Deputy Risk Director, Pôle emploi
A brighter future for job seekers in France
How do you provide personalized service for nearly 4 million unemployed workers? Pôle emploi, the social service agency for employment in France, accepts the challenge with a twofold response: 1) greater autonomy for case workers in contact with job seekers, and 2) a robust risk management operation.
Pôle emploi is an outgrowth of public social service in France. Financed by French State donation and social contributions from salaried workers and businesses, the agency provides 30 million euros (US$39.6 million) in social service benefits annually, offering essential replacement income for unemployed people, and it takes care of the jobless during their “reintegration into employment.” The service is at once universal and differential. All job seekers are followed by a caseworker, with upgraded support for the neediest workers. Pôle emploi is supported by a network of 921 local agencies that employ 53,000 caseworkers.
It is a socially critical double benefit during a time of economic gloom.
Equality — and efficiency
As a public service agency, Pôle emploi must provide the same high quality of service everywhere. This means it must comply with national legislation while also taking local characteristics into account, such as industrial, agricultural or service industry zones, seasonal employment, etc.
For several years Pôle emploi has been changing — placing more emphasis on its 26 regional head offices, and giving greater latitude to its caseworkers to offer each job seeker personal treatment. But along with autonomy comes higher risk in quality and consistency.
Pôle emploi called on SAS in 2010 to develop its risk management system. By implementing an integrated database, the project ensured unified, efficient and responsive management for all unemployed workers.
Nicolas Thomas, Deputy Risk Director at Pôle emploi, was on-site right from the beginning of the project. “People sometimes think that developing risk management slows down operations,” he says. “But in this case, it’s just the opposite! The reason we can develop a more flexible organization is that we’ve set up a solid system.”
A system named LIS@
That system, set up within a few months, is named LIS@, a French acronym standing for Integrated Software for Management and Improvements.
At the technical level, the challenge was one of size: converging more than 10 different applications into one single solution.
At the business level, the first stage of the project consisted of building a unique framework that brings together:
- An organizational flowchart of activities and procedures at Pôle emploi.
- A description of risk factors for each procedure, including errors, fraud (internal and external) and quality control.
- For each risk, the “control methods” and the checks to implement: procedures and guidelines, staff proficiency, data security, audits and verifications.
The second stage brought the data to life by evaluating the levels of risk and measuring the efficiency of caseworkers based on agreed-upon standards. This phase also included planning and implementing tests and other checks for detecting (and correcting) any anomalies.
Today, 4,000 caseworkers use LIS@ in workflow to set up and carry out their control plans and to follow up the results. LIS@ data, moreover, is run by 2,000 managers, who can access the personalized dashboards that manage their risks.
Quick, quantifiable results
The first benefit of LIS@ is automated control plans. Workers gladly said goodbye to filling out mandatory checklists. Now, the lists of cases to be controlled (resulting from Pôle emploi’s analytical decision-making tool) are entered directly into LIS@, which generates pre-filled slips. “We saved in production time while making the process more reliable,” said Thomas. Each operation saves an estimated 10 percent to 20 percent in production time.
LIS@ also helped reduce the cost of internal control, thanks to impact analysis. By concentrating on those risks with the greatest impact, Pôle emploi lowered the number of tests from 550,000 in 2011 to 400,000 in 2013. Furthermore, thanks to the SAS analytical tools, the test results provided a better understanding of where the dysfunctions come from, and the impact they have on the quality of service. And that’s just the beginning.
On the qualitative level, LIS@ can also generate warnings for local or national risks. Causal analysis also allows caseworkers and managers to identify the most relevant plans of action for remedying dysfunctions, including agent training, procedure improvements and other courses of action.
Success with SAS
SAS® Risk Management was vital to the project’s success. According to Thomas, the software’s strong points include work volume, simplicity of usage, screen customizations and capacity to consolidate results according to each user’s needs.
But the most important point, in his view, is the ability of SAS to adapt to the organizational complexity of Pôle emploi. “We had to implement the solution on three levels: national, regional and local. Each region and each agency must be able to evaluate its own risks and set up its own controls, while remaining in line with the national standards.”
This constant back-and-forth between national directives and local initiatives is a capability that SAS’ competitors could not manage, according to Thomas. “With an ingenious way to parameter workflows and users rights based on the localization and status of the risks, only SAS managed to combine the two approaches.”
Perspectives: A tool to support Pôle emploi’s progress
The flexibility of the software and the support of the SAS teams also played an important role in the success of the project. “Until now we tended to adapt or even to bend the tool to fit our organization and our procedures exactly, which sometimes generated technical complexity for the IT team,” Thomas notes. “But now that the framework has become part of our culture, we can develop new internal control processes by fully using the capabilities that the tool offers. SAS GRC [governance, risk and compliance] has become a source of inspiration for the modernization of our systems of risk management.”
New perspectives are thus in store for Pôle emploi. In the short term, analyses will be based not only on random samples (important in fighting against fraud) but also on targeted samples with an impact score.
“Until now, analyses were used essentially to assess the quality of service. In the future, the system should become a veritable machine for correcting mistakes and for improving quality,” says Thomas.
The agency controllers will no longer be checking only single cases; they will actually be able to carry out mini-audits and analyze internal control processes with a 360-degree view.
At the same time, Pôle emploi expects to improve responsiveness by expanding its incident workflows to report on the overall scope of compliance control. A real-time analysis of incidents will help remedy them rapidly. Even more exciting, the expectation in the long term is to be able to anticipate incidents by analyzing and identifying the weak signals.
The system’s advantages ultimately will allow Pôle emploi to improve its services to job seekers by making the compensation procedures more reliable and offering greater flexibility in personalizing the “pathway to employment.”
“It is a socially critical double benefit during a time of economic gloom,” says Thomas.
Provide equal – yet customized – service to get unemployed workers back to work, and detect fraudulent claims better than before.
4,000 caseworkers and 2,000 managers use the new LIS@ system to:
- Improve responsiveness and remedy problems more quickly.
- Identify areas of risk and suggest the best solutions.
- Customize services for individual regions and cases.