Setting employment goals

Identifying and piloting digital tools for Richmond Fellowship's employment service



The brief

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 technology to provide a more accessible, far-reaching and individualised service.

How might we utilise technology to improve the employment service?


The solution

A number of changes were introduced to the employment service; namely Aspire, a new web application that enables clients and staff to create collaborative ‘action plans’ and track progress between sessions.

The Aspire web application 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.



50 users

for a six week period to objectively measure outcomes


4 weeks

spent on-site conducting user research and user testing



of clients

wish to continue using the web application as part of their appointments

+20% increase

in client experience

of those who used the new web application compared to the control group




A discovery phase was conducted to:

  • Identify key groups of users and define user needs

  • Understand barriers to adopting new digital tools

  • Identify opportunities for improving the service using technology

Seven different employment teams were visited UK-wide.

Different user research methods were used including:

  • Shadowing employment support appointments

  • Contextual interviews

  • Workshops (activities including experience mapping, card sorting)

The results from the intensive user research were synthesised into themes, insights and key user needs.

Key insights

  • A lack of information online contributed to client anxiety before the first appointment

  • Employment ‘support plans’ were not always used effectively

  • 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?
  Producing early wireframes based on the user needs

Producing early wireframes based on the user needs

Agile approach

An agile approach was used to continually built, test and learn from service improvements as they were introduced.

Paper prototypes of action plans quickly evolved into a bespoke web application that enabled action plans to be built collaboratively in appointments.

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 keeping teams and stakeholder engaged 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 see if Aspire does impact the employment service

  • Gain feedback from a large sample of users

  • Identify areas for further research and evaluation

33 clients and 17 members of staff took part in the 6 week pilot. Half of the clients were asked to use the Aspire web application; the other half were allocated as the control group and continued with appointments as usual.

The pilot results were extremely encouraging, suggesting 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

  • The majority of users would like to continue using Aspire in appointments

A report was produced with the results in full.

  The final Aspire web application - UX and UI design by  Mindwave Ventures

The final Aspire web application - UX and UI design by Mindwave Ventures

  A condensed service blueprint showing the key touchpoints of the service improvements

A condensed service blueprint showing the key touchpoints of the service improvements

Roll out

Recovery Focus are planning to roll out Aspire to their employment services nationwide.

To support the roll out, it was recommended that:

  • A number of staff are allocated as ‘champions’ to train colleagues and clients

  • The positive results from the pilot form the basis of a comms plan

  • Aspire be complemented with on-going updates to the Recovery Focus website

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.