We are just signing off our second full year of accounts and this brings home to me that MyWorkSearch is not quite the startup I consider it to be. Indeed to be totally accurate the company is now 27 months old. The business has gone from an idly discussed idea to fully formed business with a wholly functional technology product, numerous awards, management structure and processes, employees, customers and multi-million sales. I still have my original business plan and whilst our core proposition remains the same it is amusing how wrong I was about so many aspects of who we would sell to, how and at what price. On the one hand I can take pride in our ability to adapt to the market and opportunities, however I also have to recognise that a considerable sum of money was speculated on a venture that turned out very differently from the forecasts that underpinned the investment decision. I don’t think that this is inherently bad, however it is important to recall this lest hubris sets in.
We now face our next set of challenges. When we started we were pioneers in suggesting that the labour intensive process of (re-)employment transition assistance could instead be delivered using technology. The prevailing wisdom was that our type of service could at most be a support resource to the assistance provided by a consultant. We were not calling into question the value that a consultant could bring. We just observed that in many cases there simply was not the funding to provide help in this way and that an effective alternative was necessary. We thought it could be done through smart technology and decided to invest our time and money in making this happen. Now that we have proven it is possible and become successful we have competition. In many ways this is a good thing. With very few exceptions, the absence of competition indicates the absence of a market. Also, having competitors keeps us on our toes and ensures we do not assume our current market leadership is an entitlement.
So where to next? We have made good progress with our employer proposition. Each week new organisations subscribe to our services and we are winning repeat business, demonstrating customer satisfaction. We are partnering with an expanding number of organisations and it is clear that so long as we don’t do anything daft we will continue to develop our market presence. Our government work is also progressing well. This summer, in the UK, the Department for Work & Pensions starts the Work Programme. Many hundreds of thousands of people per year will be assisted first into employment and then helped remain in work. Delivery is sub-contracted via regional ‘Prime Contractors’ and with funding tight and the numbers requiring assistance high, technology solutions are one of the few methods of making the Work Programme viable. This presents us with a huge opportunity and this week we launched our Work Programme mini-site at www.myworksearch.co.uk/wp.
Working with those whose employment challenges are more severe has allowed us the opportunity to once again embark upon intensive product development and stretch ourselves as we consider how to meet the needs of this client group. We started work last year on our Nudge Engine® – functionality throughout our site to examine a person’s progress with MyWorkSearch and make personalised, useful suggestions – and have significantly expanded this for the Work Programme. Our head of research, an occupational psychologist, has created a number of transferable skills questionnaires that can elicit what a person has the potential to do and then MyWorkSearch takes this data and helps both author a CV that presents the client’s capability in the best way and also finds relevant vacancies. Other innovations include sophisticated activity management with jobseeker performance reporting provided to the Work Programme advisor helping the client, integrated chat to provide jobseekers with help when they need it and user journeys that can be customised and locked-down. We created a table of MyWorkSearch features and were pleasantly surprised when we reviewed just how much we had developed. At the very least we expect to positively impact upon the lives of many thousands of people who are struggling with the difficulties of extended unemployment. However if our approach proves successful with those whose employment problems are more severe it is quite possible that we will have a transformative effect upon the welfare to work sector.
So we may no longer be a baby startup – but it certainly doesn’t feel like we are coasting or can rest on our laurels!