Three perspectives to service design: students researched the municipality of Sipoo’s employment services

Three Master's students from the School of Science, School of Arts and Design and School of Business took part in the Aalto Thesis collaboration project with the municipality of Sipoo. The students tackled the challenge of utilising service design in employment support services through their Master's theses.
Project Sipoo
The student team having a status meeting at Sipoo / photo: Silva Saulio

Aalto Thesis brings together students from different fields of expertise to tackle a partner's challenge through a set of Master's theses. The municipality of Sipoo offered a broad challenge as one of the 2020 Aalto Thesis partners. The municipality has found employment support services to be complicated for both job applicants and professionals. 

'We wanted to strengthen the customer-oriented approach of Sipoo's employment support services,' says Lassi Puonti, Head of Employment Services. 'We had noticed a real problem: the employers struggle to find the employees and the employees struggle to find the job. Therefore, we suggested a collaboration with Aalto University.'

The three students in the project, Lauri Sulanto, Riina Ruus-Prato and Aleksi O'Connor approached the challenge from three different perspectives. Riina Ruus-Prato from Creative Sustainability in Design programme studied how design can improve the customer-oriented approach of employment support services. Aleksi O'Connor from Information Networks programme used Customer Journey Mapping to analyse the customer journey of an unemployed jobseeker. Lauri Sulanto from Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management programme focused on the possibilities and challenges of utilising service design in a public organisation. 

The students in the team are all interested in a career in service design and working in the public sector. 'I want to work with service design in the public sector, so it was nice to see the activities of a public organisation,' says Riina Ruus-Prato. 'The project also highlighted the different challenges in the public sector, which are even more difficult than in the private sector,' continues Aleksi O'Connor.

The collaboration provided research-based information for the development of our labor market policy.

Lassi Puonti, Head of Employment Services, the Municipality of Sipoo

Customer-centric solutions from the collaboration

The student team found Sipoo to have many features that help promote the use of service design. According to their researches, Sipoo is a cooperative, low hierarchy and customer-oriented organisation that is open to new ideas. 

'At the organisational level, the municipality of Sipoo is an excellent fit for a design service process! Sipoo has great resources for providing local services,' says Lauri Sulanto.

The students defined the customer journey of an unemployed jobseeker and the contact points with different employment services in their researches. The students noticed that the materials highlighted the jobseekers' need for physical meetings, and the unemployed jobseekers wanted regular encounters, genuine support and information about different opportunities in plain language. According to the project's results, there was a risk that the jobseeker would disappear into the system.

The students were able to organise workshops as well as interviews with the staff of Sipoo's employment services and jobseekers within the limits of the pandemic.

'Sometimes, an official thinks of themselves as the expert of the customer. In a workshop, the customers are involved which is always a good thing!' says Lassi Puonti. 

To adopt design thinking, the student team encourages the municipality of Sipoo to involve the whole organisation in the process, to listen systematically to customers and to communicate their actions through the value received by the customer.

'The collaboration provided research-based information for the development of our labor market policy,' says Lassi Puonti.

The student team presented the results of their work and recommendations to Sipoo in the final presentation of the project remotely on 19 November.

Professor Marko Nieminen supervised Aleksi O'Connor's thesis, and professor Teemu Kautonen advised Lauri Sulanto's Master's thesis.Docent Eeva Berglund supervised, and doctoral student Annukka Svanda advised Riina Ruus-Prato's thesis.

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