Between 2014 and 2021, the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) is carrying out an extensive initiative to implement change, referred to as "förnyelseresan" (the renewal journey). The initiative was launched against the background of problems with governance, organisation and culture, and but also a need for IT development.
The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has received the assignment from the Government of Sweden to analyse the Public Employment Service's internal management, governance and follow-up. The assignment includes assessing how the work with change has been carried out, and whether or not it has improved the agency's results. Statskontoret is also assigned to investigate the possibilities of simplifying the Public Employment Service's internal administration.
The work to effect change is well established
The renewal journey is well established among employees and managers. The employment officers generally feel that the renewal journey will give the agency better conditions for dealing with the various parts of its assignment. This makes it easier for the agency to implement the changes.
We have seen a positive development in many parts of the change efforts. For example, the Public Employment Service's efforts to change its culture, as well as its new management philosophy, have had results and these efforts have been well received. The part of the renewal journey that concerns strengthening the work with employers is evident insofar as the employment officers feel that they now have better possibilities for long-term contact with the employers.
Governance has become more coherent
Statskontoret finds that the Public Employment Service has improved its internal governance in may ways. One example is that operational plans now provide better support and are more integrated in the budget process. The governance thus has better chances of reaching the entire agency. It provides a good foundation for continuing to adapt and drive change efforts.
However, some governance-related challenges remain. The managers at the Public Employment Service need to prioritise some of the numerous changes which need to be implemented as part of the renewal journey. The agency also needs to improve its support for managers when it comes to analysing the causes of the agency's results. The agency's work with "cluster analyses" improves its opportunities of finding effective ways of working, but more analyses with agency-wide perspectives are needed.
Rapid digital development entails risks
The Public Employment Service's IT work has made progress. In a relatively short time span, the delivery capacity of digital IT services has increased and the IT governance has been developed.
But there are several risks that the Public Employment Service must address. The IT department must strengthen the financial perspective of the governance. It is also unclear what the links look like between various IT governance principles. In some cases it can be hard to gain an overview of the various development initiatives. The agency also need to better ensure that its IT operations meet the users' needs and that the organisation is able to receive the IT services. To complete the planned operational changes by 2021, the agency also needs to quickly develop and introduce new internal IT support.
Few evident effects from the change work
The Agency for Public Management finds that the renewal journey's many measures have not led to clear effects for jobseekers and employers. These target groups have generally not changed their perception of the support and services provided by the Public Employment Service. Nor has the renewal journey strengthened the exercise of public authority or the Public Employment Service's control assignment with regard to unemployment insurance.
Both jobseekers and employers are continually given access to more digital contact opportunities and self-service functions. More and more people are also using the Public Employment Service's digital services. But the agency has not been able to show what impact the digital initiatives have had. For example, it is unclear if the resources that digitisation has freed up have been used to give increased support to individuals far removed from the labour market.
The internal administration must be reduced
Employment officers spend significantly more time on administration than other state employees. The renewal journey has also failed to create concrete changes for employment officers and their daily situation. One important reason for this is that the Public Employment Service's internal IT support has not yet been updated. The insufficient IT support causes duplicate work and unnecessary administration. The administration support to employment officers is both extensive and sometimes overly complicated. Alongside measures for reduced administration, the agency needs to improve its work to create a more legally secure exercise of public authority.
To strengthen the continued operational development, Statskontoret proposes that the Public Employment Service
- reduces the number of changes within its change work and strengthens the support to managers regarding when and how changes are to be implemented
- clarifies the purpose of administrative tasks, reviews administration support, and ensures that documentation is consistent
- ensures that digitisation has beneficial outcomes and intended effects
- develops its analysis support for managers and carries out more agency-wide analyses of working methods and organisation methods
- ensures that its IT operations meet the users' needs and that the whole organisation is able to receive the IT services
- develops the governance of its IT operations in order to strengthen the financial perspective and ensure that development projects create the best possible utility for the agency as a whole.
Statskontoret deems the proposals to be generally relevant to the focus for the agency that is highlighted in the Government's policy statement for 2019.