The Subsidies Bureau facilitates, reviews and supports the processing of all subsidy applications for the City of Amsterdam. In early 2018, in close cooperation with the Amsterdam School, the Bureau introduced Performance Support. This was part of the ‘Learning to Change’ initiative which provided more than 500 subsidy processors assistance when managing subsidy applications, right at their moment of need.
Geertje Henrichs, Learning to Change Program Manager at the Subsidies Bureau:“The way in which we deal with subsidies in the City of Amsterdam has changed considerably over the past years. Granting subsidies is high on the political agenda. A new municipal vision underpins the ‘Learning to Change’ program. We offer Amsterdam City subsidy processors workflow support. If a colleague runs into an issue during the processing of an application, our new Performance Support solution gives them a clear explanation of what they need to do within two clicks and ten seconds. And they can take action. It is important that all employees – now and in the future – are integrated into this vision.”
Increasing the scope after a successful pilot
During a pilot of Workflow Learning at the Amsterdam School last summer, a Proof of Concept (POC) was developed for the Subsidies Bureau in which key knowledge and information was structured into the AskDelphi Learning Experience & Performance Support platform. The solution was rolled out to 50 or 60 subsidy employees who used it over a number of months. After the pilot review they saw that this type of support in the workflow greatly reduced the margin of error in the subsidy application process. Geertje: “A fantastic result, which made us decide to implement this way of workflow learning throughout the whole Subsidies Bureau. We asked Xprtise to help us with this.” The key criteria for the Subsidies Bureau were:
- To be able to consult the learning environment on a daily basis
- Quickly find exactly what you’re looking for
- Always have up-to-date information available
- Help new employees get up-to-speed quickly
“If a colleague runs into difficulties whilst processing an application, our new Performance Support solution gives a clear explanation of what to do, within two clicks and ten seconds.”
For effective Performance Support and Workflow Learning, the use of the right technology is essential. During the pilot the AskDelphi platform was trialed. AskDelphi is an Embedded Performance Support System (EPSS), developed from the 5 Moments of Need® methodology. An online learning platform that in the moment of need, offers users relevant content at the right time, based on their role, their task and their steps. When the pilot proved successful, the scope was widened and a wealth of additional information added to AskDelphi Performance Support EPSS and rolled out to 500 subsidy processors.
Approach to creating a new learning environment
Neeltje de Ruijter, Consultant and Project Manager at Xprtise:“In order to support subsidy processors in the workflow, we developed an extensive online learning platform in the Performance Support software AskDelphi. The online dashboard, which visualizes an Amsterdam metro line, guides the employees interactively through all the tasks and steps: from a subsidy application, to the interim report, to the determination of the grant. It is an interactive system in which each ‘stop’ is linked to the necessary underlying information.”
Mapping out processes
The workflow of a subsidy processor was mapped out in a cognitive map, a visualization of an Amsterdam metro line with a number of metro stations. The cognitive map shows the overall business process. There are six standard processes to be carried out by an employee for each request. They are ‘forced’ to take a good look at the foundations of their work. The six processes are divided into tasks and those tasks are then divided into steps. Because the Subsidies Bureau processes many different and divergent subsidies, the available information is very extensive. Underlying knowledge, links and videos about the processes have been integrated into the system.
Geertje: “We may have an application from a private individual who wants to place four solar panels on the roof of his home, or from a welfare organization for a million grants to provide better care to its clients by 2020. These are often lengthy applications of over a year. We also have subsidy applications for events like ‘Swim to Fight Cancer’, and these applications are shorter.” In the system the different tasks for the different employees are recorded. The roles have been clearly distinguished. However, the subsidy process is always the same:
1. Subsidy application
2. Interim reporting
3. Final conclusion
View the complete metro line cognitive map here. See how roles are set up and the customer application route is followed.
Karen Schoen, Team Leader at the Subsidy Bureau:“We strive for a 100% error-free processing, but we can always improve on that. What do employees need to do their job better? It’s a very easy question, which is very difficult to answer. It is the core of their learning need. That’s why I think it’s very important that there’s a feedback button in our Performance Support solution that allows employees to send through their input immediately. If something is missing, or if an explanation only raises more questions, then we will adjust it.”
Challenges and future plans
A major challenge for the Subsidies Bureau was to get the involvement of the project team and the subsidy processors themselves. Geertje: “The project did not run as fast as I had hoped. It took quite some time before I got full support. I always say ‘If I see the potential and am enthusiastic, so my colleagues who will be working with it on a daily basis will join me’. The metro line is a different way of thinking and working, but in the long run you will benefit greatly from it. The fact that we now have a well-functioning application, which my colleagues are enthusiastic about, makes me proud.”
The Subsidies Agency needs time to make the complete switch to the new solution. A team of content managers is working daily to improve and expand the content. The language and structure of the questions and content in the system is very important; as is considering the context and likely interpretation. In addition, good integration with formal learning is important. In the future, the Subsidies Agency wants new employees to be able to find all the necessary information in the system for their first working days. Geertje: “We now have an intern in the project team. She is a ‘model’ for a new employee who needs to master the system. With her, we check whether the available information is complete. The aim is to eventually be able to offer a complete induction program via the application.”
Our wish is to extend this form of Workflow Learning throughout the City. That’s why Xprtise is once again collaborating with the Amsterdam School. Janine van Zoest, Business Consultant Xprtise:“After this successful project in the Subsidies Bureau, we are looking at how we can use the setup of this project and expand into other City departments. This way of working can achieve even greater results throughout the City of Amsterdam.”
“At the moment, access to the metro line cognitive map is through a separate function to the subsidies application system SBS which the City uses to deal with all its applications. The intention is to integrate the Performance Support learning environment and to link it to a new business application that will be purchased in the coming months. We will work with Xprtise to find the right solution. Think of an icon on the desktop or perhaps an app in the future.”