Assessing individual needs and meeting them with easy-to-use services
It is not enough to ensure that services are equitable and inclusive; quality service delivery also concerns how services are provided and what the experience feels like to participants.
This trend involves three steps:
- Making identification and payments frictionless
- Reducing the number of hand-offs with all-in-one supports
- Anticipating service needs
Frictionless identification and payments
Technology can make identification and payments frictionless while offering greater efficiency and convenience. That is what happened in India with Aadhaar, the world’s largest universal digital identification system.
Aadhaar uses an applicant’s fingerprints, iris images, and other personal data to create a unique digital ID. Users then provide consent for data-sharing across service agencies. The various agencies each receive different, discrete token numbers representing the same user, thus preventing individual identification across databases and ensuring personal privacy. At the start of the pandemic, India’s government used Aadhaar to quickly distribute about US$3.7 billion in COVID-19 relief funds to 300 million people.7
Yet another example of tech-enabled efficiency is Estonia’s electronic ID, which is compulsory for those accessing government services. Through Estonia’s intragovernmental data-exchange system, X-Road, these IDs can be used to access 99% of services online.8 For transparency and trust, Estonians can monitor all government activity involving their personal data.
In the United Kingdom, recipients often rely on siloed public social services. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, however, has adopted a multiagency approach to help its clients find the services they need. Its Troubled Families Programme (TFP) and Changing Futures (CF) initiative address families and adults, respectively, in crisis. Both programs take a holistic approach, focusing on each person’s unique needs. The TFP provides each family with a caseworker who coordinates with various support agencies as needed. In the CF program, cross-sector partnerships deliver coordinated and integrated services to individuals.9
New Zealand’s government is improving coordination through its Strengthening Families program, as well as its Māori-focused Whānau Ora initiative. These voluntary programs provide caseworkers to families that rely on more than one social service; these caseworkers help them navigate the many programs in the network, thus streamlining and simplifying access. Caseworkers help families create clear action plans, building strong bonds over time (half of the cases require nine months or more to establish a plan) and ensuring appropriate access to wraparound support services. Those who use their services have been enjoying better employment outcomes, stability, and independence; seventy-five percent of cases saw slight to significant improvement in their circumstances.10
Anticipating service needs
Services Australia was created in 2019 to consolidate federal social services and accelerate digital service delivery. The result was MyGov, an integrated online platform that organizes benefits, services, and programs by genre. MyGov has improved processing-level standards by 12%. Services Australia plans to implement a Netflix-inspired feature that recommends relevant services based on users’ recent government interactions or life events.11
Such case studies show us how human-centered, connected, and hyperpersonalized systems reflect a greater appreciation for each user’s individual requirements and experiences. The more services are designed around the needs of users, the less of a coordination role government may have to take on helping users navigate the system.
Reduce administrative burdens
Ensuring that services are equitable, inclusive, and seamless is a huge part of transformation—but it isn’t enough. Whatever the nature of your services, how can you ensure that your resources are focused on supporting people rather than administrative processes?
In this part of the transformation drive, four steps are important:
- Defining clear and accessible service standards
- Advancing data-driven process improvements
- Increasing opportunities for self-service
- Deploying robotic process automation (RPA) and intelligent automation
Clear and accessible service standards
Until recently, New Mexico’s Human Services Department had working standards that provided staff members with no incentives to close out files, even as caseloads rose. It found a novel solution by gamifying service delivery. In a pilot project involving more than a thousand employees across 34 offices, the agency adopted a “one-and-done policy” that emphasized completing one case before moving on to the next. The department employed a toolkit of trophies, leaderboards, and badges to encourage healthy competition among staff members to beat personal and team records. The test trial resulted in a 70% increase in staff-engagement rates and a 15% rise in productivity.12
Data-driven process improvements
Sweden’s government charged its labor market authority by reducing costs by 25% while maintaining strong program results. To achieve this objective, the authority identified targets for three user segments: self-serve (20%); self-serve with one virtual meeting with staff (60%); and face-to-face, in person services (20%), and used customer relationship management analytics to identify users who opened and interacted with the organization’s initial email requests. Unresponsive users were automatically targeted with further outreach efforts and encouraged to have virtual or face-to-face meetings. This test run saw a rise in participation rates, more users who found meetings useful, and an 8% increase in those who ultimately applied for jobs.13
Increasing opportunities for self-service and remote service
The Government of Abu Dhabi’s Social Support Program for low-income families deployed ethnographic research and digital-by-design principles to enable self-service for financial and nonfinancial supports. Its design foundation meant uninterrupted supports throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and service equity for rural and remote communities. While in-person services are available, most beneficiaries interact with their caseworkers virtually.
Intelligent process automation by leveraging RPA
In North America, British Columbia’s Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction (MSDPR) wanted to explore opportunities to incorporate process automation into its Prevention and Loss Management Services. Investigative officers were putting too much effort into low-level transactional activities, and MSDPR recognized that increasing case volumes were putting pressure on service delivery targets and creating backlogs. After observing how the work was done in practice, MSDPR followed an agile approach to configure, test, and deploy four process automation tools saving an average of 40 hours of work a day. In addition, process automation has enabled investigative officers to focus on high-value tasks, increased rigor and compliance, and enhanced data accuracy.
Enabling agile workforces
One of the strengths of our social-support systems is a passionate and engaged workforce. Yet, many human service organizations are finding it difficult to prepare their employees to meet rising and evolving demands.
This leads to two final steps:
- Defining required skills and finding ways to enhance them
- Prioritizing workflows and deploying intelligent workload distribution
Defining job skills and enhancing them
Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development now classifies its workflows and career ladders to define the skills it needs and create pathways for employees to acquire and enhance them.
Due to inflexible job classifications and roles, incoming workflow demands had become increasingly challenging. The solution? Profiles for all staff members, who assess their mastery of certain crucial skills. Next, the department built a new, automated workflow system. Inbound tasks and cases are automatically assigned difficulty and priority levels and then transferred to staff members with the relevant skills and availability. Employee skill profiles changed over time, depending on the complexity and speed of tasks completed.
Prioritized workflows and intelligent workload distribution
The volume and complexity of demands on social services staff can be difficult to manage. On the front lines, overwork can lead to burnout and retention issues. That is why addressing workflows and ensuring that staff are equipped with a variety of skills can increase employee efficiency and satisfaction while improving service.
When the Department of Employment and Economic Development deployed an intelligent workload distribution solution that distributes work to staff based on their workload and skill and priority level associated with the work, productivity-per-staff-hour increased fourfold, with a dramatic rise in quality. The change reduced the time that highly skilled staff required to work on basic tasks and gave them a chance to level up their skills.
More transparency in skill levels and competencies helps staff members understand the experience and training required to progress in their careers. For the department, a staff with well-rounded skills provides flexibility, since employees can rotate seamlessly between front office, back office, and phone services.
Transforming key value chains in the social safety net
These case studies show some of what can be achieved. But what’s the broader lesson?
These reforms reflect the future shape of the two principal “value chains”—the full range of steps required to achieve a specific outcome—of the social safety net: social care and income security. By grounding transformations in a holistic understanding of both value chains, and introducing innovations at each step, governments can achieve radically improved client outcomes and ecosystems.
Figure 1 illustrates the end-to-end journey of an income benefit in terms of the beneficiary. As you can see, the chain progresses from intake to life stabilization (programs and services designed to support a user’s journey to employability and/or economic stability) and, if possible, sustained participation in the labor market.