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Actionable insights into employee leave balances


Actionable insights into employee leave balances

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Telstra, Australia's largest telecommunications company, partnered with Pivotal to build their first internal tool using agile development, UX design & research, and cloud-based tools.  We worked with Telstra's HR and accounting teams to identify large accrued leave balances (such as vacation and sick time) as an issue- both from a financial perspective (large liability being carried over year after year) and an employee perspective (forgoing leave can lead to burn-out and mental health issues).  We then created a web-based tool allowing managers to monitor their reports' leave balances and facilitate planning and conversations around vacation, sick time and parental leave.


Role / Research, Interaction & Visual Designer

Company / TeLStra



  • We were tasked with creating a web product that would help reduce the Telstra's financial liability that was a result of employees accumulating leave year after year.  Our product needed to align with a new company culture that encouraged work-life balance and regular vacations. 

  • Our biggest challenge was creating an intuitive navigation and layout that worked well for individual contributors and first line managers all the way up to the CEO.

  • Telstra had a pre-existing mobile app that allowed employees to view their own leave balances; we needed to differentiate and create a web app that focused on viewing team member balances.


  • We designed and built HR Insights, a tool that showed leave balances at both individual and team levels.  Managers could see aggregate leave balances for their team(s) to help them understand how they were tracking towards new accrued leave KPIs while also looking at specific leave balances for individual employees.

  • Leave visualizations allowed managers to see past and planned leave.  This helped surface leave patterns on teams and made job coverage easier to plan.

  • Consistent navigation and iconography allowed managers to drill down as far as they wanted into their teams and reports without allowing access to data from other teams. 

  • Accrued leave usage at Telstra went up 10% in the year following our MVP product release.



All of our research was conducted remotely with Telstra employees in Australia.  We focused initial generative research on manager's problems with team and individual leave.  Since many stakeholders were also in Australia, communicating our ideas via storyboards and sketches was very efficient. We updated our storyboards to reflect our improved understanding of Sharon as new research findings emerged.



Journey mapping, service blueprinting and feature mapping helped us figure out how employees at different seniority levels would use our product and feature prioritization.  We realized that there was very little difference in the needs of managers regardless of their level or team size.


IDEATION, Navigation & visual exploration

Intuitive navigation ended up being our biggest design challenge.  Early explorations using a tabbed navigation didn't make sense to users . After rounds of exploration and usability testing, we landed on a paradigm that worked for all employees regardless of level; An employee could always see individual leave data by clicking on user's face or team data by clicking on a team icon.  Faces and team icons were both round and the same size in most places so drilling down in either direction felt consistent.

We went through numerous rounds of sketching to help define the product and to vet features ideas with engineering.

We experimented with different layouts to see how managers would differentiate between individual and team information.

Early iterations included more data visualizations but feedback indicated that users preferred tables over graphs.


Final Designs- MVP

We designed for the persona Sharon, who is a mid-level manager at Telstra.  Sharon is a "2-up", meaning she manages two levels up with her direct reports managing teams of individual contributors.  Sharon needs to be able to talk to her direct reports about their own leave balances and also talk to them about how they're managing the leave balances of their teams.  Lastly, she'd like to be able to see her leave too, so she can manage leave all in one place.

Sharon manages 3 direct reports, each of which manages their own team(s).  Sharon can see the health of her own team by looking at her direct reports aggregate.  She can see how her managers are doing by looking at their team aggregates.

Teams with potential issues are highlighted with a red bar and issue count.  Sharon can hover over a row with issues to see additional info, such as number of team members, to help her decide if she wants to investigate further.

From her home page, Sharon can click over to her direct reports page and see a list of her reports with problematic reports highlighted in red at the top.  She can hover over a report for more info.  

Clicking on a direct report allows Sharon to see their individual leave page.  Issues are listed near the top with key info on their leave balances.  A record of their leave is listed at the bottom by type and date.

Sharon can choose to look at a team that her direct report manages.  This helps her evaluate how effective her reports are at encouraging healthy leave-taking.

When Sharon view's Grace's team, she can see a few key metrics that help her evaluate where the team's leave is and where it's headed by the end of the financial year.  Sharon can dig deeper by clicking through to see all of the individuals in Grace's team if she wants.

Sharon's team leave calendar helps her spot any past leave patterns.  She can see requested future leave to make sure too many team members aren't on leave simultaneously.  Tooltips on hover provide exact dates.

Sort functionality helps managers of large teams quickly spot issues and figure out who they need to have a conversation with.

Final Designs - v1

MVP usability testing and interviews led to us expanding on our calendar features in a 2nd release.  User feedback indicated that the calendar area was critical in helping managers take action to schedule leave with employees during or after leave conversations.  Scheduling concerns and problems were one of the biggest deterrents to employees taking leave and more detailed calendars and visualizations allowed managers to help their employees choose a good time to plan leave.

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