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Webinar: PES strategies to support recovery after COVID-19 crisis, 08.09.20

30 September 2020

European Network of Public Employment Services

Webinar:  PES strategies to support recovery after COVID-19 crisis, 08.09.20

 

The experience of a sudden containment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic worked as a strong catalyst for telework, remote service delivery and digital transformation in Public Employment Services in Europe and worldwide. A poll among 250 participants of the webinar “PES strategies to support recovery after the COVID-19 crisis” shows that most of the European PES have organized remote appointments and new digital services having a longer lasting effect: 4 out of 10 PES representatives think that most of the changes will become permanent and in addition, 3 out of 10 consider that at least a few changes will be kept. 

 

The webinar complemented information collected in a survey carried out by WAPES in cooperation with ILO, the International Development Bank, Socieux+ and the European Commission on “PESs are swinging into Action in Response to the COVID-19 “(report to be published soon on the WAPES website). 

 

This WAPES note presents a brief summary of measures adopted by the PES Belgium (Actiris), the Netherlands and Sweden. It shows that at this stage, the main priority for PES is how to effectively serve a rising number of jobseekers and to keep as many as possible in employment including job-to-job placement.  Special active labour market measures, particularly training,  may gain importance in the future depending on the development of unemployment.

 

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Summary

 

Webinar European Network of Public Employment Services:  

PES strategies to support recovery after COVID-19 crisis, 08.09.20

 

Summary – WAPES secretariat – Susanne Kraatz

 

The experience of a sudden containment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic worked as a strong catalyst for telework, remote service delivery and digital transformation in Public Employment Services in Europe and worldwide. A poll among 250 participants of the webinar “PES strategies to support recovery after the COVID-19 crisis” shows that most of the European PES have organized remote appointments and new digital services having a longer lasting effect: 4 out of 10 PES representatives think that most of the changes will become permanent and in addition, 3 out of 10 consider that at least a few changes will be kept. 

 

The webinar complemented information collected in a survey carried out by WAPES in cooperation with ILO, the International Development Bank, Socieux+ and the European Commission on “PESs are swinging into Action in Response to the COVID-19 “(report to be published soon on the WAPES website). 

 

This WAPES note presents a brief summary of measures adopted by the PES Belgium (Actiris), the Netherlands and Sweden. It shows that at this stage, the main priority for PES is how to effectively serve a rising number of jobseekers and to keep as many as possible in employment including job-to-job placement.  Special active labour market measures, particularly training, may gain importance in the future depending on the development of unemployment.

 

 

Overall, the webinar gave three concrete examples of positive side-effects the COVID-pandemic had on increasing the agility of PES. They introduced reforms more rapidly than under normal circumstances and consequently, a number of PES experienced a push for creative thinking, modernisation and digital transformation, including  institutional responses, investment in PES staff, acceleration of online-service delivery and omni-channelling and a number of specific measures:

 

1.Institutional measures in and beyond PES – a coordinated approach is key

The Belgian PES (Actiris – Brussels) has set up a crisis unit to develop and coordinate reforms within the PES.

As part of the recovery package – regional labour market transition teams have been created in the Netherlands including PES, municipalities, Union employment and educational advisors to keep people in work once special arrangements end. The Public Employment Service has received a broader mandate to provide as new service job search assistance for employed at risk (e.g. tourism, transport).

 

2.Investments in staff – Hiring, staff training and change management

Actiris (Belgium) has set up a platform for internal skills development including e-learning tools, videos and online mentoring for newly recruited staff as well as a system of internal online coaching.

In the PES Sweden, for all employees telework is possible now implying a shift towards more trust-based leadership.

The PES Netherlands has been increasing capacities already before the crisis and continues to hire new staff including from private recruitment agencies building upon a well established tradition of cooperation.

Both, the PES Sweden and the PES Netherlands underlined the importance of change management involving PES counsellors in order to prevent fears and non-acceptance as major risks for implementation. 

 

 

3.Digital transformation – moving towards interactive online services, omni-channelling, and automated action planning supported by AI

To respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Actiris (PES Belgium – Brussels) has introduced „Phygital coaching” = remote counselling and video conferences.

To address insufficient staff capacities due to rising unemployment, the PES Netherlands uses a profiling tool (18-19 questions, analysis of historical data) to define jobseekers considered capable to manage job search alone using online self-service tools only.

Similarly, in Sweden, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the ongoing digital transformation of the PES. 90% of the jobseekers register online and, based upon the profiling using AI, 10-12% receive an automated individual action plan. Many of these find a job without any personal contact. 95 % register their activity reports digitally. The ultimate objective is to ensure seamless switching between channels, to hold pre-booked meetings online and to develop a tool to steer the customer to the most appropriate channel. A reduced number of physical offices will remain for those in need where counsellors assist clients in using the digital tools. The shift of service delivery towards online channels has been supported by a comprehensive marketing campaign including Youtube and by activities to ensure staff buy-in. According to the PES expert, soon, “the biggest PES office will be the web platform where jobseekers can do all themselves.” 

 

 

4.Specific measures for jobseekers – job-to-job placement and targeted upskilling

 

As many short-time work arrangements end, the PES Netherlands has received a new mandate: to contact employed at risk to find a new job before unemployment occurs. An awareness raising campaign has been launched for employers. Further, the PES Netherlands ensured continuity of training by providing all group trainings for jobseekers (e.g. job search) online.

 

Actiris (Belgium) is further developing its Labour market observatory to better assist employment counsellors. In case of a pronounced labour surplus in the original occupation (e.g. secretaries), the tool identifies promising job opportunities with a similar competence profile in connection with the training required. 

 

 

Challenges ahead – Lessons from the discussion

A number of challenges remain independent from the future development of unemployment:

Digital transformation:

To ensure equal treatment independent from the channel used requires compensatory measures to avoid a deepening of the digital divide and inequality. A particular concern are jobseekers not having an own personal computer or access to internet providers at home or lacking the digital skills needed to use PES online services. Rural areas in many countries do not have the necessary technical infrastructure to ensure adequate access for all.

Omni-channelling

To provide seamless switching between all channels requires sufficient staff capacities, in particular counsellors. 

Pace of change

Given rapidly changing labour markets, skills requirements, evolving recruitment and matching services, PES need an agile mindset working always on the next update. Enough time and resources have to be reserved for change management strategies for effective implementation of reforms.

Platform economy:

PES need to develop approaches how to work with job offers in the collaborative economy balancing the availability of new job opportunities with new risks regarding the quality of employment and shifting risks to the platform worker. 

Other market players: 

A rapidly changing service landscape (e.g. Google Jobs, LinkedIn) requires the adjustment of PES services and a cooperative approach. Contrasting with other market players, PES have a focus on developing the supply side.

 

A recording of the webinar is available here.

For more information, see the webinar agenda.

For any further questions, please contact pesnetwork@fondazionebrodolini.eu.