Within a couple of years, our digital service has gone from just an idea to now supporting 10,000 disabled people looking for work or needing help to keep their job. Our head of digital, Maxine Moss-Black explains how we’ve developed the only service of its kind and what the learnings have been as we hit this landmark.

Where did the idea for Remploy’s online service come from?

Evolving consumer service needs have been sparked by digital technology; more than 82% of our candidates use the internet most days. With the growing use of mobile devices we and the digital natives moving into the working age bracket, we needed to look at how:

  • to best deliver our services and meet candidate service expectations
  • digital can help us deliver a more accessible and flexible service
  • technology can help us find service efficiencies that will enable us to support even more disabled people.


When did the service start running?

We began a pilot using a Facebook page to engage with disabled people needing employment support. It took minimal effort to set up and was packed with learnings that we could apply to the next phase. For example, we found 59% of interaction was between 6pm and midnight, showing that an out of hours service was necessary (this shift pattern still exists today). We also found individuals were upfront and candid about disclosing their disability and situation with an online advisor; anonymity allowed them to talk honestly. This learning is continually reinforced even now; we see vast amounts of detailed sharing from candidates which has enabled us to develop related content to better support people with similar needs.

We later launched the first standalone website dedicated to delivering the online service. It looked very different from today’s version, it was copy heavy, lacked personality and looked like a standard recruitment website but it was a point to grow from. Since then we’ve integrated it to our main website www.remploy.co.uk and saw an immediate value in terms of growing reach and capturing registered users. It’s further developed its identity and now offers a range of specialist disability employment; support, guidance and tools.

What were the early days like?

We had a few hundred Facebook friends during the pilot. Every time we crossed the line from social updates to work focussed content, we lost friends. But, we still managed to get a hand full of people into paid employment and proved online employment support could work.

I still remember our first online job outcome; Thomas, he’s still in work now five years later, employed by his local council. On average, we saved over 96% of the normal costs associated with supporting a disabled person into work by doing it online. The flip side to this success was that it fuelled some disbelief from areas of the business. It was almost too inexpensive! People needed to get their heads round what was possible.


How many people have you helped so far?

We’ve just hit 10,000 registered users which is a big landmark. We have up to 6,000 people using the into work section of the website every month. Most months we see 400 live web chats with our online advisors. These are all people needing support with disability and employment so our reach is growing.


Any stand out moments?

The day we launched our live chat and the questions started flowing through within minutes, the first job outcome – they were amazing feelings. 18 months after that the new candidate blended journey was in play. Now some of the big barriers are getting commissioners and funders to the same place we are at. We now have the opportunity to influence government and truly establish a blended service.


What’s next and coming up?

Now we have a stable and scale-able platform in place it is time to market the product and grow! Putting in place support needed for those who are digitally excluded can open up a world of work. It also opens up a world of social support, friendship, ways to simplify and cost save with activities such as online banking and shopping. We’ll be design and developing an employer product as well as looking at how we use the technology and platform to be international disability experts. Better using our data analysis and customer insight to constantly improve our service offerings to even better support disabled people is also on the road map.


If you did it all again, would you do anything differently?

I’d probably approach it completely differently as the learning has been immense. There is no rule book as it’s all been brand new.


How has digital technology changed your life?

Doing the work I do has massively changed how I approach my life in terms of digital inclusion and accessibility. I’ve got a greater awareness and learnt huge amounts about putting accessibility at the forefront of digital. It’s even had an impact on how I help my children with using computers and technology.


What’s been your worst online experience?

Trying to book an online driving awareness course. It’s a perfect example of how not to design an online service. The user experience was hellish, just awful!