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Digitalisation in Public Employment Services

Project summary

Digital technologies have been used by public employment services (PES) for about half a century now. The introduction of most of these technologies has led to great benefits for PES and their clients and many hail its future potential to improve services and business processes. However, there are challenges as well, such as the accumulation of technology (legacy), the increasing complexity of tech and the increasing speed of technological change. With this change in technology also come opportunities and challenges regarding the role of data, as a means to improve the organisation and monitor success.

The increasing importance of digital technologies lead to PES increasingly adopting digital strategies to manage technological change at the strategic level. But how? What is a good digital strategy, what are the core elements of a strategy and what is the role of data in this?

In this project we tried to find answers to these questions. We review current digital strategies in PES to identify good practices and common obstacles. Building on this, we created two ‘starting guides’, to get started with a digital strategy, as well as getting started with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure success. Lastly, we looked at the latest developments in technology and advanced analytics that can help build more future ready PES.


Digital technologies have been used by public employment services (PES) for more then 50 years. The introduction of most technologies has led to great benefits for PES and their clients and many hail its future potential. But every (round of) innovation has also faced its obstacles and challenges.

Large IT projects have often been plagued by cost and time overruns, resistance and lack of skills from employees and clients have led to rejection of certain technologies and while many new technologies have been adopted by majorities in the various populations, old ways of working die hard and many ‘traditional’ methods (e.g. paper forms, in person meetings, manual processing of certain cases) persist. Furthermore, the accumulation of several generations of technologies has created a complicated web of infrastructures and systems that are becoming increasingly complicated to manage and maintain. As such
these ‘legacies’ could hinder future progress and even pose risks for the organisation.

It does, however, not end here. It is expected that the role of technology will increase even more in the future. The Internet of Things (IoT) and ongoing miniaturisation will enable computers to be put in a magnitude of devices, potentially altering processes and services. Robotisation could lead to new types of services channels. New technologies allow for further automation of processes that could lead to caseworker obsolescence and radically change the environment in which PES operate and severely impact labour markets.

Some argue that the speed of technological innovation is accelerating, meaning that the pressure on PES to digitalise even more in the future will only increase. Furthermore, the increasing speed of change will impact societies and is likely to influence the PES organisation as a whole. Developments like working ‘agile’ and using (big) data to inform decision making are part of this and are slowly forcing government, PES no exception, to rethink not only what their role in society is, but also how they organise and operate in future time. Addressing these issues lies at the core of PES digital strategies.

Digital becomes increasingly important in society as a whole. Current organisational models (silos) and legacy hamper PES’ abilities to successfully adopt a ‘digital’ mindset and lastly, developments force PES to rethink how they keep up in the future. Thus, having a digital strategy becomes increasingly important. More so, given the degree to which ‘digital’ is woven into the organisation, the digital strategy is becoming an increasingly important strategy and part of the organisational strategy as a whole. While this is relevant for all PES within the EU, it seems especially relevant for those PES who are in the early stages of their digital development.

The project

To aid PES in the successful development and implementation of digital strategies, the EU PES Network organised several related activities in the ‘digitalisation’ pillar of their working programme in 2018 and 2019. While separate activities, they are connected through a number of common objectives:

  1. Understand the latest developments in digital technologies, data and analytics that could be important to PES
  2. Facilitate learning by identifying best practices and good examples from other PES
  3. Help PES getting started with digital strategies and ways to measure success (through KPIs)

Our role

We provided a number of services in the project:

  1. We facilitate a mutual learning seminar in Tallinn, Estonia in April 2018 and as part of that seminar we surveyed and analyse best practices across EU PES and beyond.
  2. We developed two starting guides; a) getting started with digital strategies and b) getting started with key performance indicators as part of the annual working group meetings on data in Vienna and Paris.
  3. We wrote a thematic paper on the latest developments in digital technologies and advanced analytics that could serve as foundation for future PES strategies.