HI Future | The Story So Far

Throughout 2019 and into 2020, Noisy Cricket C.I.C received sponsorship from Balfour Beatty, Manchester Airport Group (MAG) and the Co-op Group, in addition to a development grant from The National Lottery Community Fund, and a further donation from the Cadent Foundation. Huzzah!

As a start up social enterprise, this funding was essential, as it allowed us to co-create HI Future – our innovative and disruptive homeless employment solution – to help us on our journey towards achieving our cross-sector community’s vision of enabling secure and stable futures for homeless people. 

IMAGE 1: HI FUTURE PROJECT TIMELINE

Inspired by an industry research partnership with Hyper Island in 2018 – where eight solutions to removing business barriers to homeless employment were explored – the HI Future project kick-started in January 2019, bringing our business partners together with charities, public sector initiatives and people impacted by homelessness.

Working collectively, the HI Future community embarked on an 18-month journey, starting with user research to help us holistically understand the experiences surrounding social mobility recruitment for businesses, the social sectors and impacted people. During a series of one-on-one interviews, workshops and focus groups, we learned a hell of a lot.

HI Future User Research Insights
– Business employees showed a narrow understanding of homelessness, perceiving it to be predominantly rough sleeping, which accounts for 5-6% of the homeless population nationally (Shelter, 2019)
– Business employees perceive personal issues (e.g. financial or relationship troubles) to be the root cause of homeless instead of systemic contributors (e.g. insecure work or lack of social or affordable housing). 
– Both business employees and decision makers in the organisation shared that while they didn’t have negative perceptions of homeless people, other people in the organisation may…
– Decision makers recognised that the combination of fellow employees’ perceptions (e.g. drug or alcohol issues) and business needs (e.g. background checks) were likely to impact a person with lived experience of homelessness’ ability to secure a job
– In recognising that a homeless person may have more personal challenges, businesses asked for support for managers in helping a homeless person back into work, but expected those impacted to behave the same as any other employee
– Impacted people told us that the bureaucracy imposed in getting ready-for-work and during recruitment was confusing, and that often, they were required to engage in training  or provide information that wasn’t useful as a tick a box exercise
– People with personal insight into homelessness were also aware that they were being profiled by businesses during recruitment, that their experiences and personal presentation were being judged and that they were expected to change to fit into new organisations
– Those impacted would like feedback to help them better prepare for the recruitment process, and often need more tailored support as they navigate housing, financial and health challenges
– Charity and public sector workers confirmed this was essential, as people settle back into structure, and that building trust is essential, as without honesty between those impacted and the people supporting them, things may go awry. 
– Charities and the public sector shared that a job at any cost is no good, as people are more likely to leave than stay in an unsuitable work environment or where pay doesn’t cover living costs

Uncovering latent business beliefs that people were personally responsible for their circumstances, our first step was to use the user research to shape an education workshop. With the intention of shifting cultural attitudes, workshops trialled with Balfour Beatty and MAG helped employees understand the root causes of the issue, as well as the employment potential of people experiencing hidden homelessness. 

Our second step was to design a recruitment tool, as the research revealed that impacted people were likely to perform poorly during interviews. Learning that interview questioning tends to focus on examples from recent work experience, we focused on reshaping systemic processes and practises that will help employers better surface candidate potential, and for people impacted by homelessness, increase the likelihood of securing a job. 

HI Future Co-Creation Insights
– In becoming ready-for-work, we realised that impacted people bring considerable strengths from their lived experience of homelessness, and where relevant, previous work experiences.
– People with personal insight into homelessness also want to determine whether or not they share their story and who with, but for those who do, finding ways to best share their experiences and journey out of homelessness would help build trust with employers
– Another major challenge is keeping track of data shared with charities, public sector organisations and businesses. Digital literacy, access to technology (for more than one hour at a time) and a place to safely save data all play a part. 
– For the businesses who have attempted social mobility recruitment previously, targeting is challenging as it requires working with hundreds of independent charities to find the right person for a role. 
– Often, businesses use jargon in job advertisements, ask for more information than is necessary for the role –  covering skills, experiences and qualifications – plus offer no clarity on documentation essential to apply for the role (e.g. identification). 
– Cut and paste versions of job advertisements are used across in house recruitment websites and across mainstream recruitment websites (e.g. Indeed and Monster) but there is no opportunity to ask questions or access support through the recruitment process.
– More informal recruitment processes would help take remove some of the challenges around cultural stigma and systemic barriers, such as focusing on a person’s recent work experience, and allow for trust to start being built
– Within each business, recruiting an advocate for homeless employment would be hugely beneficial, to support the advertising, recruitment and onboarding process for both line managers and impacted people.

Building on the cultural shifts enabled through the education workshop and potential for system redesign revealed through creating the recruitment tool, in January 2020, we brought the HI Future community together to co-create the matchmaking platform. Asking the community to help us explore how we might remove barriers during the advertising and the recruitment of roles, we revealed key opportunities for design and development. 

These insights informed the creation of HI Future’s of a personal and business Q&A, which helps uniquely matches roles based on people’s strengths over and above recent skills, determines how feasible salaries or travel distances are based on a person’s current circumstances, and identifies roles where the work environment is best suited to an individual based on their unique needs. 

Mooch Ashley, Lived Experience Consultant
“It gave me a lot of confidence to look for job opportunities for myself and to speak to employers about my past. HI Future helped me to value my experience and not try to hide my past. I found employers wanted to hear about my employment gaps. I valued the the relationship I built with employers they helped me understand my potential. It wasn’t about judging me but nurturing the skills that I brought to the table”

With the intention of empowering impacted people to make more informed decisions about suitable roles, the matchmaking platform asks businesses to take more responsibility for asking for what they need during the recruitment process, including basic role needs only, past experience and qualifications where necessary and legal obligations for identifying documentation. 

Other features include storage for CVs and cover letters to help homeless people easily and safely keep their recruitment documentation in one place and FAQs to help both businesses and homeless people access wider support. Our intention is to empower homeless people to apply for roles they may not have previously considered based on their strengths, and enable businesses to remove systemic barriers that prevent people securing roles. 

IMAGE 2: HI FUTURE MATCHMAKING PLATFORM LANDING PAGE

The funding means we now have a minimal viable product in the matchmaking platform plus an education workshop and recruitment tool to test-and-learn ready for launch. Additional funding is now needed for launch and an 18-month pilot, where we aim to place 250 people into employment across four boroughs in Greater Manchester.