The Civil Service Reform Project, an EU-funded project with an overall budget of 4.6 million euros, has delivered seminars on best practices in civil service management in several regions of Kazakhstan. The latest event took place in Shymkent, where more than 60 participants representing the human resources units of local authorities joined the event. In addition to learning about the experiences of European countries, the participants also got a taste of how the newly developed E-Kyzmet System will ease the daily routines of human resource managers.
Imagine needing a day off from work due to an urgent personal need, needing documents confirming employment or just wanting a holiday on short notice. In most cases, an employee would have to spend considerable time waiting for approval, making snap decisions quite difficult. Procedures in different human resources departments also differ, even when the same law has to be applied. Human resource management operated manually is complicated and hard to handle in an efficient way.
New developments in this sphere allow not only for faster decisions and more effective operation, but also increase the flexibility and comfort of each civil servant. Making human resource management effective and efficient, increasing the comfort of civil servants and giving public human resource managers more time for tasks beyond their routines was paramount for the design.
The preparation of E-Kyzmet was supported by the EU funded project Civil Service Reform and Modernisation of the Government of Kazakhstan in order to have comprehensive and precise terms of reference for selecting the best vendor.
According to international experience, the success of a project is already determined in the preparation phase, and missing functionalities that must be implemented when the project is already in the roll-out phase can result in significantly increased budgets. In almost all countries that have introduced information technology-based human resource systems, the first attempt failed. This, according to officials, was an important lesson learned. One of the failures that occurred frequently was underestimating the human factor. Generally said, the projects were seen as purely technical, presenting users with a final product without preparing them for the coming changes. Resistance was thus built up and in some cases, implementation was delayed.
Knowing this, the Centre of Personnel Management, which is responsible for the implementation, organised four events in 2014 to present the functionality and progress of E-Kyzmet to civil servants all over Kazakhstan. It is planned to continue with similar events throughout next year, to cover all regions.
So what is E-Kyzmet about? E-Kyzmet is a country-wide IT-based system, aimed at automating generic human resources processes in all public bodies on the national, regional and local levels. The system operates in Kazakh and Russian, either of which can be chosen by the user.
Functions like onboarding new employees, administering professional documents and planning leave time are only a few of the features of the system. Civil servants will be able to execute those and other processes on short notice if required, saving tremendous time and resources. In addition, they can concentrate on more important strategic tasks, having been relieved of the manual administrative burden.
The system will be operated centrally and provide the connected authorities with requested data on a secure, closed data line. This should guarantee a maximum of security for stored information. Since most of the available systems are cloud based and therefore not suitable for sensitive governmental data, this was taken into consideration while selecting a company.
Analogous systems are already used by the European Commission and other institutions of the European Union, and some national governments have already implemented a shared service model.
The most prominent example of shared service is probably the Dutch system, P-Direkt. P-Direkt started its operation in 2005 and now represents the state of the art in the operation and planning of a shared service model for human resource management in the public sector.
How much the Dutch government spent on P-Direkt is not known to the public, but the result is: The system is planned to reduce expenditures by at least 500 million euros between 2004 and 2015 by decreasing excess labour and the duplication of functions. Furthermore, P-Direkt consolidates dispersed expertise over several human resource departments in ministries. By concentrating expertise in one organisation, the Dutch government became more efficient and could react more quickly to requests from their employees. The unified standards also bring more coherence to service delivery.
Further, the hope was that line managers would benefit. They were dissatisfied with the service they received because human resource advisers were devoting up to a third of their time to administration instead of support and partnering. The outsourcing and pooling of standard human resource procedures gave advisers more time to focus on more complex issues, like finding the right person for the right job and career planning. After implementing P-Direkt, services were felt to have improved and job satisfaction increased.
The old way of working, the way that human resource services were delivered to managers and employees changed dramatically with the implementation of shared services. The shared services model puts managers and employees in the driver’s seat. Everyone affected by the transformation has to let go of old ways of working and shift to a new way of looking at human resource services.
After the introduction is before the introduction – this important lesson was taught to the Kazakh delegation visiting P-Direkt. Only the constant development of the system keeps its momentum going. P-Direkt wants to always increase user satisfaction; the next stage of P-Direkt will be smart phone and tablet access.
Usability was and always will be the most crucial factor in such systems, and one of the key lessons learned, therefore, is that modern human resources services should come to the people and not vice versa. P-Direkt saves around 51 million euros of public money annually, of which 34 million is personnel costs, 15 million IT costs and 2 million other costs – an impressive amount of taxpayer money that now can be used for other meaningful goals.
The author is a key expert of the European Union Project “Civil Service Reform and Modernisation of the Government of Kazakhstan.”