Moving Forward Family Services (MFFS) is a non-profit that provides counselling and social work practicum opportunities for counselling students. They’ve been taking in more practicum students every year and with the increased number of students, they are finding that their onboarding process has logistical issues and is not supporting students well. I worked with stakeholders to identify the pain points of their onboarding process and ways to strengthen it.
Aug 2021 – Oct 2021
Moving Forward Family Services
With a growing number of practicum students, Moving Forward Family Services (MFFS) needs to optimize their onboarding process.
MFFS is a volunteer-run organization. Human resources to facilitate student onboarding and orientation are very limited.
I facilitated a workshop with stakeholders where we brainstormed potential solutions and created a roadmap outlining the changes they will implement in their organization. I then created expectation setting documents for new students and supervisors as well as an improved information architecture for their online orientation content.
I started by meeting with the executive director of MFFS to discuss the pain points he has seen and identify where we could strengthen their onboarding process. The executive director and I identified three main goals for the student onboarding:
I conducted interviews with six students and one supervisor to gain insight into the organization and understand the practicum process from their perspective. The interviews gave me an opportunity to connect with students and many expressed gratitude for the opportunity to meet face-to-face and discuss as I was the first person affiliated with the organization they had met through a medium other than email. This was the first clue that Moving Forward was lacking connection with their students, an issue likely brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students can’t find information on the website, so they send lots of emails to staff. Sometimes they wouldn’t recieve replies or they would be directed back to the website to find the content.
Better communication about roles, responsibilities, and expectations is needed so students feel prepared and supervisors can better support students
The orientation feels quite long, overwhelming, and disorganized
During the interviews, two words kept being repeated by students: confidence and connection.
How might we make students feel confident and connected?
With the above question in mind, I facilitated a workshop with the executive director and the two employees who helped with student orientation.
I started by outlining my goals and expected outcomes of the workshop:
Next, I put together an agenda to reach these goals. We started with an empathy map to set the tone for the workshop. Then we worked on a service blueprint to get the full picture of the orientation process and map all the touch points, pains, and gains. We brainstormed solutions and then organized them in a prioritization grid.
We started with an empathy map exercise to encourage the workshop participants to start brainstorming and get into the right headspace for the rest of the workshop.
A Breakthrough moment for us was discussing the service blueprint. It was the first time my stakeholders had seen their onboarding process laid out like this. They were so excited about this that they asked if we could share it with students and supervisors so they could have a better understanding of their organization’s processes.
The stakeholders and I brainstormed potential solutions and prioritized them on a decision-making matrix. We then created a project roadmap with goalposts for when these changes should be implemented.
The student-supervisor fit is an open and ongoing dialogue
In the workshop, we had a lot of discussions about supervision for practicum students. The executive director explained that the student-supervisor relationship was the foundation of the practicum process. At this point, I realized I needed to go back to the research phase and interview a supervisor before moving on to the next steps. You can review my research findings by clicking here.
I created two documents that will be sent to new students and supervisors. The first outlines the role and responsibilities of the organization, the students, and the supervisors. The second helps students and supervisors understand the practicum process and suggests questions they can discuss in their first meeting. The stakeholders enjoyed how the service blueprint clearly outlined the process and wanted to share it with students and supervisors, so I designed a simplified flowchart of the practicum process for them.
Save time by reducing the amount of emails sent between the organization and students
Provide structure for the first supervision meeting
Reduce student’s anxieties around supervision and the practicum process
Reduce student’s confusion about practicum requiements
MFFS’ original information architecture split the student orientation content into two tabs: counsellor page and counsellor orientation. Since there was so much information, I chose my main focus areas, seen below, based on the most frequently asked questions as reported by stakeholders.
I conducted a tree jack exercise and used the results as a baseline to test my iterations against. I designed a card sorting exercise and based my initial information architecture on the results. After two more tree jacks exercises, I landed on the version below. This is a zoomed-in view showing just the changes I made to the information architecture.
I prepared for every meeting with stakeholders by writing down my goals for the meeting, the topics I wanted to cover, and the questions I had. This preparation went double for the workshop. I spent a lot of time preparing for the workshop, anticipating questions, and making sure my intended outcomes were clear.
It was very important that I had an opening spiel for every meeting, workshop, and interview. I found what worked best was to introduce myself, the project, and what I hoped to achieve with our meeting. I could then quickly suggest an exercise or question to start with. This helped me keep meetings on track and on time.
This project was definitely outside my comfort zone. It was my first time doing service design and working with an organization added an extra level of pressure. I think this lead to the greatest learnings for me. I feel much more confident in my abilities to manage my stakeholders and communicate my design decisions to them now.
© Desiree Chek, 2021