What if

design companies could urgently recruit designers in a more flexible manner, and designers could fill in small gaps in their schedule.

introduction

Read Time ~ 8 min
4 months
1 Person Project

The service design project was an individual semester project during my exchange semester at TU/e Industrial Design (TU/e ID) in fall 2014. The project was in collaboration with the international recruitment agency, Adecco.

I was assigned to design a service that could help connecting job-seeking designers and design companies in new ways.

The Problem

Companies often work towards deadlines until the last moment. This means that employees at the company have to work overtime in order to reach the deadlines, which may result in stress, burnout and inefficient hours.

At the same time, freelancers are interested at keeping a steady stream of work since they rely on multiple short-term jobs rather than a steady income.

The Solution

LastMinute is a geo-based service platform that allows employers to hire freelancers on-demand in their local area and invite them to the office to support the staff. Thereby helping companies to urgently post micro-jobs and recruiting extra workforce in a flexible manner.

For the freelancers, however, it is a opportunity to quickly earn additional profit when they have time available. Thereby helping them keeping a steady stream of work.

The service also builds relations between the freelancers and the companies. It creates an opportunity for freelancers and employees to meet and know each other in person.

How i got there

The Challenge

The project was kicked-off with a meeting with the client from Adecco, Michael van de Ven. The client had a background in recruiting and was looking for a new service offering and business model.

The challenge was clear - design a new recruiting service from scratch. In other words, the project was not so much about mapping out existing services, finding pain points and optimizing the existing service offering.

The Approach

Since I was designing a service from the scratch, I decided to complement the service design thinking approach with the Lean Startup framework.

The idea was to find a service-market-fit as quickly as possible through taking an iterative and experimental approach - hypothesizing, design, test and learning.

Trend Analysis

I then did a broad trend analysis of the job-seeking market. I wanted to gain insight into how people approach job-seeking and hiring today, and how they might approach it in the future. I made four insights:

1) I learned that freelancing would be a more common career path in the next few years. 52% of in-house and 68% of agency respondents expected to hire more freelancers.

2) Referrals are getting increasingly more important for candidates to receive a job offer.

3) Social medias are becoming more present in professional life and job-seeking. For example, employers use social media to scan their candidates.

4) Due the increasing development in mobile internet usage, more job-seeking candidates search and apply for jobs on the go.

User Research

I designed a questionnaire with two students who also had Adecco as a client. Here, I received answers from 65 respondents. The purpose was to understand which difficulties job-seekers are experiencing.

To make sense of the data, I grouped the related problems into different themes. This gave me an overview of the problems people were facing. Among those themes were - vague job description/skill matching, no interview training, getting an overview and finding a job in particular area/locally.

I decided to start with the theme of finding job in their locale area. This was on the basis that a segment of people preferred to find jobs that are within reasonable range from where they live. A common characteristic was that they had something (e.g. a spouse) in their life binding them to a particular area.

Sharing Early Designs

On basis of the user research, I sketched a few early concepts. With one of those concepts I hypothesized that traditional job-seekers wanted to have an overview of relevant jobs in their locale area. The concept enable job-seekers to view long-term employment in their local area, and how much their skill set matched with the job.

However, interviewing and sharing the concepts with users showed that my initial assumption was wrong.

Although, they preferred a job in their local area, they were more concerned about the cultural fit in the company, and were willing to relocate for right job. In other words, many of the qualities of the concept were "nice to have" instead of "must of have".

On the other hand, I discovered from one of the interviewees, who also had freelance experience, that geo-location was more relevant for finding
short-term work. They were often bound to an area since they needed to maintain relationship with their clients. Thus finding locale work was important for expanding their list of clients.

Service Safari

I decided to dig deeper into the freelance world.  As I had no previous experience with freelancing, I knew it was important to gain greater empathy with the freelancers. To do that, I had to "walk a mile in the customers shoes", so to speak.  

I created an account on the freelancer.com to experience the existing digital offerings for freelancers.  Here, I quickly learned competition was stiff.  The platform seemed to be mostly driven on price. Designers from countries with lower living cost easily outbid me.

This validated my assumptions that a geo-location job-seeking solution for freelancers was needed. I began to ask myself - what if you were competing only competition with other freelancers in your locally instead of globally?

Shaping the Concept

The discussion with target users on the early concepts and the service safari exploration helped me drive my decision to the current concept. I also discussed the insights with my service design coach, who gave me insights into the industry. From discussion I learned that companies would often work towards the deadlines until the last minute.

Additionally, I hypothesized that trust was an important factor when hiring freelancers. While, I wasn't able to validate that assumption directly (since companies did not reply to my inquiries), I conducted secondary research that gave some indications that my assumption was likely.

This led to the vision of a service that allows employers to hire local freelancers for urgent micro-jobs and invite them to their offices.

Testing with a Service Prototype

For the user tests an interactive wireframes of concept was implemented. Services, however, are often inherently intangible and unfold over time. This means that you cannot simply put it on the table for user to experience it and ask the user’s opinion about it. 

I therefore decided to stage an informal role-play with two test participants who were both freelance designers. I did not only want the users to get the experience with interact with the app, but also by interacting with the type of people the user will encounter by using the service. Thereby, creating a more emotionally engaged experience with the service.

The service received positive responses from the test participants, which validated many of my assumptions.  In particular, they liked the networking opportunities and the flexibility of the service

For example; one of them had a part-time job during his studies. He elaborated that it was fine for him when he was not that busy in school. However, during the busy periods he found it very stressful to have a part-time job.

Entreprenuerial prospects

After doing the final presentation for my client and coach, there were some talks about a real-world implementation of the concept.

After the semester, I decided to explore the startup prospects of the concept. One area I felt missing from the project was the validating the value proposition for employers.

I contacted DesignIt and presented my vision of the service to two HR people and the head of projects. This allowed to validate many of my assumptions. Among those was the assumption that companies often would work on deadlines until the last minute, and therefore needed a more flexible hiring process.

However, I learned that the employers didn't like to type on the phone and would prefer to use the service through a website. I also learned that for medium-sized company they would need to print out invoices for bookkeeping in order for the service to fit into their workflow.

Lessons Learned

Getting feedback

During the project I found it hard to get feedback from companies. I learned that showing something tangible is a good way of invoking people's interest. In my case, I created a high quality promotion video, which allowed me to get a response from DesignIt.

The power of storytelling

As a designer, it is easy to assume that the product/service will sell itself. However, from this experience that assumption seems wrong.  You have to connect the dots for people. This is why storytelling is so crucial, and why designers should take time to craft and iterate their stories. 

Know what to test

From running the service prototype, I realized that you don't always have to build a functional prototype. Instead, you should ask yourself what you want to test, and then build the prototype accordingly to the questions you want to be answered.

Written Feedback

Jorge Alves Lino

Service Design coach, Tu/e

“...Overall, his performance was outstanding, taking in account that the ID system was completely new to him. While learning how to operate within our system, Michael was very successful in the accomplishment of his design, in cooperation with two colleagues who were also working with Adecco. Together, the found a very strong synergy where they all benefited from the work of each other, while clearly having an individual growth and development. Excellent feedback from the client

.... Very constructive and organised. Coaching Michael was very pleasant because he is very hard-working, pro-active and cooperative. His deliverables were always made in time, and in a regular base (which gave him many opportunities for feedback and improvement). His attitude towards his colleagues was always very constructive, his attitude towards his client was extremely professional.”

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Michael van de Ven

Senior Recruitment Consultant
Adecco

“... It was nice working with you, you understood what the subject was about and showed sincere interest in our company and the challenges of our market.

...The research you did was excellent. You came up with better results than most of our interns after 6 months, while being an external student. That shows that your research was thorough and with high quality

....You are able to explain the app in a short movie with great visuals. It’s a very good skill if you can explain things in a simple way. I can see you put a great effort in building the app: the design is solid and reliable.”

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In collaboration with Adecco

Initiated by Eindhoven University of Technology - Industrial Design