Product Design & Strategy, Design Sprints

We Are Legion

Legion is an intelligent workforce engagement platform that leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence to accurately forecast demand and automatically match employees to work. By addressing the needs of both retail and service organizations as well as a new breed of hourly employees invested in the gig economy, Legion has proven to successfully reduce labor inefficiency, while increasing employee job satisfaction, tenure, and subsequently quality of product and service.

I began my partnership with Legion at its inception in the Spring of 2016, sitting down with the founder and CEO to understand the problem Legion was aiming to solve.

Legion

THE PROBLEM: Retail in Crisis

Much has already been written about the "retail apocalypse", the seismic shift the retail industry is facing due to waning consumer interest in brick & mortar in favor of the online experience, subsequent plummeting sales, widespread store and mall closings, and even bankruptcy of former retail giants.

U.S. hourly employees represent an estimated 79.9M people — approximately 56% of the total U.S. workforce. Businesses relying on this workforce have always faced the same challenges: high employee turnover and cost of replacement. In recent years, however, new issues have emerged that have severely tested their ability to hire and successfully retain hourly employees, appropriately staff store locations, and deliver a consistently high quality customer experience that keeps consumers coming in, rather than going online.

  • A new breed of millennial workers have rejected traditional retail workforce models
    Retail businesses' have struggled to engage and retain millennials due to their insistence on gig-like flexibility, their motivation to work being driven by factors other than money, and their comfort and reliance on technology driving high expectations for seamless, slick, and smart technical tools within the workplace.
  • The rise of the gig economy has dramatically shifted paradigms for workers, businesses, and consumers

    For hourly service workers, the emergence of the gig model has dramatically expanded their options, allowing them the choice of supplementing their regular salary with additional income or balancing multiple gigs to bring in income, without having to commit to a single part-time or full-time job.

    For businesses within the service and retail industries, the bar has been raised for how accurate, efficient, and adaptable businesses need to be in order to survive.

    For retail consumers, the prevalence of apps providing online within-the-hour delivery, ordering and payment for pickup, and temporary and mobile storefronts have all vastly expanded the ways in which they now expect to be able to access products and services.

    For retail businesses, it's not enough to enable purchases to be made in-store or online. In order to better serve their customers and meet their expectations, retail businesses must now seamlessly accommodate a range of new services — in partnership with 3rd party vendors or via their own branded app. The result is increased technical and service demands made upon the business.

Legion: Understanding the Problem

THE BIG IDEA: Balancing Company & Worker Needs

Legion was conceived as a platform that would leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence to address essential facets of the retail crisis.

Millennial hourly workers would be engaged by the flexibility, personalization, and smart features offered through Legion's mobile app.:

  • Encouraging them to define when, where, and how much they want to work
  • Delivering personalized weekly schedules which factor in their work preferences
  • Allowing them to pick up new shifts, swap shifts, or otherwise request changes to their schedules
  • Facilitating communication between team members

For businesses, Legion web console would leverage advanced machine learning to optimize the supply and demand equation:

  • Generating precise demand predictions per store location based on demand drivers like past sales, store traffic, seasonality, weather, and more.
  • Automating schedule creation based on forecasted labor need
  • Smart matching of employees to schedule shifts, based on employee preference, role, skill, productivity, and labor compliance policies
  • Enabling real-time integration with HR, Payroll, PoS and mobile ordering apps so as to accurately inform supply and demand

With both apps working in concert, the Legion platform would empower retail businesses:

  • To be more accurate, efficient, fair, and compliant in employee scheduling and management
  • Flexible enough to accommodate the needs of the millennial hourly workers
  • Optimized to improve employee satisfaction, performance, and retention and reduce turnover
  • Better able to serve their customers, meet their expectations of a seamless experience
Legion: The Solution

THE COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE: Clear, but not for long

While the market was saturated with employee scheduling, management and HR tools, a company had yet to tackle the problems related to hourly workforce engagement and management holistically, as Legion was aiming to do.

Given the ongoing public discussion of both the dire state of retail and the impact of the gig economy, it was imperative that we move quickly and take Legion from an idea to functioning platform as soon as possible. Relishing the challenge before us, I joined the CEO and CTO in Legion's core team of 3.

Legion: The Competitive Landscape

THE HIGH-LEVEL PLAN

  • Take a phased approach
  • Focus on getting core features designed and functioning for both apps in Phase 1
  • Refine, expand, and optimize in subsequent phases
  • Differentiate through design
    While speed was of the essence, innovative design was central to our strategy. Our intent from the beginning was that Legion should look and feel as game-changing as it is.
Legion: The Beginning

PHASE 1: Design Sprint

  • Guerrilla Market Research
    Since differentiating was key, I began by conducting rapid competitive and comparative research — gathering information about HR, payroll, scheduling, and employee management apps to document design and feature standards and conventions, while exploring apps outside the workforce space that demonstrated innovative methods of managing personal schedules and tasks as a source of inspiration.
  • Partnering with the CEO to define MVP
    In twice weekly design review and brainstorming sessions, we sat down together to boil down a wealth of ideas into Legion's core features and functionality, either sketching out ideas or creating wireframes as we discussed. Not only were these sessions highly productive, but they also provided compelling insight into the future of what Legion could be, once fully powered by advanced machine learning.
  • Rapid mid-fi prototyping
    I leveraged both Keynote and Sketch to present static and interactive task flows to the team.
  • Test, refine, repeat
    While our priority was ensuring that we clearly demonstrated Legion core functionality and its value proposition as soon as possible, I took each revision as an opportunity to review feedback, modify and improve the design.
Legion: The Beginning

PHASE 1: Results

Within a few months, we succeeded in getting core functionality for both the mobile and web apps designed, developed, and ready to demo. With our Phase 1 goals met, I was excited to move forward to the next phase where I would be able to take full ownership of the full Legion user experience and brand — refining, optimizing and expanding both apps in order to assist Legion in taking the Legion platform to the next level.

Legion: The Demo

PHASE 2: Full Speed Ahead

The plan over the next 3 quarters was aggressively ambitious: expanding both the web console and mobile apps to full functionality, making design and architecture refinements to the Legion platform to both accommodate new features, solidify the brand, and provide a first-class user experience that delivered upon Legion's value proposition for both companies and employees.

OBJECTIVES

  • Focus, Polish & Extend the Legion Brand
    While we had sourced Legion's logo and starting brand palette for mobile early on and leveraged many of its elements for the web console as we iterated, I need to develop a larger design system that would successfully align with our vision of what the Legion brand would represent, would comfortably contain both apps under the umbrella of the Legion brand, while also allow for the differentiation required to meet the specific needs and expectations of two very different audiences.
  • Optimize the Mobile App to Engage Millennial Users
    Legion's value would rely equally on the mobile app successfully appealing to and being adopted by hourly workers, together with the web console delivering upon the promise of improved accuracy, efficiency, and adaptability in forecasting, schedule creation and staffing, and team management. Whereas we had already received positive feedback from potential users of the web console, we needed to ensure that the mobile app would resonate and prove valuable to millennial hourly workers.
  • Iteratively Design, Release, Test & Refine both apps to be release-ready by the close of Phase 2
    Not only would this be an important milestone for Legion, but reaching this goal would also prepare Legion for taking on its first customer.
Millennial Retail Worker

PHASE 2: DESIGN CHALLENGES

  • Concurrent design of 2 discrete apps
    As Legion's sole designer, I had to be strategic in the use of my time, and creative in finding solutions to logistical problems as they emerged. I needed to increase my level of understanding of user needs for both apps in order to best inform the requirements and design of both products accordingly, while working to stay ahead of Legion's growing development teams.
  • Tight timeline and budget in which to accomplish a rebranding
    Similarly, I needed to find a way to rebrand Legion without interrupting weekly design sprint cycles, or putting our target release date at risk.
  • Gathering input and feedback from millennial users proved challenging
    While we were able to collect feedback on the console from management users, gathering information from hourly retail workers, however, was another matter entirely.

    Sourcing these users was relatively easy, however, scheduling interviews — even for remotely conducted sessions — presented a logistical nightmare. Unsurprisingly, millennials were incredibly short on time, always on the go, and juggling multiple jobs, responsibilities, and activities in multiple locations.
On the Go Millennial

PHASE 2: The Approach

  • Guerrilla User Research & Testing
    We were extraordinarily lucky in having found Philz Coffee as a partner to help Legion grow with the benefit of their experience. With time being tight and my focus divided equally between defining and designing both products, I relied heavily on informal interviews in gathering input and feedback, supplemented by online research into hourly retail workers and millennial persona sectors, and exploration of retail company social media properties that gave voice to their hourly workers.
  • Market Research
    I conducted quick competitive research again, revisiting the key players I had identified previously to review their latest product releases, while also discovering new companies entering the space. Even though it had been only a few months since my last competitive analysis, there were marked shifts in market leaders, trends, and innovations. It was clear that the workforce market space was heating up and evolving rapidly — yet another reminder that time was of the essence and Legion needed to move quickly to get to market.
  • Refine the Brand we have
    Rather than risk getting bogged down in a rebranding exercise, I chose to modify and update the Legion brand elements we already had--cleaning up the logo, extending and softening the color palette, and deciding to differentiate and align the apps simultaneously through the use of photography.
  • Rapid iteration
    The CEO and I continued our one-on-ones to talk through new features, sketching out ideas by hand (paper & iPad). Occasionally, there was time to further develop these ideas through wireframing, but more often than not, time dictated that I segue directly into visual design.

Initial Personas

Retail Team Member Persona
Retail Team Leader Persona
Retail Store Leader Persona
Retail Regional Manager Persona

Key Insights

  • Millennial hourly workers (ages 18 through 35) don't fit within a single persona. There was strong variance in millennial work needs and behavior based on age and what stage they were in their lives and career.
  • I found young workers still in college were looking for fewer hours and more flexibility to accommodate a packed schedule due to her balancing school, other job(s), and activities.
  • Recent college graduates, however, were often seeking more hours, so as to save money to travel, make a major purchase, or fund additional schooling; they also showed preference for consistent work hours so as to better structure weekly schedules, defining set times for work and non-work activities.
  • Heavy mobile phone usage, and high expectations for what an employee scheduling app should provide.
  • Slight preference for iPhones, though devices are often older rather than newer and limited in data due to cost.
  • Highest pay is not consistently the strongest motivating factor in taking or staying at a job.
  • Stronger motivators were belief in the mission of business, a fun work environment, chance to work with friends, a local business serving as a community hotspot, and specific interest in the retail business sector, i.e. a passion for food and drink, fashion, makeup, health & nutrition, etc. that they might be exploring before committing to additional training in that field.
Legion Modified Branding

PHASE 2: Designing Mobile for Engagement & Differentiation

Back & Forth between Work & Play

In researching hourly retail workers, I was struck by how hectic their personal schedules were and how they seemed to be in constant motion - shuttling back and forth between work, school, and personal activities.

Elaborating upon this notion, I developed the idea of presenting the mobile app as something that not only acknowledges this constant transitioning between activity, but is designed to accommodate this type of back and forth in their daily lives.

Emotive Photography

Photography was at the core of the new design concept. First, as a simple differentiator - most workforce management and scheduling apps use little if any photography; the photos that are used focus almost exclusively on work and tend to exhibit the forced cheerfulness, stilted scenarios, and corporate vibe so often present with traditional stock photography.

Second, photography provided a subtle yet powerful way by which Legion could mirror the millennial experience — and thereby acknowledge and show understanding of our users. I chose photographs showing young people on the go, in both work and non-work environments, sourced exclusively from small, lesser known photography sites that showcased the work of young, independent photographers.

While sourcing the right photo was a challenge given the limited available stock, those we hand-picked for Legion felt modern, evocative, almost journalistic in their lack of artifice, and as a result more in tune with the day-to-day experience of our millennial users.

Legion Modified Branding
Legion Modified Branding

Refined Color Palette & Logo

The original palette was made up of dark primary and vibrant secondary colors. In order to polish the brand, without undergoing a complete overhaul, I had to be pragmatic. Given its prevalence, the dark "Legion blue" that served as our primary brand color was retained, while secondary and tertiary colors were replaced, reducing the overall vibrance of the palette to make the UI feel lighter, more approachable, and complementary to photography.

Simplicity in Design & Interaction

For screens requiring close attention and action from the user, the intent was to simplify the overall experience so as to enable a user to accomplish key tasks on the go - one-handed via simple taps, without requiring extensive scrolling, or complex, 2-handed gestures.

In order to direct user attention, I developed simple and clean interfaces that relied on copious white space, subtle pastels, small pops of color to guide focus, and judiciously chosen 1/2 screen photos to link those screens with and without photography.

Legion Mobile App
Legion Mobile App

PHASE 2: Designing at the Speed of Sound Light Thought

While the the new mobile app design concepts went through review cycles, I returned focus to the web console, re-architecting to accommodate the full console feature set, modifying core forecasting, schedule creation and staffing screens per feedback, while tackling the design of new features enabling account creation, configuration, and management, and advanced schedule and team management.

Once the mobile app design was finalized, again I switched gears and moved forward in applying the new design and branding, tackling all screens and flows in iterative sprints.

Similarly, while mobile features went through review cycles, I returned to the web console to update branding, address the latest feedback, and incorporate new feature requests. Throughout Phase 2, I continued with this approach, iteratively updating, improving, and expanding both apps per user and team feedback until the Legion platform reached full functionality and delivered the experience and value we were aiming for.

Legion Platform

OUR WORK

  • Automated Labor Demand Forecasting
    Weekly demand forecasts factoring in local demand drivers, together with unique staffing policies and local labor law regulations.
  • Automated Schedule Creation
    Weekly schedule creation accounting for projected sales, budget, labor compliance and employer-specific policies.
  • Automated Employee Shift Matching
    Employee shift matches balancing business needs with employee skills, preferences, and performances. Designed to automatically accommodate last minute changes and additional capacity needs through open shift offers delivered to employees via the mobile app.
  • Workforce Management & Analytics
  • Employer Account Setup
    Enabling easy account creation, integration of 3rd party HR/Payroll, and PoS tools, definition of company-wide policies, rules, and employee roles, and location-specific settings.
  • Notifications & Reminders
    Management reminders, real-time flags and enforcement for manual schedule changes that could trigger compliance or policy violations.
  • Mobile Employee Engagement
    Designed specifically to engage and align with the needs and expectations of millennial workers, featuring app walkthrough, viewing and editing of employee preferences and schedules, including shift change requests, offers, and status notifications.

Our Timeline

12

MONTHS

We Completed

100+

ITERATIONS

We Designed

10k+

SCREENS

THE RESULTS

Rapid design of new features, turnaround of user feedback on existing ones, and iterative refinement of the UX and Brand resulted in the team successfully meeting our goal of full platform design and release for Phase 2. Not only did the team meet our aggressive targets, but we also saw the immediate success of the Legion platform itself:

  • 4.5 Rating for the Legion iPhone and Android Apps
  • Employers reporting up to 80% reduction in schedule creation and maintenance
  • Measurable increase in employee satisfaction with Legion-generated schedules
  • September 2017, Legion and Philz Coffee announce their partnership and successful deployment of Legion Workforce Engagement Platform to all hourly employees across 40 locations nationwide.
  • Having proven viability as platform and company, Legion successfully secures 10.5M Series A led by Norwest Ventures - only 18 months after its founding.
Legion Platform
Legion Web Console
Legion Mobile
Legion Mobile
Legion Web Console
Legion Mobile
Legion Mobile

0 to Series A

18

Months

Legion

Series A

10.5

Million

Jacob Jaber, CEO Philz Coffee

Our mission at Philz is for better days—not only for our customers, but also for our team members. Legion allows our team members to become active participants in the creation of their schedules and also makes it easy for us as a business to best serve our community. A magical accomplishment. Legion is the future.

Jacob Jaber
CEO, Philz Coffee

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