HIRINGLAB.io: An exploration into the commercial potential of an innovative connection service that provides work experience opportunities for young adults to drive small business growth
Technology has changed the way that young adults begin their careers. Exploring potential work opportunities is easier to do now than 20 years ago with the rise of technology. However, with the rise of job accessibility a number of challenges for young adults looking to get ahead have arisen. Work experience is crucial in making the transition from simply getting a job, to starting a career that will have meaning and impact. In contrast, technology has affected the way that small businesses survive, and then grow. It can be challenging for small businesses to grow with limited resources, in a competitive commercial environment. Small business owners in the start-up and growth phases in particular struggle, to fill the gaps in their capabilities with little time, money or the necessary skills and expertise. This research, in partnership with Accenture, explores the commercial potential of an innovative connection service. The proposed service will provide work experience opportunities for young adults that will drive small business growth. Research involved the application of lean start-up methodology and service design thinking principles across three phases; Phase One Market Development and Validation, Phase Two Service Development and Validation, and Phase Three Business Case Development. Phase One involved interviewing 20 young adults and 10 small business owners to identify the specific market segments that the service could benefit. Phase Two involved matching two pairs of suitable young adults and small businesses from Phase One, to trial the prototyped service solution. Phase Three involved conducting a retrospective focus group with the trial participants to understand thoughts and feelings about the service as potential customers. Findings from each research phase indicate that young adults and small businesses are suitable markets for the service and that the service concept is feasible. A major finding from Phase One was that certain characteristics improved the potential of some market segments for the proposed service over others. For young adults this meant having the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence to solve a small business problem. For small businesses those with zero employees in particular had suitable gaps to fill and were open to young adults helping them. In Phase Two, critical success factors were identified for the service, most significantly a key indicator of success for the relationship was understanding a person’s work purpose, culture and values. Phase Three found that the success of the match reflected on perception of service quality. It highlighted that young adults and small businesses preferred short term, meaningful engagements. Research findings led to recommendations of suitable development strategies and a proposed business model for the service. A key recommendation is to incorporate both lean start-up methodology and service design thinking as the main development strategy, for fast iteration with the customer at the centre of decisions made. It was also recommended that the service adopt a freemium marketplace business model where users are able to view potential jobs, at no cost but engage in the customised matching service on a subscription basis. The implementation and success of this service could ultimately change how young adults seek work experience and differentiate themselves in competitive job markets. For small businesses, the service could offer an affordable tool in seeking talent to overcome business shortcomings and ultimately achieving growth.