Setting employment goals
Identifying and piloting digital tools for Richmond Fellowship's employment service
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?
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.
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 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
Workshops (activities including experience mapping, card sorting)
The results from the intensive user research were synthesised into themes, insights and key user needs.
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?
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.
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.