How the Shifts team is responding to emerging user needs

Two years ago we launched Shifts – a web app that allows Co-op Food store colleagues to view their work schedules and information about their pay and holiday entitlement. We’ve been developing it ever since, but the past few weeks have been especially challenging because we’ve been responding quickly to meet emerging needs of our store colleagues – they are our front-line key workers.

5,000 extra store colleagues

On 19 March, we used Shifts to send out a message asking Food store colleagues to ‘refer a friend’ to come and work in their store. It was a call for people to help serve their communities by taking on work in stores to meet the higher demand for groceries, and to cover for colleagues who were self-isolating. By the end of March, Co-op stores around the UK had welcomed thousands of new stand-in colleagues. The Shifts web app has played a huge role in the induction process for new joiners.

The aim of Shifts has always been to empower colleagues and give them the information they need at a time and in a place that suits them. But a convenient, remote way of receiving information has become more important than ever.

Here are some of the changes we’ve made to Shifts to try to meet emerging needs of existing and new colleagues.

Communicating updates and guidance

Shifts uses Intercom to send messages to colleagues about new features, and colleagues have been able to contact us through it too. It’s been useful in the past, but it’s taken on more importance in recent weeks.

We’ve been working closely with teams in the retail support centre to update colleagues about personal protective equipment, information they need as key workers and what they needed to know regarding school closures.

Screenshot 2020-04-15 at 12.59.10

We also sent them a thank you message from Jo Whitfield, Chief Executive of Co-op Food.

Data shows that some of the messages were seen by over 43,000 store colleagues which we do not believe would have been the case if it wasn’t for Shifts being accessible for all colleagues on their personal devices.

Showing overtime at a different store

We recently added the capability to highlight when someone is working overtime at a store they don’t usually work at. Now, we can include them – and flag that this isn’t their ‘home’ store – on the same screen as everyone else who’s working a certain shift.

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We’d been finding it challenging to display this information, but at a time when many new crisis colleagues are helping in different stores it became more important to fix it. We prioritised work on this and now it’s resolved, we know it’ll be a much better experience for managers.

Matching up colleagues with shifts and stores

We know the demand for colleagues fluctuates between stores – some have been struggling to have enough colleagues in each day, whereas others have too many. And because a significant number of colleagues may show virus symptoms at the same time, stores could easily be left without their regular workforce while it self-isolates. To help with this, we’re currently working on functionality to allow managers to advertise available overtime shifts in their store to colleagues in nearby stores. This will allow colleagues to work where they’re most needed, and in places that are convenient for them.

Coming soon: showing available shifts

This month we’ll be releasing our ‘Available shifts’ feature which will let managers advertise overtime shifts and which roles they’d like to find cover for – this is open to colleagues who usually work in their store or ones who work in other stores in the area. Until now, managers have been using notice boards, WhatsApp groups or text messages to arrange cover which – according to research – can take longer than it should. The workaround can sometimes cause confusion too so the new feature should simplify and speed up the process. We hope it’ll be one less thing for colleagues to think about.

As always, we’re starting small. We’re testing this new feature with colleagues in around 10 stores and will roll out.

Doing our bit

Here in the Co-op Digital team we’re not on the front line. We’re not key workers.

But our colleagues in stores are.

There’s been a real eagerness in the Digital team to do whatever we can to support our hero colleagues, make their lives a little easier and lessen their cognitive load.

We’re fixated more than ever on adding value right now. Everyone wants to be useful in a crisis.

Caroline Hatwell, software engineer
Matthew Edwards, content designer

Karen Lindop: the AGM, user research training plus award nominations

(Transcript) Karen Lindop: Hello, and welcome to our update on what’s happening in the Digital team.

I’ll start with some brilliant news. We’ve had not one, but 3 award nominations this week. Shifts has been shortlisted for best user experience and Guardian for transformation at the Big Chip Awards. Plus our service team have been shortlisted for the ‘special innovations’ award at the IT Service Management Foundation awards. Well done everyone, it’s testament to all of your hard work. Fingers crossed for 3 wins!

Talking of Shifts, you may remember a few weeks ago we made Shifts available to all our Food store colleagues. In just 4 weeks we’ve onboarded over half of the user base with 90% of those users returning in the past week. Chris, Paul and the team aren’t done though – they’ll continue to listen to feedback from colleagues and work on making it even better.

Our user research community have been running a training session to help get more honest feedback from our colleagues. Last week they ran further sessions with people who will be doing user research throughout our Co-op. Great work from Simon Hurst who has designed the course and is taking a lead on this.

Saturday was our Co-op AGM. Well done to all the teams across Co-op who come together as one Co-op to deliver a brilliant day for our members. If you couldn’t make it on the day, or were watching the royal wedding or football – our live stream is available to view.

Finally a quick reminder that next week the first of The Federation presents series begins. On the 30th May we are hosting an evening were we talk about Modern Slavery in Tech with the incredible Mary Mazzio. There are a few tickets left, so be quick and register.

That’s it for this week. Don’t forget to subscribe for all our updates on our blog and follow us on Twitter. See you soon.

Karen Lindop
Head of Digital Operations

 

Karen Lindop: Camp Digital and the Co-operative Education Conference, plus Shifts has 17,500 users

(Transcript) Karen Lindop: Hello, and welcome to our update on what’s happened in the Digital team this week.

You may remember last week I talked about the go live of Shifts to all our Food store colleagues. At the start of last week we had 4,200 users. We’ve now got an incredible 17,500 users! Plus 93% of our stores have at least one user and 65% of users are accessing it accessing daily. Well done to Chris and the team, you’re doing a great job! Thank you.

Linda Humphries and Emer Coleman both did an amazing job this week representing Co-op. Linda talked about the positive effects of working in the open at Camp Digital and Emer was at the Co-operative Education Conference sharing the story of Federation, talking co-ops, digital and democracy.

Talking of events, we’ve just announced the first in The ‘Federation presents’ series. On the 30 May we are really proud to host an evening were we talk about Modern Slavery in Tech with the incredible Mary Mazzio.

Mary joins us in The Federation to talk about her documentary ‘I am Jane Doe’. It’s a look at how tech can be an enabler of modern slavery without appropriate regulation. Mary will talk about her decision to make the film and the role it has played in generating such focus on the issue and the political and social response.

She’ll then be joined by Co-op’s Director of Policy and Campaigns, Paul Gerrard, and Craig Melson, Programme manager, Tech UK on a panel hosted by our CMO Matt Atkinson. We’ll add the link to our blog, be sure to get your tickets early!

Our user researchers have been thinking about what underpins the way they work, and as a result they’ve created some principles. We published them this week on our blog and James and the team would love to hear what you think about them. We’ve already had some great feedback via Twitter which we really appreciate.

Finally, thank you to Richard Sullivan and Kim Morley who ran another Digital Masterclass last week. We had a great mix of Co-op colleagues from across our businesses and from lots of different disciplines. The feedback was brilliant, and we’ll be running another this month. If you’re a Co-op colleague watch this space for the date, also you can contact Richard or Kim if you want to know some more about it.

That’s it for this week. Don’t forget to subscribe for all our updates on our blog and follow us on Twitter. See you next week.

Karen Lindop
Head of Digital Operations

Karen Lindop: Shifts is live plus learning to be mental health first aiders

(Transcript) Karen Lindop: Hello, and welcome to this week’s and my first Co-op Digital update.

This has been a big week for our team working in partnership with our colleagues in Food as well as Equal Experts and UsTwo. All Co-op Food store colleagues have access to Shifts, a website that allows them to view their past and upcoming shifts; who’s scheduled to work each shift in their store; their shift preferences; their break entitlements, as well as the payday calendar.

It’s been a real co-operative effort and a great example of us all working as ‘One Co-op’. You can hear what colleagues think about it on our YouTube Channel. Well done and thank you to everyone on the team, past and present.

But that’s not it for Shifts, the team will keep listening to colleagues, continually adding features and improving the experience.

Our Member Voice team held an end of discovery show and tell on Thursday. We’ll share their findings on our blog soon, so keep an eye out for that. The team have also recently hit the milestone of over 100,000 members joining opportunities – from helping to design a member wine, to sharing their thoughts and experiences on apprenticeships. Well done to Mark and the team.

On Thursday we welcomed students from our Priesthorpe Academy in Leeds. They got to meet a number of our teams and learn about The Federation. A big thank you James and our friends at Northcoders who also spent some time with all the students.

Finally, some of the team spent some time this week learning how they can be ‘mental health first aiders’. We’ll share more about this shortly on our blog. But thank you to those who took part and for Mental Health First Aid England for their support.

That’s it for this week. Don’t forget to subscribe for all our updates on our blog and follow us on Twitter.

Karen Lindop
Head of Digital Operations

Co-designing the Shifts website

This week, we made the Shifts website available to all Food store colleagues.

The website means colleagues now have far more visibility over their work schedules and their days off. They can access Shifts from their personal devices too so they don’t have to be in work to look at their rota.

This is a big deal. It’s empowering. It’s a game-changer.

In September 2017, we started testing the Shifts site with colleagues from 10 stores. By November, 600 people across 120 stores were using it. That quick uptake was a sign we were getting things right. We hadn’t asked more people to test it – colleagues had shared the site with neighbouring stores because they saw value in the product we’d designed.

Experts. Lots of them

Experts from several areas came together, bringing their knowledge and expertise. Shifts was designed and built by:

  • Food colleagues at HQ 
  • Food store colleagues (informed the design through their feedback and how they interacted with the product)
  • Co-op Digital
  • UsTwo (completed alpha phase)
  • Equal Experts (built the site)

Shifts’ success is down to collaboration

It’s not an accident that (so far) Shifts has been a success. It’s a superb example of co-design and collaboration. This post picks out examples of when working together, listening, and considering quantitative and qualitative research meant we designed a much better product.  

Listening to colleagues

Ustwo ran the Shifts alpha phase. The prototypes we tested with store colleagues confirmed our assumptions – we were on the right track to designing something useful. But, it was the time Ustwo spent with colleagues that was most valuable because it helped us find lots of features colleagues needed that we didn’t anticipate. We found that a very common user need was having the visibility to see who was scheduled to work on the same shift. Their research in context helped us get to grips with the more human side of colleagues’ needs.

Looking at data

We looked at data to make improvements too. For example, the data showed that the vast majority of colleagues didn’t look at their past schedules so we adjusted the site to just show the past 12 weeks rather than 52.

When we spoke to colleagues we found there was confusion about the laws around break times so we included a feature on the site that set this out clearly. We’d put this in a prominent position alongside colleagues’ shifts, but the data showed that it’s not something people used repeatedly – they checked it once, learnt the rules and had no need for it again. So, we put it on a separate webpage so colleagues could reference it when they needed to, rather than seeing it every time they log in.  

Learning from past experience

Shifts was always going to be behind a log-in so we looked to the ‘My HR’ app that also has one. To log into My HR, colleagues need their colleague number and a password that was sent to their personal email account. However, we knew that wasn’t working well because many colleagues don’t have a personal email address. Managers also said it’s time consuming to collect those details.

We wanted to make Shifts as easy as possible to log into for the first time. So with My HR in mind, we introduced a simple login requiring the employee number (colleagues use this every day to clock-in so they’re familiar with it) and their mobile phone number. Using these details we authenticate and send a login token by SMS, so the process is still secure.

No training needed

Often when organisations introduce a product or service it’s necessary to spend time and money on training for whoever will be using it. This isn’t the case with Shifts. Because we’ve designed it alongside Food colleagues and have tested it with them, the language is familiar and written in user-centred, plain English and the design is intuitive.

Never finished, always improving

We designed in the open and estimate that around 600 colleagues had the chance to input into Shifts and decide the features. Although we feel confident that, with their help, we’ve built the right thing, it doesn’t mean we’ll stop listening to feedback now and iterating accordingly.

If you’re a store colleague, you can log into Shifts now. There is a link at the bottom of every page where you can leave feedback.

Chris Ward
Workstream lead

Before work on Shifts kicked off, Chris was an area manager in south-west London. He’d seen time-consuming processes and difficult-to-use systems first-hand. He moved to Manchester as a subject matter expert to help design Shifts.

Shifts is now available to all Food store colleagues

If you’re having trouble with the Shifts website, email shiftsfeedback@coop.co.uk

Today, all Co-op Food store colleagues have access to Shifts, a website that allows them to view:

  • their past and upcoming shifts
  • who’s scheduled to work each shift in their store
  • their shift preferences
  • their break entitlements
  • the payday calendar

Image shows screenshots of 3 screens from the Shifts website.

Managers can also view their stores productivity and see who’s using Shifts in their team.

We’re working on new features to add to the website too. We’ve found a need for colleagues to be able to:

  • check their holiday balance and book holidays
  • see new features as they’re added to Shifts
  • manage their availability

We’re also planning to add the following features for the management team:

  • check colleague shift availability
  • approve holidays
  • create financial forecasts

So far, so good

We tested the website with colleagues in 140 stores over the last year. Here are some of their thoughts.

Quick history of Shifts

In March 2017, Co-op Digital product lead Anna Goss posted that we’d identified a range of ways we could give time back to Food store colleagues. She described how we chose which 3 discoveries we’d take forward to alpha phase.

By August, we were taking Shifts prototypes (then called My Schedule) into stores and testing our assumptions with colleagues and iterating based on their feedback.

A month later, we’d rolled the website out a little more and were testing it with colleagues in 10 stores. Without us asking them to, they shared the log in page with colleagues from neighbouring stores and by November, 600 people across 140 stores were using the app.

We’d known there was a need for the product and this natural uptake was a good indication that it was meeting needs.

A success story

Shifts’ success is down to the collaborative design process. You can read Chris Ward, workstream lead’s post about Co-designing the Shifts website to find out more.

Co-op Digital team

If you’re a Co-op Food store colleague, you can log into Shifts now.