First Taste of Service Design

…and I didn’t even know it.

That’s “Service Design”?

I didn’t know then, but I know now. Over the past three years since working in the design field, I have found myself more drawn to designing outside the digital screen. I enjoy thinking about design holistically — such as how an organization operates and ways teams can collaborate on various projects towards a common goal.

At the beginning of 2020, I started realizing that the type of design I was most excited about is called Service Design. I had heard of Service Design before — and had even done it — but was never given the official title of “Service Designer”. Luckily, Service Design is getting increasingly more important and organizations are recognizing it as it’s own function more than ever.

I am especially interested in service design as it applies to employees and the workplace. As I reflected back on my previous experience with this type of design, I was surprised to realize that I had actually done it before…before I even knew was it was. From 2013–2016, I worked as the Senior HR & Recruiting Manager for a foreign language company and in 2015 we went through a major company transition that impacted both employees and customers. This organizational change called for a new approach in supporting employees and teams to navigate this major change, a task that I immediately took ownership of.

Context of Organizational Change

With new management on board and an urgent need to improve sales numbers, the structure of our teaching staff shifted from a full-time model to a part-time one. We immediately felt the impact as several of our full-time teachers were let go — company morale and the quality of our programming suffered. Staffing had become more efficient — saving the company money — but there were many other internal challenges that came with the part time model.

Change Management Goal

As the HR and Recruiting Manager, I did not want to see the quality of our programs suffer and was committed to finding quality part-time candidates. Addressing change management can be complicated, but I worked directly with the Chief Product Officer to develop a strategy that would help us accomplish our goals.

Current Experience (Employees & Customers)

It was important to understand the current landscape of our teaching staff — what the journey looked like for full-time teachers and how it’s changed since moving to part-time. Here’s a look at some positives and challenges (pain points) for each:

Full-Time Teacher Staffing (Old Model)

Positives:

  • Full-time teachers are more reliable and dedicated to the organization (motivated by visa sponsorship).
  • Full-time teachers are native speakers and usually have strong background in education or childcare (customer expectations).
  • Full-time teachers are given an in-depth training in preparation for their first day of independent teaching.

Challenges/Pain Points:

  • Longer training means more time and resources are spent before they are eligible to start teaching.
  • Staffing is inefficient — many only work 75% but are paid 100%.
  • Visa sponsorship is costly.
  • Many cannot drive, do not have a car (the company rents cars which is another expense).

Part-Time Teacher Staffing

Positives:

  • Staffing is more efficient and less costly for the organization
  • Part-time teachers are local and typically have access to a vehicle of their own.

Challenges/Pain Points:

  • Difficult to recruit teachers who meet the requirements: native speakers, teaching and/or some experience with children, and interested in part-time opportunities.
  • The interview process alone cannot determine if someone is a good fit (training is the best way to assess a candidate’s fit).
  • There tends to be a high drop out rate post training.
  • Staffing is complicated (several teacher availabilities to manage).

Discovery

The shift to part-time introduced some new challenges to the organization, specifically affecting the delivery of our programming. At the time, I didn’t realize the next step for us would be considered a method of service design, but I did understand the importance of taking these steps to promote business transformation and a successful more positive employee and customer experiences. The method we used to better understand the challenges and goals for various internal teams was interviewing. I spoke with the following team members:

  • Senior Teachers (Employee Experience)
  • Recent Trainees & Training Director (Candidate/Trainee Experience)
  • Staffing Director and Center Directors (Customer Experience)

Learnings:

  • The recruiting process did not change when we shifted to part-time (it is a long, multi-step process that should be reviewed).
  • Many candidates drop out before submitting the video audition portion of the recruitment process.
  • The video audition is a good way to see their ability to do “FunImmersion” — an important skill of a teacher. The video allows the recruiting & training teams to see the candidate’s personalities (are they fun, playful, expressive, engaging, and know how to speak to young children?) We are able to determine if they are a good fit and what they may need to improve on during the training program.
  • The video also acts as a native fluency assessment (something we are not always able to assess during the phone screen). Many candidates claim to be native speakers when they are not.
  • Candidates do not always have the availability (location and times of programs that we need to staff and hire for).
  • Candidates do not have a full understanding of the role before training, and sometimes until they are already teaching independently.
  • Customers expect high quality teachers and are disappointed when classes get cancelled due to understaffing (this became increasingly more common when we shifted to a part-time staff).
  • Company morale is down because of upper management’s (CEO, COO, CPO) lack of communication and response to employee inquiries.

Solutions

  1. Hired former Senior Teacher as Associate Recruiter
  • As the only team member responsible for recruiting (in addition to regular HR responsibilities), I did not have the bandwidth to recruit for the high number of openings and needed more support.
  • As a teacher, the Associate Recruiter was more equipped to evaluate the video auditions
  • As a native speaker, the Associate Recruiter was responsible for conducting all Spanish speaking interviews and assessing native fluency.

2. Redesign Recruitment Process

  • Shorten down to two steps: Initial Phone Screen & Video Audition (goal is to get candidates into training sooner). Recruiting is less selective to increase the number of candidates that go into training and are then narrowed down during the training program.
  • Teacher Expectations & Training Program Overview Sheet to clearly set expectations (requires candidate sign-off before beginning training)
  • Get availability early on to assess if they will be a good fit for open programs (accelerate the training of candidates who match availability of open programs).
  • Set expectations early on by communicating to candidates during the recruitment process (e.g. number of hours, locations we are hiring for right now) so they aren’t disappointed later when they don’t get the hours they were hoping for.
  • Target students and moms (who are more likely to be interested in part-time opportunities).

3. Redesign Training Program (with help of Director of Training)

  • More training programs scheduled on a regular basis to accommodate more trainees.
  • New training program is set up as paid-training program that acts almost as an extension of the recruitment process ( candidates will continue to be assessed and determined if a good fit or not).
  • Once they pass a certain point in the training and are considered a good fit, the staffing team will start scheduling them for programming. Trainees are not officially “hired” or “staffed” for classes until they pass training
  • Trainees will shadow other teachers so they are more prepared to take over the class.

Outcome

With the new recruitment and training process implemented, we were able to more effectively staff programs and avoided cancellation of programs. Our customer facing employees (teachers and center directors) were satisfied with the improvement in quality of part-time teachers (internal survey). Over time, company morale improved through open communication and continuing to solicit employee feedback. As the HR leader, I was dedicated to acting as the voice of our employees and advocating for their needs — while also keeping the business goals in mind. While I left the organization in 2017 to pursue new opportunities, I was proud of what we were able to do that year with so much change. We accomplished our goal of providing a positive recruitment and training experience to candidates and delivering high quality services and programs to our customers.

I would later realize that everything we did to accomplish our goals was classified as Service Design. We improved the experiences of both the customer and the employee by designing, aligning, and optimizing our organization’s operations to better support the journeys of these players.

HR to UX to Service Design…

After working for this organization, I would go onto applying a similar design thinking to digitial experiences as a UX Designer. Little did I know that I would one day be looking for Service Design opportunities where I could directly impact the employee experience by understanding what people feel over the course of their journey at an organization. Knowing first hand that a strong employee experience can have a significant impact on many aspects of an organization— from recruiting efforts, engagement, retention, all the way to the bottom line — I am very passionate about designing workplace and employee experiences.

Working in HR allowed me to witness first hand how investing in employees and training pays off. I will continue to advocate for employee experience and hope to bring my passion and experience to organizations who not only focus on the customer experience, but are also dedicated to investing in employee experience.

I’m a UX Designer & Researcher in Chicago currently looking for new opportunities in human centered design, service design, and workplace experience design.

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