1. Inspiration

We were inspired by personal circumstances and the strong desire to contribute to the battle against Covid-19 in a positive and productive way. By drawing on three key pillars: Solidarity, Creativity and Determination, we aimed to develop a tool which would benefit both business and individuals in a ‘win:win’ mutually beneficial and collaborative setting.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented changes to the business landscape. Businesses across the world have been negatively affected and have to tackle numerous unanticipated issues. These businesses are suddenly faced with the realisation that they have to transform their operations and strategies in order to survive. We wanted to focus on small businesses in particular who require increasing levels of support, expertise and resources.

If we look at the individuals affected, in Ireland alone over half a million people have recently become unemployed due to the crisis. Additionally, many highly educated graduates have discovered that their futures and career prospects too are uncertain. We wanted to create a solution for these growing sections of the population, who were not only dealing with the fears and anxieties surrounding the Coronavirus itself, but the loss of identity and ensuing feelings of inadequacy due to their job loss and inability to secure graduate positions respectively.

Combining these two objectives, we aimed to match graduates and highly skilled unemployed members of society to businesses which have a critical need for expert skills and innovative ideas.

2. Introduction

While the long-term outlook of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic is still highly uncertain, businesses and individuals are nevertheless having to adapt to new, troubling challenges such as severe supply and demand disruption, social distancing, job losses and serious health implications.

Business adaption is crucial so they can continue to contribute for the good of the economy and society. Digital technologies can resolve a lot of the key issues facing businesses. However, SME’s in particular are struggling to implement these new tools and strategies and are hindered by their lack of available resources and access to skilled expertise.

We believe that Matchpoint can provide a solution and can be rapidly implemented at scale.

3. The problem

We have assessed the impact of Covid-19 and insuing 'problems' from the perspective of SMEs, Graduates and Unemployed Individuals.

SME's

Background

According to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), in Ireland alone, there are 248,344 Small Medium & Enterprises, employing 968,881 people. Link

These SME’s are experiencing unprecedented issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, concerning stock management, employee management, supply chain and distribution issues.

SMEs are faced with the sudden need to digitize their product offering or service to continue to operate in this new online based environment, required to suppress the pandemic.

As customers become more comfortable in these digital environments than ever before, expectations of businesses are now dramatically different and will remain even after the crisis.

Businesses need to transform to survive the crisis and thrive into the future.

Challenges for SMEs

• Moving teams online: Employees need to work from home. Companies need to implement methods for employees to access company documents and share information with each other.

• Managing teams remotely: Business owners need to adapt their management style and guide their employees around the new working environment. establish separate online spaces for teams to communicate with one another to assign tasks etc, host informal discussions and formally discuss important issues with management.

• Retaining customers: SMEs may lose clients as they can longer afford the company's service or no longer see it as a priority. Business may not have created close relationships with their customers.

• Getting products/services to customers: Companies may have relied solely on their physical brick and mortar stores to sell to their customers. now that policies are in place which mean that both the customer and business operators have to stay at home significant changes need to be made to continue to generate revenue.

Unemployed Individuals & Graduates

Background

At least one million people have lost their jobs during the past two weeks in Europe according to the latest data from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). In addition, research from the University of Cambridge suggests the young professional likely to be disproportionately affected by the economic fallout from COVID-19.

In the U.K., it's already estimated that 8% of workers have lost their jobs, with up to a third more expected to enter redundancy within the next few months. In Ireland, the unemployment rate has risen from 5.2% pre-crisis, to 16.5% Link, with 584,000 people are receiving COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. Link In the US, 11% of workers have already lost their jobs, with up to 40% expected to have done so by August. Link

Students are starting to realise they will be graduating into a global recession. According to the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), many firms have scaled down their recruitment of entry-level staff and more than a quarter of businesses are reducing the number of graduates they hire this year. In Ireland, approximately 70,000 students are due to graduate this year adding to this concerned sector of society. Link

Challenges for Unemployed Individuals & Graduates

• Loss of earning: An obvious impact of not working is the financial loss.

• Sense of importance: Typically, work and successful completion of projects gives an individual a sense of pride.

• Mental health: Poor mental health has been associated with unemployment.

• Skills expiration: Often employers are looking seeking recent examples of skills. The dreaded CV gap can be a significant concern for job seekers.

4. The solution

Matchpoint – ‘Create mutual value, Share skills, Future proof your business’

An online platform which connects SMEs with highly skilled unemployed professionals and graduates for a value exchange.

We aim to provide unemployed professionals with the opportunity to lend their expertise to businesses who require their skills.

The individual gains valuable experience across a variety of industries and projects which can go towards their CV. The SME will benefit significantly from the transformation which helps to bring about business continuity.

Benefits for SMEs

• Moving teams online - Services include: setting up employee emails, setting up online file sharing e.g. Google Drive

• Managing teams remotely - Services include: set up and train employees how to use tools like Slack (chat), Asana (tasks) and Zoom (conference calls)

• Retaining customers - Services include: CRM creation, personalised marketing e.g. email marketing

• Getting products/services to customers - Tasks: Setting up a restaurant/cafe on Deliveroo, setting up an ecommerce account on Amazon, creating a website (with a payment facility), setting up a platform for webinars.

Benefits for Unemployed Individuals & Graduates

• Help Businesses Achieve & Be Valued: Young professionals and graduates can offer their service to small business and know that their skills are valued and have positive implications on the business.

• CV Enhancement: Successfully delivering results on real business problems will be encouraging for the individual and something that can be discussed in interviews later on i.e.The solution you bring to the table

• Promote Skills & Build professional connections: Young professional and graduates can show off their talents to business owners and demonstrate what they have to offer. This may lead to longer terms contracts for the service provider or a full-time position with the company.

5. What we have done over the weekend

Concept Development

We assessed the impact of Covid-19 across the broader business landscape. We created a mind map and identified key stakeholders and issues. We then turned our focus to SMEs and Individuals affected by the crisis.

Market Research

We conducted secondary and primary research. We initially conducted desktop research and based on the insights from online literature, we developed 3 no. personas (The SME, Graduate, unemployed person) and assigned assumed pain points. We then crafted 3 idividual surveys to test our hypotheses, collected the responses and analysed the results.

Survey highlights are summarised below:

SME Business Owner - Survey Highlights

• 100% of respondents believe their business has been disproportionately negatively affected due to an inadequate digital presence.

• 100% of respondents believe the addition of a new or enhanced digital workplace platform would improve their internal working processes.

• 100% of respondents believe a new or enhanced digital presence would improve their ability to deliver product/services to customers.

• 100% of respondents believe the addition of a new or enhanced digital management system would improve their ability to to manage their supply chain

Graduate - Survey Highlights

• 75% of respondents think that the Covid-19 pandemic has reduced their chances of getting a job this year

• 75% of respondents believe the crisis has affected their mental health negatively

• 87.5% of respondents would be willing to add their profile to a database which could be used to match their skills to skills required by a business.

Unemployed Individual - Survey Highlights

• 100% of respondents thought that their skills were being under utilised as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

• 100% of respondents would value an un-paid professional development opportunity.

• 75% of respondents would be willing to add their profile to a database which could be used to match their skills to skills required by a business.

Prototype Development

A prototype website was created to showcase the user experience from different perspectives (1) the SME Business Owner who requires a service, and (2) the individual offering their skills and expertise

The SME business owner is directed towards a registration portal from the homepage and then to the available service categories:

• Remote Workplace Setup • E-Commerce • Digital Marketing • Website Development

Once a selection is made, the user is presented with a suite of available tools. Based on this selection, the user is brought to workforce page, displaying profiles of the individuals who match their skill requirements.

Similarily, the individual offering their expertise is directed towards a registration portal from the homepage and then required to select their areas of expertise, along with the corresponding tools that they have knowledge and experience of implementing. Once these details are confirmed a profile is created, ready for selection by any business user seeking expertise.

6. Matchpoint’s impact to the crisis

The digital meeting place will match SMEs with capable, skilled individuals that will help the businesses transform and ultimately succeed during these uncertain times. At the same time, it will empower unemployed individuals and graduates to continue to develop their knowledge and CV, and feel valued for their contribution towards the crisis effort.

SME's can search for support based on the desired activity and tools required and will be provided several profiles of individuals who meet the skills requirements to complete the task at hand. The projects or tasks will be limited to a maximum of two weeks for completion.

The skills provider will have his/her own profile where they can specify their professional background and interests in order to be matched with projects that suits both parties. Success stories will be posted in a weekly blog to highlight the excellent performance of the skills provider.

Overall Matchpoint will create mutual value, share skills and future proof businesses.

7. What we need to continue the project

In order to move forward we need to collaborate with a web developer and attract funding partners. We need to improve on the website functionality in terms of refining our methods of matching businesses with individuals and add additional pages e.g. 'Success Stories' blog page.

Once we have a website established, we need to develop a promotional strategy for the platform based around findings from our survey results and additional qualitative interviews with small business owners, unemployed individuals and graduates..

8. The value of of Matchpoint after the crisis

Matchpoint provides SME's with an opportunity to digitise and future proof their businesses. As customers have acclimatised to virtual environments over the course of the pandemic, their expectations for businesses to provide digital experiences and service options will not dissipate. The expertise offered by the individuals on our online platform and the outcomes delivered will be valued by all small and medium businesses.

For young professionals and graduates this platform will provide continuous learning and skills development opportunities, in addition to the social/psychological benefits of being able to leverage their skills to support struggling small businesses. Importantly, this platform will provide the necessary pre-requisite experience that all professionals need to have in order to advance in their careers and/or qualify themselves to a potential new employer.

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