A global economic slowdown, rapid digitalization, ageing populations, informal labor, skill mismatches, discouraged workers, structural shifts and increasingly dynamic career paths… In labor market governance and management, there is no shortage of complex challenges to overcome. To address these challenges, many governments have introduced public employment services (PES) and active labor market polices (ALMPs). There is no simple answer on how to do this, especially given the complexity and unique challenges of each labor market. However, one integral step towards more effective labor market management is instituting an advanced labor market information system. In a well-implemented system, accurate, relevant and timely information flows between all relevant stakeholders. This facilitates informed decisions and appropriate action—provided the information is reliable, valuable, and as complete and up to date as possible.
A key element of any such system are digital solutions to gather, validate, analyze, and disseminate information related to the labor market. Integrated labor market solutions (ILMS) combine these digital solutions into one system. This includes solutions that provide services such as job matching, career guidance, and other functions covered by the PES. Any complex system inevitably presents technical challenges, and this is also true for an ILMS. Apart from ensuring the core technologies and features work as they should, there are overarching challenges such as accessibility, compliance with data and privacy laws, connectivity and interoperability, to name just a few.
Fortunately, with good project management and sound requirement engineering, the larger challenges of the technical implementation typically reveal themselves early in the process. Therefore, they can be addressed before they jeopardize the success of the project. However, other, equally essential challenges are surprisingly often overlooked or ignored – with potentially fatal consequences for the project.
Large-scale changes like the implementation of an ILMS disrupt the everyday processes that PES employees and clients have grown accustomed to. Such changes fundamentally alter the culture and mindset of the organization and can be overwhelming for many involved. This often leads to disconcerted or disgruntled staff, jobseekers, employers, or other involved institutions. If the value of such a system is not effectively conveyed, there may be apprehension or even pushback. However, it will be highly detrimental to the project if these key stakeholders are unwilling or unable to endorse the new processes, or to collaborate and share information. Therefore, this challenge must be addressed. A multifaceted approach can accomplish this, including change management within the PES and other institutions, campaigning and building trust with the public, as well as critically reviewing and adapting policy and leadership.
Another key challenge for project owners and commissioning authorities is maintaining an open, yet critical mindset and the ability to take bold decisions. As the saying goes, good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from bad decisions. So, learn from (other people’s) mistakes and go ahead. When embarking on a complex project like this, there is often substantial pressure to do what everyone else does, i.e. simply purchase the same system or technologies that some other country used more or less successfully. But again, each labor market poses its own unique challenges. What works in one country or labor market may not work in another. Determining the right system thus requires pinpointing the key characteristics and challenges of the labor market, economy and culture at hand to obtain a clear idea of which problems the ILMS can and must solve. With this clarity, the project owner can review comparable projects critically, assessing similarities and differences in labor market, culture and political framework, as well as studying the pitfalls and mistakes made – and, if necessary, advocate a solution that is different to what others are pursuing.
An ILMS can only be successful if it is used. By all relevant stakeholders. One typical component of an ILMS is a job platform. When we implement these projects for public employment services, we very often see a strong focus on job platform features for jobseekers and PES staff. Of course, there are many aspects that must be considered for these user groups, including ease of use for a diverse audience, service delivery to users with limited digital access, accessibility for users with disabilities and so on. However, all these desirable features are of little use if the job platform is not populated with job postings. Therefore, it must first and foremost be attractive for employers. This requires infrastructure and staff to attract and assist employers looking to hire, as well as deploying an ILMS designed to make job posting and candidate sourcing as simple and effective as possible for businesses. It may also involve policy decisions, advocacy and campaigning.
In addition, an ILMS should also cater to users from educational institutions who leverage the data in the system to align curricula to market needs. In return, these institutions could feed data on their offering into the system to make it readily accessible to both job seekers and policymakers – again to deliver actionable intelligence and facilitate informed decisions. Similar considerations also apply to other components of an ILMS.
Another crucial challenge arises in federations where the federated units have a certain degree of autonomy. These units must agree on and adopt the ILMS – albeit with regional adaptations to cater for each unit’s individual labor market characteristics and needs. This way, the ILMS can help break through information silos and provide reliable and comparable data and services at both the federal and regional levels. For instance, to inform policy at both levels, and to improve job opportunities by removing regional barriers.
Sound capacity building is one of the aspects of ILMS projects that is most frequently overlooked or only partially and insufficiently executed, often leading to project failure. Recognizing the important role of capacity building is therefore crucial to ensure the ILMS reaches its full potential. Specific and targeted capacity initiatives need to be developed on multiple levels. At the individual level, this involves training PES staff, analysts and other involved institutional actors, as well as educating private and business users. At an institutional level, internal policies, processes and organizational structures should be reviewed and adapted in all key organizations. At a systemic level, the overall policy framework must be designed or reformed to facilitate effective and sustainable operations and interactions between individuals, organizations and the ILMS.
Finally, a key goal of the project must be to sustain the ILMS over the long term: at least five years, preferably ten or more. Accomplishing this requires a comprehensive approach to project implementation covering several dimensions. For instance, funding and project ownership should be as independent as possible from changes in direct (political) leadership. The ILMS infrastructure and technologies should be maintained and regularly reviewed, updated and enhanced or adapted to changing requirements. In addition, focus on continued community participation must be maintained. This can be achieved through techniques and principles such as sustained supportive and transparent service provision and leadership, periodic reviews of user needs and satisfaction, campaigning, and other tools.
Overall, addressing these challenges is about creating an environment for a system where all stakeholders are both motivated to contribute and able to draw maximum benefit – thus strengthening the labor market and the economy and helping communities thrive.
If you’re looking to implement a successful ILMS in your country, get in touch and benefit from JANZZ.technology’s in-depth expertise. We are happy to assist and advise you right from the start.
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