance exchanges.

Doctors walking in hospital