The Flexi-Team helps advance top priority political projects, which could not have been implemented with the currently available staff. The team supports all divisions of the ministry that have temporary staff shortages due to absences or unfilled positions, or due to short-term projects. Furthermore, the Flexi-Team promotes a more flexible work environment in the ministry e.g. by establishing the use of modern knowledge management methods and by offering support in creative design processes.
One of the main ideas that lead to the development of the Flexi-Team was the insight that unmet demand for human resources has a negative impact on job satisfaction and health of the staff. The Flexi-Team aims to address these needs and, at the same time, improve working conditions. Thus, the concept for the Flexi-Team includes aspects that entice highly qualified and motivated personnel.
The Flexi-Team was established in June 2017 and currently consists of eleven team members. As one division of central directorate-general in Germany’s Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Flexi-Team provides services to the entire ministry in three broad domains:
1. The main task of the Flexi-Team is to give rapid response to temporary mismatches between workload and available staff in any division of the ministry. The Flexi-Team alleviates temporary staff shortages or temporary additional staffing demand by assigning its team members to the divisions in need for a duration of generally three to nine months. Shortages of staff can arise because employees are severely ill or on parental leave, or because positions are temporarily unfilled. An assignment of a Flexi-Team member can also be justified in order to start top-priority political projects immediately, before the relevant division receives the additionally required staff (usually at the start of the following budget year). In order to obtain temporary support from the Flexi-Team, the division in need has to justify the need for support by filling in a simple form. According to the availability of a team member and the priority of the staff shortage, the support mission can start within less than one week.
2. All members of the Flexi-Team were trained as coaches to facilitate well-structured, effective and efficient job handovers. Whenever job handovers take place, the division concerned can apply for support in the knowledge transfer process. A member of the Flexi-Team accompanies the process by moderating two or three sessions, at which the outgoing and the incoming employee take part.
3. In addition, the Flexi-Team works as a role model for future-oriented working environments and collaboration. The team members use latest IT solutions, flexible working conditions and share technical experience gained through their support assignments. Thus, during support assignments, team members further spread best practice examples throughout the ministry. Moreover, having a broad overview of all policy areas covered by the ministry, Flexi-Team members can be consulted as discussion partners in projects or creative design processes. By doing so, newly developed ideas in policy or law making receive feedback from highly qualified employees, who have a broad overview of the ministry’s policy areas without being expert in the specific area at stake.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The Flexi-Team is particularly innovative, given the general importance of clearly assigned responsibilities for each division in German ministries. Previously, temporary mismatches between workload and available staff could only be mitigated by informally obtaining help from other divisions. With the Flexi-Team, temporary support can now be officially granted.
Moreover, the Flexi-Team aims to promote more flexible work arrangements in general by highlighting the benefits of temporarily collaborating with employees who are not experts of the specific policy field in question. All members of the Flexi-Team are highly qualified and have an excellent overview of the different policy areas covered by the ministry and can therefore provide valuable feedback during their temporary work assignments.
With these two aspects combined, the Flexi-Team is a rewarding workplace for its team members, which quickly gained high recommendation throughout the entire ministry.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The Flexi-Team was established in June 2017. From then, all team members jointly invented rules and processes for support assignments and a concept for knowledge transfer management. They received training in moderating job handovers and designed their own intranet website to promote their portfolio.
As of September 2018, almost 20 work assignments lasting generally from three to nine months have been realized in six of the eight departments of the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. In addition, members of the Flexi-Team have facilitated seven job handovers in four of the eight departments, and were involved in conceptual design in two divisions.
As a next step, all members of the team plan to gather for two days in November 2018 in order to reflect their work and targets and to plan the next steps.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The initiative to create the Flexi-Team was introduced by the former head of the human resources division of the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, triggered by the expressed personnel needs of the heads of departments and in awareness of the health concerns caused by mismatches between workload and currently available staff.
The idea was supported and approved by the former state secretary, which was necessary to establish the team of eleven employees.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Direct beneficiaries of the Flexi-Team are all divisions of the ministry that temporarily receive support through staff assignment. In addition, new employees benefit from their job handover being facilitated by the Flexi-Team.
More indirectly, all stakeholders the ministry cooperates with benefit, given that the Flexi-Team enables the ministry to carry out its tasks more rapidly and efficiently.
Not least, members of the Flexi-Team themselves benefit for their own personnel development.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
As of September 2018, almost 20 work assignments lasting generally from three to nine months have been realized in six of the eight departments of the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. In addition, members of the Flexi-Team have facilitated seven job handovers in four departments.
More generally, the Flexi-Team has shown that work processes can advance even if one of the supporting staff members is not an expert in the specific policy area. Rather, all members of the Flexi-Team are highly qualified employees, who bring in new impulses and vast experience in several of the ministry’s policy areas.
All support assignments of the Flexi-Team are evaluated in a structured telephone interview between the head of the Flexi-Team and the head of the division that was supported. To date, the feedback was very positive in all cases.
Challenges and Failures
The (future) success of the Flexi-Team faces the following challenges:
1. The Flexi-Team requires highly qualified employees who are willing to change their assignment every couple of months – given that this is highly demanding, staff turnover within the Flexi-Team risks to be high
2. Divisions in need of additional staff have to be convinced that it is possible to fulfil the required tasks even if the temporary team member is no expert in the specific policy area
3. Divisions that temporarily assign members of the Flexi-Team need to understand that their temporary employees are not exclusively available to them, because they also fulfil additional tasks within the Flexi-Team
4. Flexi-Team members need these common tasks (such as facilitating job handovers and being consulted for short-term creative design processes) in order to identify with the Flexi-Team, which is necessary to reduce turn-over within the team
Conditions for Success
The head of the Flexi-Team, who coordinates support assignments, needs to have a good overview of the workload in all departments of the ministry, in order to prioritize support demands. As the current head of the Flexi-Team is simultaneously head of the department of human resources, this currently works out very well.
The Flexi-Team could be replicated in other governments. Several German ministries have expressed their interest in the concept, one ministry has contacted the Flexi-Team in order to learn from our experiences.
So far, the idea has not been implemented in another ministry of the German federal government. However, convincing involved parties and acquiring resources took several years in the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
The Flexi-Team answers a demand that was expressed by all departments of the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, according to which it is important to be able to alleviate temporary staff shortages by assigning team members to divisions for short periods. Divisions that benefited from these short-term assignments of staff evaluated these assignments very positively.
Further insights from the point of view of the divisions that receive support, as well as from the point of view of the Flexi-Team:
1. It is possible to fill temporary staff shortages with employees, who have broad knowledge of various policy areas of the ministry, without being expert in the specific policy area of the division.
2. It is important to share experiences and further tasks within the Flexi-Team, in addition to being placed in temporary work assignments at various divisions, in order to alleviate the challenge of frequently having to start working in new teams.
3. Being part of the Flexi-Team is an excellent way of gaining a very broad overview of the ministry’s policy areas, making important contacts and benefitting from own and other team-members’ experiences.