Accelerating the implementation of personalized services

UWV WERKbedrijf

UWV WERKbedrijf, part of the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) in the Netherlands, supports job seekers through labor mediation and reintegration services. Like many other service delivery organizations, their services have become highly digitized in recent years, relying on individuals’ own responsibility and self-reliance. However, job seekers, particularly those facing employment barriers, still have a continuing need for personal contact and customized support.

1. What was the challenge that led you to engage Turner? What made it complex?

Since 2018, UWV WERKbedrijf has been striving to adopt a different way of working with a greater focus on personalized services. However, ensuring that 100+ teams and 1,000+ employment advisors all adopt a similar, more personalized approach posed a challenge. Initially, the 35 locations had significant freedom in how they interpreted and implemented personalized services. However, the changes were slow and challenging. Tof Thissen, General Director of UWV WERKbedrijf, and Bernard van Nijnatten, National Manager of Service Delivery, sought Turner’s assistance. Their question was: How can we successfully and expediently implement personalized services across all locations?

The complexity lay in introducing a new way of working while respecting the autonomy of the 35 locations, 100+ teams, and 1,000+ employment advisors. This was the primary challenge, as acknowledged by Van Nijnatten.

2. What contributed to the breakthrough? Was it related to content, change management, or project management?

Turner started with a concise and powerful redesign of the way of working in collaboration with a design coalition. Subsequently, we tested this through a proof-of-concept on a small scale in practice. This led to refinements in the redesign, making the more personalized way of working ready for a broader rollout. The new approach was then introduced and embedded at each location within six weeks. In short, a short-cycle approach to implementing change.

“Public organizations tend to spend too much time thinking (80%) and too little attention on execution (20%),” says Peter Schreuder, Program Manager at Turner. “By reversing this ratio at UWV, we successfully implemented the new, more personalized way of working. The quality significantly improved, and production substantially increased.”

3. How was the execution accomplished?

As mentioned earlier, the redesign was initially tested at three locations. Subsequently, the new way of working was introduced in waves, with four or five locations at a time. Progress and results were meticulously measured at each location, allowing for ongoing adjustments and improvements based on the experiences. “We deliberately did not aim for a concept that was 100% perfect, which was the traditional approach at UWV,” explains Peter Schreuder. “You cannot plan everything in advance. When we started the rollout, the concept was about 80 or 90% complete. We used the experiences we gained to continuously optimize the concept further, and it worked exceptionally well, as evidenced by the results and the enthusiasm among the employment advisors.”

Interestingly, many employees appreciated receiving direction and guidance, according to Schreuder. “They welcomed having a less open-ended idea of the direction in which they could change.”

4. Are there benefits for all stakeholders? Customers, shareholders, employees, management, and society?

The results speak for themselves. Employee satisfaction at the locations increased, as did the number of personalized contact moments (by 20%). Additionally, the quality of services improved. Previously, only 40% of the work plans (their action plans for starting or restarting their job search) were considered ‘good,’ but this increased to 80%.

92% of UWV advisors believe the new work plan is an improvement. Furthermore, 78% of employees perceive the weekly team meetings, which are part of the new way of working, as an improvement. The implementation approach itself also received positive evaluations, with 77% of employees considering it an improvement compared to the previous, more open-ended change methods.

Bernard van Nijnatten, National Manager of Service Delivery at UWV, is highly satisfied with the results. “Turner brought an innovative approach, was responsive and to-the-point. I am very pleased with the collaboration. It exceeded my expectations.”

5. What was the main dilemma, and how did you address it?

The biggest dilemma was finding a balance between local autonomy and national uniformity in work execution, explains Peter Schreuder. The 35 locations were organized into different waves for the rollout of the new way of working, indicating when each location would be involved. This immediately led to some resistance, as some locations hoped to be scheduled later due to reasons such as illness, job vacancies, or maternity leave. “At that point, we said: there will always be a reason not to do it. The focus should be on what is needed to make it possible. Circumstances are never perfect, and it’s best to accept that. This way, people learn to deal with imperfections, just as the concept itself was not 100% perfect. This doesn’t mean that we don’t strive for the best possible result. It may not be perfect, but it’s the best outcome we can achieve.” Ultimately, this way of working was highly appreciated by the employees.

This mindset had an additional advantage: During the third wave, UWV WERKbedrijf and Turner had to deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employment advisors were suddenly unable to work from the office and had to switch to remote work. “Instead of waiting to see what would happen, we quickly made the switch to digital work,” explains Schreuder. And because UWV WERKbedrijf had already adopted a mindset of focusing on what was possible rather than what was not, the transition could be made much faster. “We bit the bullet and made the most of the situation. As Bernard van Nijnatten said, it was precisely because we had this mindset of action-oriented mentality that we were able to make that organizational switch.”

“Turner brought an innovative approach, was responsive and to-the-point. I am highly satisfied with the collaboration. It exceeded my expectations.”

Bernard van Nijnatten, National Manager of Service Delivery at UWV

Photo: UWV/Jiri Büller

My work? Converting complex societal issues into tangible results for citizens and businesses.”

Peter Schreuder, organizational consultant at Turner

Photo: Peter Arno Boer

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Peter Schreuder

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