Setting employment goals
Prototyping digital tools with Recovery Focus' employment services
It is well reported that obtaining meaningful work or employment contributes significantly to people’s wellbeing. Recovery Focus, a national charity who support people in this journey towards work were interested in how they might use digital tools to provide more accessible, far-reaching and individualised services.
How might we make better use of digital tools to improve employment services?
A number of changes were introduced to the employment service; namely Aspire, a new web app that enables clients and staff to create collaborative ‘action plans’ and track progress between sessions.
Aspire will be supported by new online content, training packages for staff and internal champions, thereby enabling Recovery Focus to lead the way in the digital transformation of employment support services.
for a six week period to objectively measure outcomes
spent on-site conducting user research and user testing
wish to continue using the web application as part of their appointments
in client experience
of those who used the new web application compared to the control group
A discovery phase was conducted to:
Identify key user needs
Understand barriers to adopting new digital tools
Identify opportunities for improving the service
Seven different employment teams were visited UK-wide.
Shadowing employment support appointments
Desk research on best practice
The user research was synthesised into themes, insights and user needs.
A lack of information online contributed to client anxiety before the first appointment
Employment ‘support plans’ were not used effectively when filled in by staff on behalf of clients
There is little consistency in approaches between employment teams
Digital skills and confidence is a prerequisite for the majority of jobs
A number of potential opportunities to improve the employment service were identified and prioritised by Recovery Focus in terms of desirability and feasibility.
The refined design brief at the end of the discovery phase:
How might we encourage client-led action planning?
A number of action plan prototypes were built at different levels of fidelity:
Interactive Axure prototypes
The paper prototypes quickly evolved into a bespoke web application that enabled action plans to be built collaboratively in appointments.
The team used agile methodology to continually built, test and learn.
In keeping with agile methodology the team:
Produced working software in two-weekly sprints
Conducted weekly user-testing on site
Continually refined and prioritised a backlog of user needs
Agile was an excellent method of engaging stakeholders by showing how user feedback was incorporated.
Evaluating the impact
The new web application, called Aspire, was evaluated in a six week pilot. The aims of this evaluation were:
Gather objective evidence to understand the impact
Gain feedback from a large sample of users
Identify areas for further research and iteration
33 clients and 17 members of staff took part. Half of the clients were allocated as the control group and continued with appointments as usual.
The pilot results showed that:
The use of Aspire has a positive impact on client experience of the service
Clients were building digital skills and confidence through using Aspire
71% of clients would like to continue using Aspire in appointments
“It showed me what could be achieved in terms of recording information relevant to our needs” - Employment Advisor
Recovery Focus are planning to scale Aspire across employment services UK-wide.
To support adoption, it was recommended that:
The process is incremental and bottom-up
A number of staff are allocated as ‘champions’ to co-train colleagues
The positive results from the pilot form the basis of a comms plan
New website updates to link in with Aspire
By enabling clients and staff to set collaborative employment goals, Aspire demonstrates how a user-led design process, coupled with agile methodology, can result in sustainable service improvements.
“It was nice to have a platform to say what we want and why. It showed me what was possible to make it a truly client-led experience” - Employment Advisor