Hybride work relations in the municipality of Almere
2013- The city of Almere foresees a so called ‘mismatch’ of labor within public organizations to arise. Due to budget cuts public officials will be laid off, while in the nearby future extra public officials are needed. Almere expects the future hiring of qualified people to be difficult because of the demographics of the Dutch workforce. To deal with this dilemma, Almere is experimenting with ‘ hybrid work relations’, an experiment which aims at the better allocation of labor within the organization. This should reduce the amount of people who have to be dismissed, while improving their attractiveness as an employer for the nearby future.
Within the experiment the next four options for more flexible work relations can be identified.
Classic public official
Most public officials have a permanent contract, either part-time or fulltime, which assigns them to certain departments and certain jobs(tasks). One of the experiments in Almere is trying to interpret these contracts more flexible, so that public officials can work/assist other departments on a temporary basis. It is important to underscore that the involved public officials participated on a voluntary basis. This is how it works:
Some departments have ‘peak moments’ in which they are overwhelmed by their workload. For example the municipality’s call center is bombarded with phone calls the weeks after the tax forms are due. This higher workload is only temporary so it wouldn’t make much sense to hire extra personnel (on a structural basis). Hiring temporary (extern) personnel is expensive and requires training (each year). Almere is trying to deal with this dilemma by letting public officials from other departments work in the call center for just those few weeks. The extra public officials were recruited by posting a vacancy on the intranet. Twelve people applied. They received several hours of training and were assigned to a call center employee for some days so they could learn the ropes. Afterwards the participating officials noted that their understanding of their colleagues work was improved. The call center employees for their part felt more appreciated. From a organizational perspective, the accessibility of the call center remained around 90% during these busy weeks, compared to around 70% in the foregoing years. An improvement of 20% without extra costs for this department.
Note that it is unknown how the organization overall performed during this weeks, especially the departments where the extra public officials came from. Furthermore, this approach can only apply when it is known when and where such peak moments do arise as it takes time to recruit and train the extra personnel.
Entrepreneurial Public Officials
This hybrid work relation can be distinguished from the one above by its more structural nature. Public officials have the opportunity to work for other departments for a couple of days a week, sometimes even in a totally different job. This provides them with new challenges and enhance their experience, thus improving the quality of labor.
To facilitate this, a kind of internal ‘recruitment platform was created where willing public officials can register. In 2012 69% of the internal vacancies were filled via this platform.
Independent Public Officials
The most hybrid kind of work relations is the independent public officials. In this arrangement the public official is responsible for having enough work. However, their pension and secondary benefits are still paid for by Almere. As a consequence their salary or fee is limited to that of a normal public official. This makes them cheaper than most companies, thus providing an attractive solution for government in need of cheap labor.
To evaluate the different experiments both surveys and interviews were used. The survey shows that 59% of the respondents combined their regular work with other tasks or jobs. Nine percent of the respondents worked partime for other teams or departments. Another 11 percent worked on fulltime basis for other departments or teams.
63% of the respondents thought that hybrid work relations improves Almere’ s employers imago.
All the interviewee were positive about hybrid work relations for the following reasons:
- The employee gains new experiences and insights which they can use to improve their work methods. Furthermore, they become more creative in their work, as they see more connection and opportunities.
- The employees network becomes larger, which makes it easier to share knowledge and experience within the organization, thus improving the organizations collective memory.
- Employees feel more appreciated and are therefore more motivated to go to work. This is enhanced by the freedom and trust they get from their superiors.
- Employee’s sense of ownership becomes larger, as he or she can work for themselves. This provides them with better development opportunities and the broader development of competences.
- Employee’s gain a better understanding of their respective jobs, improving the understanding and appreciation. As a result, cooperation between departments improves.
All of the above forms of hybrid work relations create opportunities for employees to work on more divers jobs or projects. This provides them with new experiences and insights and makes it possible to develop a broader skillset. As the interviews show, most employees are positive about more hybrid work relations. This makes it likely that the quality of work improves, as it is a subjective term which is ultimately decided upon by the employees itself.
From an organization perspective the use of hybrid work relations should improve the allocation of labor, making the organization perform more efficient. This also reduces the amount of (expensive) temporarily extra labor which needs to be hired thus reducing costs.
The survey shows that it is likely that Almere’s employers imago improves when more hybrid work relations are used. This improved imago is expected to the costs of future hiring and recruiting.