Case Study


User research to understand new ways of working

The RNLI tasked us to complete a series of user profiling workshops to understand staff and volunteers’ needs, challenges and preferences for remote and hybrid working.


With nearly 4,000 staff and 35,000 volunteers, the RNLI has an extensive and diverse crew working together to save lives at sea. After weathering the storms of COVID-19, the RNLI approached us with a timely post-pandemic question: how do staff and volunteers envisage the future of life, work, and volunteering?

Having begun to collect understanding through quantitative data, they sought to gain further understanding through qualitative research. The brief: create user personas to encapsulate their workforce’s needs, motivations, and ideal future ways of working.


We created a programme of workshop sprints to learn from a range of staff and volunteers, including Lifeboat Press Officers, Fundraisers, boatbuilding, and maintenance staff. We also recruited a group of future volunteers and employees, external to the RNLI to understand their expectations and desired workplace of the future.

Each persona workshop included empathy mapping exercises to understand the context, feelings, motivations, and pain points of their roles. We also probed the participants’ daily activities to build a picture of their day-to-day lives. Compiling the learnings and insights shared during the workshops, we created a synthesised user persona for each role.

A montage of two photos. On the left, the RNLI All Weather Lifeboat factory in Poole. On the right, The RNLI UX and EUX teams around a boardroom table looking at a white board.

“Experience UX helped us gain the  insight we needed  to ensure we understand challenges to respond to.”

Ailsa Mackenzie, Digital Transformation Manager, RNLI


Facilitating the conversations of these passionate volunteers was inspiring and insightful. Having spoken to 30 research participants in more than 11 locations, we built an extensive picture of the highs, lows, and expectations of the future RNLI workforce. Together with finalised personas, we reported back the big picture themes that surfaced throughout, such as future employees’ and volunteers’ desire for flexibility and being trusted with responsibility.

No surprise, the sense of identity found in the power of being part of crew camaraderie, and the passion for giving back to their local community are strong drivers of motivation. The personas empower the RNLI with a common understanding of their staff and volunteers’ desired future ways of working. Sharing this with the wider organisation and harnessing the potential of these personas to influence the future of volunteering and working at the RNLI is our next collaborative mission.

It has been a joy to get to know so many wonderful RNLI staff and volunteers. By bringing their stories to life through personas we’ve been able to open the eyes of some of their most senior stakeholders and drive organisation-wide change.

 Jenny Lewis

Head of UX

Head of UX Jenny Lewis


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