Case Study

How South Africa’s largest workforce management company used Design Thinking to match employers and candidates

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The Adcorp Group needs to deliver superior experiences to its customers-namely prospective employers and their potential employees-in order to build and sustain its leadership position in workforce management services. A Lean DigitalSM approach grounded in human-centered design thinking helped it effectively harness digital technology and analytics to create and deploy innovative solutions in record time for a greater market success and scale.

Business Challenge

The Adcorp Group, a $1.5 billion global workforce management solutions company based in South Africa, offers a range of diverse talent management solutions including training across a vast spectrum of industry sectors and job types. A stagnant home economy and weakening local currency pushed the company to expand globally. Over the past few years, they have grown quickly through acquisitions. With numerous operating companies, they found themselves with an assortment of data systems and subsidiaries that weren’t integrated, making it difficult and time-consuming to get enterprise-wide views and analysis.

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The Adcorp Group, in seeking to create a superior experience for clients and candidates found that it was constrained by:

  • Variable omni-channel experience (across online, face-to-face, and mobile) for clients and candidates
  • Complex on-boarding processes (too many forms, redundant data fields, and unnecessary paperwork)
  • Varying classification used by clients and candidates, which made it difficult to compare requirements and resulted in inaccurate matching of CVs to job descriptions and sharing these across Adcorp Group companies

Genpact solution

The Adcorp Group faced a challenge that not only needed an infusion of innovative ideas and creativity, but also a strong foundation of people, technology, and data. Design thinking was crucial in discovering latent sources of value for key process stakeholders and enabling fast, iterative testing of intermediate solutions that gave way to a workable minimum viable product (MVP).

“The exposure to startups was incredible. Great process and cultural change opportunity. We’ve learned a lot that can be applied immediately. I’m a convert to the Design Thinking process and think we should embrace it within Adcorp. I would recommend an annual injection of spending a week here.” Richard Pike, CEO of Adcorp

The process started with in-depth research to gather a fact base for providing the context and inspiration for the exercise. A cross-functional team was created and introduced to the Design Thinking approach.

They spent several weeks exploring the nature of complex client/customer challenges that needed to be addressed. The effort culminated in a four-day exercise, which included immersion in venture capital and startup community methodologies, mock-up development, live customer testing, and innovation roadmap planning.

The preparatory research took place on the Adcorp premises as far as possible. The joint Genpact–Adcorp Design Thinking team then retreated to Genpact’s Innovation Center in Palo Alto, California, for the ideation and design stages of the exercise.

There were three justifications for relocating:

  1. The lab is designed and equipped to facilitate collaborative Design Thinking
  2. By getting far away from the office, the team could focus their attention on the task at hand
  3. The team was able to tap into the special energy that exists in Palo Alto-that is, the ease of access to top talent, hungry VCs, and ambitious startups creating an atmosphere that tends to open peoples’ eyes to the possibilities through innovation

The team laid out the following design principles to improve the management of workforce demand and supply:

  • Configured to cater for future recruitment trends (e.g., “uberification” of jobs)
  • Driven by data insights to deliver enhanced matching
  • Leverage new technologies
  • Simple and intuitive for both clients and candidates
  • Supports streamlined operations, high throughput, and limited manual processing
  • Tailored to serve the needs of the African market
  • Empowers Adcorp employees to provide the best service

Get to the root of the problem
The team immersed themselves in the personae and user-journeys of clients and candidates, thereby uncovering shortcomings with current processes. Two key friction points emerged that needed to be tackled:

  • Letting candidates manage their own profiles and career options
  • Helping clients better understand their demand Keep customer at the center of the design process

Keep customer at the center of the design process
The solution involved recommending relevant companies to candidates to apply for jobs as well suggesting training programs to boost employment prospects. Clients could compare costs of resourcing models and analyze supply/demand projections to make resourcing decisions. An automated quote-generation process also helped clients cut down on search-and-fulfillment time. Paper prototypes were quickly generated and peer tested followed by digital mock-ups, which were tested with customers (clients and candidates) for rapid iterations.

Fund like a VC
Design Thinking efforts deliberately allow for some meandering to encourage creativity. Yet managing a portfolio of small bets is critical to keep the process focused. The aim is to prioritize the smallest possible minimum viable product (MVP) investment that delivers customer value. The prototypes were pitched for investment to C-suite stakeholders with detailed plans for taking these prototypes forward. The extent to which team members thought of themselves as part of a startup seeking to create a MVP to obtain funding helped further clarify the value of the initiatives.

Business impact

The experience not only provided pragmatic solutions for Adcorp’s immediate challenges, but also helped in embedding Design Thinking as a problem-solving approach for managing ongoing enterprise innovation efforts and technology-driven transformation. The organization is now confident in its ability to not only incubate new human-centered initiatives, but also design the change for effective adoption across the organization.

The design-thinking driven approach to innovation:


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Modernizing the core to enable speed to market for new ideas
Lack of a unified data model and governance made it expensive and time-consuming for the company to get insights from disparate data sets, financial systems, and configurations across subsidiaries.

Adcorp partnered with Genpact to implement a cloud-based business intelligence (BI) solution with low cost of ownership and better scalability. Rationalized KPIs, a data quality and governance framework, and a BI center of excellence (CoE) complemented the new digital capabilities and maximized return on investment. It quickly started delivering core services: profitability reporting, operational KPIs, budget and forecasting, group reporting, and customer and HR analytics, in addition to non-core BI services such as candidate analytics, market and sector research, client reporting, and data monetization.

This scalable new capability is key to what has made Adcorp an insight-led organization. For example, Adcorp is already leveraging insights on customer relationships in order to select companies to participate in the redesign of its customer engagement.