The future will involve a whole new paradigm for DES providers.
Currently being piloted, the Government’s post-2022 plan for employment services, for example, involves a technology-driven overhaul that will see up to 30 – 40% of jobactive participants serviced as ‘digital first’ online. Together with a new ‘digital plus’ segment for those who will need some support interacting with digital services, the government hopes to drastically reduce the average ratio of 148 jobseekers per consultant for ‘enhanced services’ – or those participants who will require in-person support.
What does this signal for providers – and for DES? The Government painted a long-term vision in its I Want to Work paper. “The future system will enable strong performing employment services providers to make decisions for the long-term by becoming licensed providers,” I Want to Work reads. “They will be freed up to invest time in jobseekers who need the most support. They will also be freed up to invest time in developing more meaningful relationships with employers. They will be freed up to focus on value not volume.” In short? The future will be full of change and challenge for the sector.
The role of technology
People living with a disability – the people who DES providers support every day – have been among some of the earliest adopters of technology. With a deep need to break down barriers to communicate and learn, participate in work and social environments and achieve independence and quality of life, assistive technologies from braille smart watches and touch-free smartphones to voice to text/text to voice technology have become essential tools for living everyday lives.
The DES market has been asked to look into the future to keep pace with these participants, who are increasingly able to compare and choose providers. In a market where ‘reasonable adjustment’ is expected of employers and rehabilitation is tech-enabled, providers of employment services will be called on to bring the power of technology to bear on the lives of the participants they service.
Though this evolution will present obstacles for individual providers and the market as a whole, in principle, asking ourselves how we can better use technology to improve our own performance and the future prospects of DES participants is both a necessity for success and a responsibility.
5 technology certainties for the future of DES
How can we be ready for what’s next? JobReady would like to offer five certainties we believe can be used as guidestones in preparing our value proposition for the future. Like landmarks that show us we’re on the right path, these themes and their practical applications in DES and employment services can support us as we get ready for more employment through DES and the future of work.
1. The triumph of analytics
We believe the future will see analytics make providers more efficient operators and more effective businesses. Data is no longer the elephant in the room. Instead, it’s the intelligence opportunity everyone is considering. Our sector will make use of more use of the many data points available.
For example, analytics can teach us lessons on everything from the most appropriate direction for a consultant to take a jobseeker, to who is the most at risk of dropping out of employment, the barriers individual participants are facing and the ways we can make our service more personalised and tailored to each individual. We’ll even be able to continuously machine learn which questions, conversations and interventions deliver the most sustained outcomes in each circumstance.
The latest in behavioural science and prescriptive analytics is just one example. Today, employment services providers are able to ascertain a participant’s attitude to employment using a short survey delivered online and then triage them into the services or interventions that both match their mindset and maximise their chances of finding and sustaining employment.
Using services like those of behavioural science, technology and analytics firm Esher House, prescriptive analytics algorithms can recommend approaches and techniques for consultants to coach individual participants – and only get better over time through machine learning. In future, a range of analytics technologies like these will likely bring about a step-change in service.
2. The mastery of efficiency
High value activities. Low value activities. While we may understand the difference, the reality for providers and their consultants is all too often being caught up in data entry, paperwork, compliance and low value manual interactions. This leaves less time for the high value face-to-face interactions with participants or employers that can result in the faster and more effective outcomes they need, and also creates a system with less human characteristics than we may desire or expect.
We believe the future will mean less of the former and more of the latter. By using technology for lower value activities, providers will increasingly be able to automate the time consuming ‘donkey work’ and make room for the components of a work day that make the things that matter happen. Taking lower value processes off the table, they will be able to focus on creating more human services more likely to resemble the ‘concierge’ makeover that banks have undertaken in the last decade.
Post-placement support is critical to sustaining participant outcomes through their first weeks and months of employment. But is there a way we can transform it into a less intensive process? In today’s market, providers in practice often reach out to their placements every week or fortnight for the first six months by phone in a ‘blanket call’ process. While this is well received by participants in many cases and results in stronger outcomes, there may be ways to fine tune it through technology.
Thinking more efficiently will allow providers to automate aspects of post-placement support, or outsource it to participants themselves. For example, just by sending a scheduled SMS contact every fortnight and using online resources to support clients throughout their employment journey, the phone could become the exception in this process rather than the rule.
3. The empowerment of the customer
Do you think of jobseeker participants as your customers? If not, it’s time to start now. The future of employment services will mean marketing your services to a pool of jobseekers who will have much more choice – and who may choose to go down the road if your service isn’t what they expect.
What if – like the NDIS – one day participants are given a pool of money to use on services like resume writing, interview coaching, or other services? What if they are given the freedom to access them in another state online? While these are unlikely in the short-term, more choice is definitely coming.
With the likes of advanced CRM technology, providers of the future will be able to better engage and retain their customers through more targeted service. They will be able to individualise their service by better understanding job seekers through the likes of assessments and their activity, and better map out each personal job seeker journey to work. By designing interactions for a new contingent of empowered customers, providers will be able to succeed in future-proofing their businesses.
Are you serious about enhancing your customer experience to keep participants on your caseload? If so, have you considered a meaningful customer experience survey as part of your business model?
With participants certain to be given more choice, from a provider perspective it makes sense to get to know your customer better, to know whether they are happy with their service and why. Just like the bank or energy company your participants interact with in other areas of their lives, treating them like a genuine customer with a customer survey and opportunity to provide feedback could be the difference that sets your service apart from other providers in the market.
4. The ubiquity of digital self-service
Self-service will become the default experience for a large pool of participants in the new era of jobactive, who theoretically will find work online all by themselves with minimal support.
However, jobseekers with deeper needs will also require the ability to do things on their own via the digital self-service facilities provided by their employment services providers. The smart employment service providers of the future will be enthusiastic about the possibility of more self-service activity in areas in which these candidates want a digital service and filling in the gaps where they don’t.
Could the future of participant intervention and support services be online? While many interventions today involve in-person support, one future option to augment these services will be the delivery of comprehensive course-like material online rather than in face-to-face workshops.
By making these resources available through self-service, employment services providers will be able to expand the reach and cost efficiency of the services they provide and make use of the technology participants are carrying with them in their homes and in their pockets – their mobile phones. In doing so, they’ll take away the need for having to attend the office on every occasion.
5. The expansion of data intelligence
Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in our own industry bubble. However in the future, information and data from a variety of sources outside of our regular sphere of concern will become more important and more readily available to employment services providers.
This will create new opportunities to improve business processes and make decision making more strategic. It will also improve the way providers are able to intelligently service and progress participants from unemployment towards meaningful work
Heard of Single Touch Payroll? It’s the change currently revolutionising the payroll industry, which requires employers to report payroll data to the ATO with every single pay cycle.
While one of the big tasks employment services providers now face is capturing wage evidence after placement – often by calling those participants and prompting them to supply payslips – with STP that task has effectively been made pointless. Why is it necessary if the data is already held by the ATO?
The question will be why can’t that data be automatically obtained and utilised in future? This is just one example where looking outside our bubble can create new opportunities for our market.
Facing the future
The DES market will face both more choice and challenge in the new era of jobactive post-2022 and beyond. In a new environment that will be shaped by evolving understandings of everything from behavioural science to the potential of new technologies, providers will need to be open to change and more resilient to build sustainable businesses that stand the test of time.
JobReady’s 5 certainties for employment services technology could give us a direction to travel in – at least when it comes to technology. With the future of work and employment set to look very different from the past, it will be incumbent upon on us as a sector to embrace the power of evidence-based best practice and technology to optimise the service we provide and improve outcomes.
Will employment services providers be ‘jobready’ for the future? We believe the answer is yes.
JobReady’s employment services software system, JR Live, was the first Third Party Employment System (TPES) in Australia to be granted ‘Provisional Plus’ information security accreditation by the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.