Role: User Research, Qualitative Data Analysis
Tools: Figma, Airtable, Qualtrics
Team: Stella Tu, Drew Skrainka, Katie Connor
Year: 2020
Our motivation
By 2030, over 1 in 5 people in the united states will be over the age of 65. We live in a world optimized for much shorter lifespans, but this changing demographic calls for us to reconsider what we do with all of the extra years.​​​​​​​
Out of the 50+ people we have interviewed, not a single adult wanted to call themselves “retired.” They’re not done.
I want to change that. What if retirement could be something to look forward to? What if it was just “Act II”?​​​​​​​
Interviewing college students and retiring adults
Initially interested in how to design a service to build intergenerational relationships to help people through moments of transition, our team interviewed 40 college students and retiring adults.​​​​​​​
Turns out, graduating college students and retiring adults have a lot in common, except there’s no “career center” for retirement.
Card sorting the retirement journey
Focusing in on the life transition of retirement further, we wanted to understand what that journey feels like. We set up a worksheet with a timeline from "how I felt when I left my career" to "how I felt when I figured out what I want to do" with empty boxes for them to place images along the journey. We were hoping the images would paint a picture of the feelings associated with retirement. Right away, our users pointed out a crucial distinction in framing:
The journey of retirement deals with going from "who you were" to "who you'd like to become." It's about the "who" rather than the "what." 
The toughest part of the transition was going from a clearly defined identity - defined by a career title or a caregiving role for children or aging parents - to a wide open canvas. 
Most of the four journeys our participants created looked like the one below. The most important part of the journey was the fact that it was a cycle - something that doesn't just end with an Act II, but continues to an Act III, IV, V. Below as a starting point in understanding the phases of the retirement journey based on our card sorting findings.
Surveying retiring adults across the US
Given that our card sorting participants were retired high-achieving professionals, we wanted to test if their key retirement challenges were felt by any other demographic. We surveyed adults over 50 across the US to gauge the emotions associated with each of the stages of retirement identified from card sorting. We hypothesized that finding a new interest after a long career would be the biggest challenge for high-achieving professionals (previous executives) who have retired in the past year. 
Our questions focused on understanding demographics (age, ethnicity, gender, employment status, income) and the make up of their main community. If the participant was already retired, we wanted to know how they spend their time during retirement, satisfaction with retirement, and relative importance of factors such as health, money, education, time, community, and purpose. If the participant was still working, we were curious when they planned on retiring, the emotions associated with retirement, and the relative importance of those same factors.
What we found:
- Only 2 of 35 participants fit into our target user group of high-achieving professionals. Turns out, an Amazon MTurk survey is not the ideal way to find this user group!
- Finances are a concern for everyone, even those with 7-figure savings. Finances must be in order before people can consider what to do in retirement. This echoed what we heard during interviews.
- Middle-class adults are quite satisfied with their retirement, though a little paid work wouldn't hurt. All 8 retired participants said they were either somewhat satisfied or very satisfied with their retirement. Finding a paid opportunity ranked the highest in a list of potential services that they would be interested in currently.
- Retired adults were most interested in self-reflection, followed by finding new interests, experimentation, and community. Just because someone has been retired longer doesn't mean they've More time to reflect does not necessarily equate to better self-reflection. And self-reflection doesn't lend itself to being a solo activity.
- Adults less than 5 years from retirement were most interested in experimentation, followed by new interests, self-reflection, and community.
- Community ranked last for both groups. Survey participants said, “I come before community in general” and “It is about me, me, me, me and then all others.” This echoed our interview findings. Though it is something valuable, it isn't always the first thing that people are looking for. It's a reason people stay.

How this impacted our scope:
- Our team decided to focus our service on experimenting with passions rather than jobs - a need specific to high-achieving professionals. This made the most sense since most retired adults in the middle-class demographic seemed satisfied, and since there are several existing solutions in the space of late-career flexible work opportunities (iRelaunch, Maven, Reboot Accel, Amava)
- Our service should primarily target adults less than 2 years from retirement, which was our participants' average response for when they would like to engage with us. This phase also marked the point of highest anxiety (and excitement) for our participants.​​​​​​​
Defining the challenge
We were inspired by the Stitch Fix model of a personal stylist that helps customers find the right "look" by trying on clothes. Sometimes, it might just take a total stranger to give you the best personal advice. After all, strangers don't have any preconceived notions of what you should or should not be doing at your age.
How might we enable late-career adults try on new identities, and return them if they don’t fit?
Bias to action: launching a retirement concierge
​​​​​​​We wanted to understand two things:
1. Could we - Act II - could come up with experiences that our users would be excited to try?
2. What are the personas within our target user group, and what are their specific pain points?
 We launched a full-fledge high-touch concierge service for 8 adults who had previously been corporate executives.
First, we interviewed our users with an in-person "Interest Quiz."
First, we interviewed our users with an in-person "Interest Quiz."
Second, we brainstormed ways we could reframe our users' interests to exciting experiences that fit into their lives.
Second, we brainstormed ways we could reframe our users' interests to exciting experiences that fit into their lives.
Third, we presented these curated experiences to them.
Third, we presented these curated experiences to them.
Fourth, we'd ask for them to select their top 3 and try them out.
Fourth, we'd ask for them to select their top 3 and try them out.
We found out quickly that we could come up with exciting experiences - it just took 20 hours per person. And we weren't sure which part of what we were doing our users were excited about, or if this excitement was indicative of a greater pool of interest. Our ability to convert data from an Interests Quiz to Curated Experiences was solid, but we needed an MVP to validate our value proposition.
We also identified key personas, their journeys, and their pain points, that would help guide our design principles moving forward. We found that the higher the achievement in one's career, the steeper - and more frightening - the cliff on the other end. Retirement most often came hand in hand with graduating children and the passing of parents after a period of all-consuming caregiving. Once all of that was done, what should one do next? The concern was not about a lack of options to explore, but rather how to build a portfolio of activities that feel productive. We had 4 key personas:
1. Nick, who needs a way to stay focused and accountable to pursuing his passions. Though he is looking for a way to reignite his old passions, for him the most important part of our service is the community to hold him accountable.
2. Wanda, who already has a full plate of activities, but needs someone to offer a fresh perspective on something new. For her, our core value is reframing her skills into new, exciting experiences.
3. Debbie, the one who is looking for the next big thing to work towards. For her, the most important part of our service is the learning that comes from process:
“I think what's great ... is when you're offered an option to do something, and you say no, or you don't find the time to do it, there's a lot of learning that comes just in that process.”
Debbie, Act II user
Creating an MVP around our value proposition
With the data from our first concierge prototype, we knew we needed to simplify our service to understand where our customers found the most value.
1. When our users discover Act II, we wanted them to be clear about our value proposition through a landing page. In our previous concierge, most of our concierge users were “pleasantly surprised” once we came back with recommendations, but they had no idea what to expect with the email description we provided of Act II.
2. On our landing page, we have a section that lets users sign up to check their eligibility for our pilot program. We wanted to be clear about who our customers are and what data was important for us to listen to by filtering for role, industry, location, and years from retirement.
3. We wanted to separate out ‘high touch’ from our value by getting to know them with a short quiz, and understanding their favorite recommendations and their feedback through surveys. Everyone loves a ‘high touch’ service, so it is challenging to see if people just liked being payed attention to or if they find value in our value proposition. Thus, we wanted to separate “high touch” from our service to see if our value proposition could still hold.
4. We wanted a clearer, unbiased yes/no signal on if a person wanted to act on an experience we recommended, so rather than the face-to-face feedback sessions we had in our previous concierge, we send a short feedback survey.
Defining a service blueprint, a living document
With the new reality of virtual work due to the spread of COVID-19, it is more important than ever for our team to be aligned with our work. I created a service blueprint to document our current service so that we could have a living document for us to refine as our project progresses.​​​​​​​
I leveraged my manufacturing experience in developing value stream maps to identify value-add and non-value-add steps in our process, leading a team workshop to expand our MVP into a service blueprint and identify opportunities for improvement.
I incorporated the team's feedback into a revised service blueprint for Act II. This document acts as a source of truth for our interactions with our 12 active users.
Next Steps
1. We'd like more longitudinal data on our users. With 12 people in our "founding cohort," we'd like to test out what it means to have them build out a full portfolio. Most have completed just one or two experiences so far.
2. As with most businesses, COVID-19 is changing the way our users prioritize what is most important for them in the moment. We are currently exploring ways that we can incorporate our service into the current needs of our 12 users.​​​​​​​
We have over 500 qualitative data points from our user interviews, card sorting exercise, survey, and feedback sessions.
3. I am currently looking at a way to map our data in a way that is most useful to us, taking into consideration our needs:
- a quick dashboard of the current status of our users
- a detailed view of our project insights and the supporting data for each
- KPIs that track the success of each suggested experience
- an understanding of how each of our users maps to a persona, and how each persona finds value in our service

You may also like

Back to Top