Design and implementation of a citizen centric employment services system
The Australian government is transforming employment services to improve how the system works for job seekers, employers and the community.
Transformational change requires genuine consultation to capture the diversity of views of stakeholders affected by changes, identifying pain points, testing ideas and laying the groundwork for sustainable policy reform.
A citizen centric approach helps to understand the real-world impact, leading to better outcomes and greater acceptance in the community.
In January 2018, the Australian government appointed an independent Expert Advisory Panel to provide advice on what a future employment services model might look like. Members represented the interests of employers, small business, job seekers, the provider sector and academia.
Independent consultants were engaged to ensure the world’s best practice informed the Panel’s thinking, helping identify reform challenges, the strategic risks and change management associated with designing a new employment services system.
User-centred design leaders supported extensive user-centred research to hear directly from job seekers, employers and providers on their experiences and needs in using employment services.
A summary of this user feedback is available, 'Employment Services 2020: Consultation report'.
A summary of responses to the public discussion paper is also available, 'The Next Generation of Employment Services: summary of consultation responses'.
These conversations helped inform the recommendations outlined in the Panel’s report to government, ‘I Want to Work’, which was released on 14 December 2018. Broadly, the Panel recommended a future employment model that would:
- Target resources to where they are needed most, enabling job-ready job seekers to self-service through digital services, freeing up resources to be redirected towards providing more intensive support for disadvantaged job seekers.
- Provide greater job seeker personal responsibility and choice, enabling job seekers to have greater choice over the activities they do to find work whilst still having to meet mutual obligation requirements and being subject to the targeted compliance framework.
- Increase market contestability by introducing a licensing framework to lower barriers to entry and exit, more effectively drive quality outcomes and reduce the cost and disruption of regular procurement processes.
This work culminated in the announcement of the proposed new employment services model and pilot on 20 March 2019.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
In the course of its work, the Panel considered a range of evidence and heard from a broad range of users of the system. Members of the Panel agreed hearing directly from users of the system was one of the most rewarding and valuable aspects of their work.
The extensive consultation undertaken to inform the Panel’s advice was the largest and most comprehensive the department has ever undertaken including:
- more than 560 people attended 23 roundtables and community forums held in metropolitan and regional centres
- 556 people participated in design research workshops, focus groups or one-on-one interviews
- 450 submissions were received in response to the public consultation paper 'The Next Generation of Employment Services 2020'
What is the current status of your innovation?
The government announced the proposed new employment services model and pilot on 20 March 2019. The new model would transform the way employment services are delivered.
A new digital platform would provide personalised support to all job seekers, with job seekers who are job-ready (those in Digital First and Digital Plus) largely self-servicing online. Employment services providers could deliver greater support to the more disadvantaged job seekers (Enhanced Services), with a new licensing system, new performance management framework and a payment structure designed to incentivise quality services. These new services would be supported by improved assessment processes for determining the needs of job seekers and a more flexible and self-directed approach to mutual obligation activities to help a job seeker into employment.
The new model would be piloted in two regions from July 2019 before being rolled out nationally from July 2022 benefiting over a million job seekers each year as well as thousands of businesses.
Collaborations & Partnerships
In response to the Panel’s recommendations, the Department has continued to take a user centred design approach, testing the proposed direction for a new model with a cross-section of users and key stakeholders including job seekers, peak bodies, employers, service providers and community sector organisations to ensure a successful transition to a new model.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
This is the most significant transformation of employment services since they were privatised in 1998.
Given the scale of change, the government is committed to a phased implementation to allow key elements of the model to be tested and evaluated with enhancements made through an ongoing co-design process with job seekers, employers, providers and community organisations.
This would commence with the new model being piloted in two employment regions: Adelaide South, South Australia and Mid North Coast, New South Wales from July 2019 to June 2022.
Current jobactive contracts would also be extended until June 2022 in all other regions while elements of the new model are tested and refined with users.
This phased approach would ensure that the new model delivers the best possible services for job seekers and employers.
Challenges and Failures
Ensuring the stakeholder consultations and user centred research was aligned with each phase of policy development was a challenge. This required a considerable amount planning and resources to ensure the discussions were undertaken at the right time, and the information developed for each forum was appropriately targeted to inspire robust discussion amongst each group, for example, targeted to job seekers, employers or providers.
Conditions for Success
The new model would be trialled before it is rolled out nationally. This will allow ongoing stakeholder engagement and user centred co-design to test functionality on a smaller scale, and enable refinement of detailed policy settings prior to full implementation.
As an agency, the Department of Jobs and Small Business has already started strengthening the way it uses the latest user-centered co-design approaches and evidence to reduce the gap between policy intent and outcomes. The approach undertaken in the design of the new employment services system has highlighted that it is possible to lead transformational change through a process where the government has listened to users to achieve shared outcomes.
Regardless of the policy challenge, taking a user centred co-design approach is a critical factor for success. The approach undertaken in the design of the proposed new model has been very well supported by stakeholders, many publically commending the extensive consultation, for example, one key stakeholder commented that, ‘At a time when policy is often developed and announced in a haphazard way, the employment services review serves as a template for policy responses to complex problems’.