frustrated man using a laptop
PHOTO: Tim Gouw

Examine enough customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) practitioner resumes and you might notice a common phenomena: a series of short tenures at multiple jobs. Rather than shining a spotlight on their frustrations with the work experience, it's sometimes assumed these practitioners are disloyal or incapable of staying dedicated to a long-term job.

In 2019, I conducted a survey of UX workers that asked them to complete the following sentence: “My current or most recent UX job would have gone so much better if …”

  • “We had time to prioritize research, feedback and usability testing.”
  • “It didn't take me nine months to get permission from VP of product to build a prototype (which when I made it, proved our entire business model was flawed and took us back two years).”
  • “People recognized UX as a specialty. Just because you think you can make a wireframe in Keynote does not make you a UX designer.”
  • “I had a dedicated budget and we had more staff.”
  • “The company had critically thought about what UX and user-centered design are before hiring me. This non-understanding of my competencies lead to a misconception of skills and expectations.”
  • “I had the support of management to execute proper user research, testing and prototyping for actual users of the product.”
  • “People in my company understood UX and were focused on building products based on user needs and not on stakeholder needs.”
  • “The UX was valued more than the coding.”
  • “My company allowed themselves to turn down unreasonable requests from clients.”
  • “They would stop trying to be UX experts and let real experts architect a solution.”

Related Article: Design Thinking Isn't User Experience

Solutions for Common CX/UX Workplace Problems

The problems CX and UX workers have are nearly universal with common themes.

Problem: Teammates, leadership and the company don’t really understand CX or UX, which leads them to think anybody can do the work and specialists aren’t needed.

Solution: Solving this one issue could solve many of the other problems. Companies and teams need to shift mindsets from “anybody can do this” or “anybody can sketch screens” to one that understands CX and UX are only easy when done poorly or incorrectly.

Part of this involves retraining workers and teams about what CX/UX practitioners do, which will help them be conversant with CX/UX. Companies should not try to teach non-UX roles how to do UX work. Just as we don’t try to train UX pros to be business administrators or DevOps engineers, CX/UX are not retrofit jobs.

Agile Manifesto Principle #5 reminds us to trust and support teammates, and give them what they need to get their jobs done. Most guides on building strong teams suggest that members must understand and value each other’s roles. Starting with this understanding and respect could very well change the many negative CX/UX job experiences that have unfortunately become the norm.

Problem: CX/UX often have little or no autonomy, power, time or budget. Mission critical work languishes while waiting for someone else's permission.   

Solution: CX/UX need more freedom to make decisions in their domain. It's important to bring the CX/UX team in early when projects are being discussed so they can receive the necessary time, budget, resource and headcount. Problems typically occur, so the CX/UX team needs permission to investigate and address them as they arise. Scrum values — if not demands — self-organized and self-managed teams who choose how to accomplish their work rather than being directed by someone outside of their function.

Problem: CX/UX research is not a priority. Companies tend to skimp on this and instead send out a survey to ask customers what they want. Companies test concepts on the paying public as MVPs or betas, and conceal the time, money and customer goodwill the failures burned.

Solution: Research can make or break your strategies and products. Companies used to live and die by what their Research & Development (R&D) teams did. In companies that no longer have an “R&D” department, the tasks surrounding researching, developing, conceptualizing, predicting and innovating products and services now fall to CX/UX.

A doctor who runs the wrong tests, never runs tests, or misinterprets tests might take your treatment down the wrong path. Guesses and assumptions cannot replace research done well and thoroughly by qualified professionals. CX/UX might not mean life or death, but it can mean project, product, or company life or death. It’s mission critical and must be treated as such.

Problem: CX/UX tasks are treated like a group craft project, turning experts and specialists into workshop facilitators watching others guess at UX tasks.

Solution: Approaches like Agile, Lean UX and design thinking exacerbate these problems as they take the stance that everybody on the larger team should be able to do CX/UX tasks and work. This is rooted in a lack of understanding of CX/UX roles, work or purpose.

Teams claim that doing UX work by committee is great for team building, yet no other role is holding work-by-committee sessions where everybody ideates on the product roadmap, marketing campaigns or coding.

A good rule of thumb here: if someone wouldn’t qualify for a full-time UX job, they shouldn’t be guessing at UX work in workshops, meetings or on their own.

Related Article: A Brief History of Agile Marketing

Ending Employee Churn

These problems and recurring themes make good CX/UX workers flight risks, whether they are employees, contractors or freelancers. Companies must start recognizing the root causes and implement solutions to end employee churn.

Create an environment that understands, appreciates and correctly utilizes the skills and specialties of CX/UX practitioners and your flight risks will become loyal employees.