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Questions and Answers on the new Human Resources Strategy and Greening the Commission

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op dinsdag 5 april 2022.
  • 1. 
    Why is a new HR Strategy necessary?

There are a number of immediate and emerging challenges facing the Commission at present, from rapid technological advancement and digital transformation, to changing workplace structures and the climate crisis. The world of work is changing, and the COVID pandemic has only accelerated trends towards flexibility and digitalisation of the workplace. At the same time, the Commission must lead by example, embodying EU values and playing its part in implementing the policy solutions it asks Member States to implement.

With its ‘Greening the Commission' Communication, for example, this means pledging to be climate-neutral by 2030. When it comes to being fit for the digital age, this means exploiting the latest collaborative IT tools to ensure a joined-up European response to increasingly complex policy challenges, and a top-tier HR IT platform to enable effective HR service delivery in support of the full range of Commission actions. And a more inclusive and diverse Commission ensures its workforce reflects the European society it serves, with a broad range of skills and talents that are used to their full potential.

  • 2. 
    What are the key priorities?

The Strategy focuses on three priorities (attractiveness, recruitment, career), underpinned by a fourth, cross-cutting priority (processes).

The Commission will strengthen its attractiveness as an employer to engage and retain top talent from all Member States, and better reflect the diversity of the European society it serves. This Strategy will boost existing efforts to create an inclusive, sustainable and flexible work environment with family-friendly working conditions and attractive professional development perspectives for all. Through new actions, we will continue to actively promote a working environment that is discrimination-free, inclusive for staff from diverse backgrounds and fully accessible for persons with disabilities.

For example:

  • Ensuring full gender equality at all levels of Commission management by 2024,
  • Action on diversity will be reviewed and updated,
  • Improvement of accessibility of the Commission's physical and digital environment,
  • Reinforced anti-harassment rules and a prevention framework will be put in place,
  • Actions will be taken to further improve the attractiveness of specific Commission sites.
  • The Commission will adapt to flexible working, providing support for staff and managers working from both offices and from home.
  • It will reduce its carbon footprint by modernising its policies on buildings, staff business travel, external experts' travel, commuting and IT, and compensate remaining emissions with high quality carbon removals.

In close cooperation with the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO), the Commission will introduce modern, faster and more flexible selection and recruitment procedures for internal and external candidates, to align itself with other public and private organisations. With a workforce of more than 32,000 in close to 200 places of employment, the Commission recruits approximately 500 officials a year, as well as around 1,800 temporary or contract agents. The current selection and recruitment model needs to be faster and to evolve to match the Commission's need for a more balanced and flexible workforce. For example, an action plan will be developed with Member States which includes country-specific analyses to understand the reasons for the low representation of some countries, and proposed measures to address this issue.

All colleagues will be given targeted support and training to have flexible and rewarding careers. This will stimulate a culture of high-performance and autonomy in the Commission, where individual skills and expertise are used in the most effective way to deliver on priorities. Greater career flexibility will result from increased staff mobility, and smarter and more efficient organisation forms, such as cross-cutting project groups. These have already proven to be efficient and a source of motivation and recognition for colleagues engaged in these new management models. They are also key in helping the Commission to manage temporary peaks in workload and to challenge staff ready to assume new responsibilities. Managers will have the support and tools needed to improve their teams' performance and motivation. Career guidance, mentoring, coaching and headhunting will be reorganised and strengthened. The focus will be on a culture of inclusiveness, trust-based management and accountability.

Underpinning these priorities is the fourth, cross-cutting priority: the review and simplification of Human Resources processes. This will be based on the following basic principles:

  • the once-only principle for the provision of data;
  • reducing procedural steps wherever possible;
  • transparency;
  • and simple, user-friendly, accessible and transparent processes. The HR delivery model will be refined in a way that brings maximum value to the Commission. It will be enabled by effective HR technology that is fit for purpose to meet staff expectations and business requirements.
  • 3. 
    How is this relevant to the outside world?

The Strategy addresses the Commission's need to perform at the highest level in the interest of all Europeans. The vision it presents is of a modern, flexible and values-driven organisation with staff who can more than ever focused on delivering outstanding results for citizens across the EU, on the issues that most concern them. An organisation that leads by example, and is seen to play its part in implementing the policy solutions it asks Member States to implement.

More specifically, several aspects of the new HR Strategy are directly relevant to various external constituencies. For example, measures to streamline recruitment procedures and strengthen the attractiveness of the Commission as an employer will be of great interest both to potential candidates, and to Member States concerned by the lack of geographical balance in the Commission workforce.

To be a credible actor, the Commission has a key role to play and is determined to be a front runner of the transition towards a climate neutral society. That's why it is making its own environmental contribution, including reaching corporate climate neutrality by 2030. That's why it is taking action to ensure it reflects the same diversity and gender balance of the society it serves. And that's why it is undergoing its own digital transition, implementing more efficient HR services supported by a new HR IT platform.

Finally, Commission services do not exist in a vacuum; they are embedded in local communities with their own needs and concerns. Parts of the new HR Strategy are relevant to them too - in particular as a contribution to urban development, and measures concerning flexible working, staff commuting, work-related travel, external experts' travel, and the corporate vehicle fleet. Reduced travel and use of greener and more sustainable modes of transport will reduce traffic and pollution. A commitment to the preservation of nature and biodiversity will also impact its building portfolio and close surroundings.

  • 4. 
    Is the Commission workforce diverse enough and geographically balanced?

The Commission does not apply quotas by nationality, but it does pay particular attention to geographical balance among its staff, as the value of the European civil service lies in its rich cultural and linguistic diversity. To do this, it makes reference to ‘guiding rates' - the share of staff that adequately reflects a Member State's population. Ideally, no nationality should fall below 80% of its guiding rate. However, several already do and this issue needs to be addressed.

In addition, our efforts to reach full gender parity at all management levels that President von der Leyen has pledged by the end of the mandate in 2024 are well underway and we will pursue them further. We have already made considerable achievements in this field. The Commission has the first ever gender-balanced College in its history, and Mid-March 2022 45% of its managers are women. Commission staff should also reflect the society they serve and therefore the Commission will update the diversity action plan in early 2022.

  • 5. 
    How do you intend to tackle these issues concretely?

To ensure a better geographical balance, an action plan will be developed with Member States with country-specific analyses to understand the reasons for the low representation of some countries, and measures to address these. The Commission will invite the Member States concerned to work with it to develop targeted communication campaigns, and provide guidance and training to their nationals for EU competitions.

To ensure more diversity in the Commission workforce, the diversity action plan will be updated in 2022. Commission staff should reflect the society they serve. Work towards full gender balance at all management levels will also continue.

More broadly, the overall priorities of the new Strategy - strengthening the attractiveness of the Commission as an employer, more modern selection and recruitment procedures, and the offer of more flexible and rewarding careers - are also expected to help efforts to redress imbalances in the workforce.

  • 6. 
    How will recruitment procedures change?

To deal with the challenges in attracting and recruiting highly trained, multilingual and geographically mobile professionals, the current selection and recruitment model needs to be faster and to evolve to match the Commission's need for a more balanced and flexible workforce. EPSO is in the process of redesigning open competitions to reflect a faster, more modern approach to selection.

Competitions will progressively move to a 24-language regime to enable equal treatment and ensure even broader outreach in all Member States. The eliminating role of verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning tests will be toned down, giving more weight to tests that assess more relevant skillsets, including - as a matter of principle - relevant EU knowledge.

Making these processes faster and more efficient should attract a larger spectrum of candidates. Measures to do this include completing the recent shift to remote testing, and improved planning and monitoring to cut the time between the competition and the publication of the reserve list. Subsequent recruitment will also be streamlined, by issuing an offer letter within 25 days of the recruitment request, for example.

There has been a sharp drop in younger staff over recent years, with those aged 39 and younger falling from 36% of staff in 2012 to 20% today. So the Commission will increase efforts to recruit junior profiles in order to better reflect this cohort of society. The pilot Junior Professionals programme - which offers temporary agent positions to eligible junior staff and trainees, a mobility and training scheme, and the opportunity to take part in internal competitions to become an official - will be made permanent, and eligibility broadened to all new recruits with limited professional experience.

To retain talent, provide clearer career perspectives for staff, and enable the Commission to make best use of existing skills and experience, regular internal competitions will be organised, including for non-permanent staff when appropriate. These competitions have already been redesigned for certain grades and this work will continue, adapted to different profiles and grades, so as to select the best candidates while ensuring a fast, flexible and efficient process. Promoting regular internal and external mobility at all levels, improving talent management through strengthened career guidance, mentoring, coaching and headhunting, and bespoke learning packages by profession will also help to retain talent.

  • 7. 
    Why are you only thinking about greening now?

The work has been ongoing for a number of years. Since 2001, the Commission has developed and implemented the eco management and audit scheme (EMAS) Regulation, which has resulted in the integration of environmental concerns into its day-to-day operations. This has delivered major environmental, organisational and financial benefits over the last 20 years.

  • For example, between obtaining formal EMAS registration in 2005 and 2019, the Commission has reduced energy use in its buildings by 65% and CO2 emissions by 86%.
  • Office paper has been cut by 71%, and water use by 58%.
  • Non-hazardous waste production is down by 38%.
  • Overall, the per capita cost of energy consumption by Commission buildings has been reduced by more than half, representing accumulated savings for the taxpayer of more than €100 million.

But the ambition to provide an example and become climate-neutral by 2030 - requires a whole new level of action. Given its central place in shaping policies, monitoring their implementation, and the wide range of stakeholders it works with, the Commission has a key role to play. It is determined to set a good example in the transition towards a climate neutral society, working together with other EU, international and national public organisations and private businesses.

  • 8. 
    How will you achieve your green ambitions?

The Commission will become climate neutral by 2030. It is making its climate neutrality pledge under the European Climate Pact it adopted in 2020, whereby European people, communities and organisations are invited to participate in climate action and foster the EU's goal to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The Commission will reach climate neutrality by 2030 by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 60% compared to 2005, and compensating remaining emissions with carbon removals. It will achieve this reduction through the ambitious but realistic goals set out in the Greening of the Commission Communication. These are based on clear evidence and a thorough analysis, and are accompanied by an action plan with specific measures. The main measures cover four areas.

Buildings and workspace represented 43% of Commission emissions in 2019: a new real estate policy in Brussels and further action at other sites will reduce emissions by 30% between 2019 and 2030.

  • In Brussels, measures will include a 50% reduction in the number of buildings managed allowing economies of scale in certain services (with a 25% reduction in overall surface). This is coupled with flexible working/teleworking and a gradual shift to dynamic collaborative workspaces. Improvements will also be made to the environmental performance of the building stock. The Commission will also study, quantify and mitigate the climate impact of teleworking.
  • In Luxembourg, office moves, particularly to the new Jean Monnet II building by 2025, will have a substantial impact, while smaller sites (Ispra, Geel, Petten, Seville, Karlsruhe) will see the renovation of buildings and the construction of new, greener ones.
  • On-site energy productions will be developed through the installation of photovoltaic panels and solar water heating, for example.
  • The New European Bauhaus values will also be reflected when developing the Commission's presence and actions at its site For example, the Commission is already actively engaged in a partnership with the Brussels Region in designing the new European Quarter and the new mobility plans.

Staff work-related travel represented 28% of Commission emissions in 2019: by organising smart and intelligent missions and greener modes of travel, emissions should be cut by 50% by 2024. Internal guidelines on work-related travel will be revised, and an IT tool integrated into the work-related travel management system will monitor emissions linked to such travel, making it easier to opt for greener travel and accommodation choices.

External experts' travel subsidised by the Commission to attend comitology or expert meetings represented 14% of Commission emissions in 2019. The objective is to reduce these emissions by 50%. The Commission will mirror the efforts made on staff work-related travel using a mix of online, hybrid and in-person meetings, and will monitor emissions.

IT infrastructures and assets represented 5% of Commission emissions in 2019. For this strategic area, the Communication maintains a balance between greening actions and an increased use of IT. A reduction of 30% of emissions is expected by 2030. Measures include gradually reducing the number of local data rooms to a maximum of three by the end of 2022, streamlining IT and decommissioning obsolete systems, and reducing the individual digital carbon footprints of staff through awareness-raising campaigns.

The Communication also covers staff commuting and the corporate conventional vehicle fleet. And it ensures coherence with other aspects of the European Green Deal: the circular economy, preservation of the ecosystem and biodiversity, and the promotion of fair, healthy, sustainable and good food. Finally, staff will be encouraged to play their part by engaging in various activities and promoting the Communication's actions and objectives through outreach programmes like ‘Back to School/Back to University'.

Overall, these measures ensure a good balance between environmental performance, and the Commission's legal commitments, its duties to the Member States, and the need to maintain outreach activities with European citizens.

  • 9. 
    What impact will this have on local communities at the Commission's principal sites?

Local communities have their own needs and concerns, and parts of the new HR Strategy are directly relevant to them too.

  • For example, the reduction in managed buildings (by 50% in Brussels), will create opportunities for greater mixed-use development.
  • Measures concerning flexible working, staff commuting, work-related travel, external experts' travel, and the corporate vehicle fleet (100% zero-emission fleet by 2027) could lead to less work-related travel and the use of greener and more sustainable modes of transport, which will reduce traffic congestion and pollution. For example, the Commission will continue to adapt its infrastructure as a priority, including expanding facilities for staff commuting by bike, and the installation of charging points for electric vehicles.
  • It will maintain its dialogue with local authorities at all sites to increase safe mobility, such as additional safe bike lanes. The future organisation of the Brussels Schuman roundabout is an example of close cooperation with the Brussels authorities to promote soft and greener mobility.
  • The Commission will also increase incentives for staff in Brussels to use sustainable methods of transport, by gradually reducing parking spaces by at least 35% by 2030. It will implement a digital tool to allocate parking spaces. With this smarter monitoring and planning, as well as an increase in telework and use of public transport and other sustainable methods of transport, a reduction of parking spaces by at least 35% is realistic.
  • A commitment to the preservation of nature and biodiversity will also impact Commission sites and their surroundings. It has already launched several nature and biodiversity programmes, particularly at its non-urban locations. For example, Petten is one of the greenest Commission sites, with more than 80% of it left for wildlife. Part of the site is counted as a Natura 2000 ‘dry heath' habitat. In Ispra, projects to restore and protect native trees are planned in order to stimulate biodiversity and develop the site's natural heritage. Urban sites are not being neglected. There have been volunteer-led efforts in the Commission and other EU institutions to develop small-scale initiatives, such as herbal or vegetable gardens at some buildings. In Luxembourg, the future Jean Monnet 2 building incorporates areas that promote biodiversity. The Commission is evaluating what more it can do, especially in Brussels, where it has launched a study on the various options for improving biodiversity in its building portfolio and close surroundings.

For more information

Press release on the HR Strategy and Greening

Factsheet - A new HR strategy for the Commission

Factsheet - Greening the Commission

People first - the new Commission HR Strategy

Communication on the HR Strategy

Communication on Greening


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