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Melanie Hache-Barrois, HCM Strategy Director Southern Europe at Oracle.
Follow me @mhacheB
Most people don’t view innovation and public administration as bedfellows. Today, the idea that a public sector institution can be innovative borders on the impossible for many of us, especially when compared to private sector organisations. In truth, however, no sector today can escape the vortex of digital transformation – and that very much includes Europe’s public institutions.
Italy, for example, is currently transforming its national pension service: The INPS, and Massimo Cioffi, its new Director General, has been quick to recognise just how important digital innovation is to his task.
For me, there are two factors driving this innovation at the INPS and at other public sector institutions across the EU: the promise of lower operating costs and the ability to better serve the public.
As the cost of social security to the state is so large (twenty per cent of the EU’s GDP is dedicated to the task) it’s easy to see why governments across Europe are keen to keep administrative costs to an absolute minimum. Importantly however, a valuable advantage of embracing change in the public sector goes beyond cost: governments and government agencies can improve and personalise the services they deliver.
In the private sector the benefits of digital innovation can be seen everywhere. Personalised services have been embraced on a wide scale by consumers thanks to disruptive companies like Airbnb, Facebook, and Uber. Other businesses in the private sector are beginning to catch on too, and are opening up access to data and simplifying the way they work internally to keep up with the digital economy.
The time has come for public institutions to begin operating on a similar level.
I’m not saying state-run organisations should drop everything, transform themselves into San Francisco start-ups, and install ping pong tables in every meeting room. However, they should start to rethink the way they work to place the individual at the heart of their operations.
This move comes down to better talent management and more customer-focused business process management. Back to Mr. Cioffi, who clearly understands this point: speaking at a recent even in Milan, I heard him describe his plans to create a new framework of roles for his employees, adapted to the needs of the INPS’s users. Here is a clear example of talent management being put at the service of the people that matter: the end consumer (in this case INPS pension holders).
Such innovative HR practices are beginning to crop up all over Europe. In Belgium, for example, the national social security office kicked off this change internally by appointing its first Chief Happiness Officer, Laurence Vanhée. The changes it has taken on under her stewardship have helped raise employee sentiment, improve productivity, and streamline internal processes while driving up engagement among their collaborators. And without a ping pong table in sight!
A people-centric approach lies at the core of any modern operation, regardless of sector. From the employees working within their walls to the citizens they ultimately serve, Organisations across Europe are beginning to understand that success in the digital age comes down to better interactions among their people.