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March 15, 2017
Public employment services of the future: Rethinking roles
By: Rainer Binder

The digital transformation that’s happening in labor markets around the world shows no sign of abating. Both employees and employers are making the leap to digital and are rethinking the nature of employment, what it means to have a career, and the relationship between work and other aspects of human existence.

But the government agencies tasked with supporting labor markets and matching employers with potential employees—the Public Employment Services (PES)—can find it difficult to play a meaningful part in this new landscape. They often find themselves lagging behind in digital maturity and their role is being usurped by digital job boards, social media, and professional networking sites.

This is a missed opportunity. PES agencies have huge capital—data, processes, people—built up over many years. Digital technology now offers them the tools to truly fulfil their mandate in the 21st Century.

But how should they go about it? The first step is to return to first principles and ask: What is a PES organisation’s true purpose in the digital age?

A new role at the center of the labor market ecosystem

A core function of a PES agency is connecting employers and employees and ensuring the effective operation of a labor market. That role still exists in the digital age, albeit in a different form. And as the digital labor market ecosystem continues to evolve, the need for a service to bring all the various participants together and facilitate transparent and frictionless interactions becomes ever more apparent. PES agencies are uniquely placed to act as this kind of "platform" in the digital labor market.

Preparing the workforce for the digital economy

Digital disruption in the labor market brings real challenges for workforces in every nation across the world. Software, robots and smart machines may replace up to a third of existing jobs.1 New ways of working in the digital age will require new skill sets. And the gig economy and sharing economy are fundamentally changing the nature of work in some sectors.

Career expectations are changing too. Almost three quarters of recent graduates want to work in an engaging, positive social atmosphere, for example, even if it means accepting a lower salary. And more than half expect on-the-job learning with opportunities for real-time coaching and feedback.2

PES agencies must adjust to these new realities. They must develop new services to help employers adapt to the new digital workforce. Large numbers of employees must be guided through the new digital landscape, and will need proactive training and reskilling. These agencies can also inform and drive government policy with respect to trends like the gig economy.

There is certainly a key role for PES agencies to play. But this is no time to sit on the sidelines. The digital age is upon us: challenges must be embraced, and purposes reinvented, to stay relevant.

See this post on LinkedIn: Public employment services of the future: Rethinking roles

1Gartner; Gartner Symposium ITExpo 2015; Executive Summary Report; online at http://www.gartner.com/binaries/content/assets/events/keywords/symposium/sym25/gartner-sym24-executive-report2.pdf
2Accenture Graduate Study of 2016

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