Uncovering factory worker dissatisfaction through a mixed-method immersive approach

CLIENT International Manufacturing Company

GOAL Client was receiving floor associate feedback of overall dissatisfaction with their work space and support structure in the factory. With wide-ranging feedback, the client was struggling to find the most targeted solutions to meet employee needs and boost morale. The goal was to gain an understanding of the associate experience to drive impactful, long-term solutions

The Approach

Self-report insights alone can be valuable in certain contexts, but when complex social environments and hierarchy are involved, things can get tricky.

How do we find the real story behind dissatisfaction in the workplace?

The Research

Ethnography & Contextual Inquiry

In order to understand the full context of day to day operations, interactions, and conversations on the factory floor, TC team spent 2 weeks observing and speaking with workers during both day and night shifts.  To further build the experiential narrative around our observations, we periodically conducted brief intercept interviews during key moments or events.

 Focus Groups

While our observations and interviews gave us strong context around behaviors and individual perceptions, end-of-shift focus groups allowed us to complete the experience narrative by gathering group-level feedback on what we saw day in and day out.

The Tools

Psychological Modeling

Our findings unveiled a very complex system of initial dissatisfaction exacerbated over time by triggering events. These events created and continued to build the employee-to-employee story around issues in the workplace. In order to help the client understand and act on triggering events moving forward, we integrated key pain points into an illustrated core belief model.

The empathy toolkit is a multi-tool collection of experience maps and solutions tools to understand employee experience and how to respond to it.


Core Experience Map

The purpose of this map is to illustrate the complex relationships between core dissatisfactions (beliefs) and the events that trigger and perpetuate them. This map helps to illustrate that tackling one specific complaint won’t necessarily solve the core issue of dissatisfaction, but that solutions should be focused on a more thematic level.

Empathy Map

This map helps to dive into a more detailed snapshot of what any given employee might be seeing, feeling, hearing, and thinking, and how these experiential factors relate to dissatisfaction.

Scenario Cards

Scenario cards each cover one specific complaint or issue that management has been presented with in the past. Within each card, research-driven thoughts, feelings, and actions are defined around each one of these issues. These cards serve as problem solving tools, so whenever management hears a specific complaint, they can reach for that scenario card, understand the underlying experiential issues, and tackling it from its core rather than its surface.

Solutions Workshops

This workshop served as the moment that the TC team and management team can get together to synthesize insights and begin learning to interpret and utilize the experience toolkit. It allows everyone to come into the same space to react, pose concerns, and begin to ideate solutions for these key problem areas. The output of this workshop was a series of Solution Card that outline action plans for addressing key problem areas from their experiential core.