Human Resources Development Fund

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Prior to the approval and announcement of the Saudi Unemployment Program “Hafiz” there was no financial support to the unemployed citizens of Saudi Arabia and there was no centralized data source of the Job Seekers in the country. Therefore to address the unemployment problem in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the Ministry of Labor, along with the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), were tasked with the development of comprehensive policies and programs to implement The financial support provided a motivation for citizens who are looking for jobs to register with the program. The timeline that was given to execute this was 8 months, this was challenging as it needs to be built from scratch and there was no such program before. This also means reaching the magnitude of the population in limited timeframe as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a vast country with a largely scattered population, and relatively sparse cities and towns; to overcome this, a decision was taken to make it fully automated and fully electronic in order to utilize the technology to cover this large area. Hafiz policy is at the core of the program and the main driver for creating a sustainable process of capturing all the needed data and information about applicants. The policy was meticulously designed with a number of factors in mind. First, the young women and men were targeted. Second, an equal treatment of both genders is firmly made. Third, the financial support is formulated to be sufficient both in terms of duration and amount to assist a job seeker in obtaining training focused on personal and functional skills related to their fields of interest. Fourth, the policy relies on a monthly eligibility check whereby the applicants’ relevant data is verified against the different databases of other public and private agencies to maintain fairness and equality. Finally, the policy was aimed at maintaining moral justice among all Hafiz applicants. Hafiz program created a job seeker database that has been used by multiple employment and training channels in order to assist job seekers finding a job and/or up-skilling them. Multiple employment and training programs have been created to complete the full unemployment support strategy such as Job Placement Centers (JPCs), Recruitment offices, Job fairs, online recruitment services and others.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
Supporting the unemployed was an initiative driven by the Saudi government lead by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz who issued a royal decree in February 2011 to start financially supporting the unemployed. The Ministry of Labor, along with the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), were tasked with the development of comprehensive policies and programs to implement the Royal Decree. The targeted population was mainly the youth as unemployment among Saudis is mostly among the ages between 20 to 35 years and with more inclination towards females than males. The financial support has become an incentive for the job seekers to register in “Hafiz” providing all their details and electronic resume. This has created a very comprehensive database of the serious jobseekers with their age, gender, education level, location, and skills. This then allowed referring them to the appropriate employment channels and tailored training programs. The main strategy of the program is to support the Human Resource Development Fund’s vision to have a sustainable national workforce. Hafiz program was the gateway and the base for other employment programs, without Hafiz there was no base for other programs to start. In addition to the Hafiz financial support incentive that motivates the job seekers in looking for a job and enter the work force in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Hafiz managed to support around 1.9 million jobseekers financial and through other employment and training programs. Around 1.5 million job seekers have given various up skilling training courses and more than 200 thousand were employed in the private sector.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) made a strategic decision to adopt the tools of electronic governments to reach out to the most possible number of unemployed Saudis quickly and reliably. This led to giving all unemployed citizens an equal opportunity to register in Hafiz, as all what the applicant needed to do was to merely provide her or his National ID Number and a mobile phone number for future communication purposes and by filling his/her electronic application (CV). This is then electronically verified though the e-government programs to verify the applicant’s eligibility. This was an innovative unique way of providing a governmental service for large population as it did not require any physical attendance or documents to be submitted. In addition to receiving the financial fund through his/her bank account the applicant will also receive employment support through the various channels in HRDF. In addition there is also an automated referral process to refer job seekers to other employment and training programs. We have also created a fully automated customer services and appeals system which allows applicants to open a cases by call center and attach any supported documents electronically through email and finally it gets investigated and resolved without any required physical visit to HRDF.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
To implement and execute the program HRDF engaged a number of leading international organization and consulting firms to undertake an extensive global benchmarking exercise. The purpose of this engagement was to identify best practices in delivering unemployment assistance and related services such as training and job search support to the Saudi job seekers. Based on recommendations from experts, coupled with a consultation process with key stakeholders, including the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Bank, HRDF quickly moved forward to establishing the National Unemployment Assistance Program (Hafiz). There we are also three main initiatives that were developed along with the Hafiz Program. These initiatives are Job Placement Centers (Taqaat), e-Training, and e-recruitment. These are to be in line with the financial program to support the unemployed Saudi job seekers to obtain suitable jobs and at providing them with the needed skills to join the Saudi labor market There was also a large effort in electronically integrate with all relevant government and private agencies required for the application verification and payment processing. A total of 20 ministries, 58 private and public universities, and more than 300 municipalities were integrated with Hafiz program in order to provide a monthly status of the job seekers. The key milestones can be summarized in the following: The issuance of the Royal Decree: February 23 Launch the first phase of Hafiz Program – Initial registration: March 16 Preparation of a draft program policy: May 11 Launch the second phase of Hafiz Program – Complete registration: September 9 Application of eligibility criteria for the first Hafiz payment December 17 The first Hafiz payment is distributed December 31

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The main stakeholders involved in the implementation of this program were the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources Development Fund as they were handed the task from the Saudi Government to be the owner of this program. There were also various consulting firms engaged in order to conduct global benchmarking and identify best practices. The Employers were involved to get their insights on the employment and training programs. The Central bank and commercial banks were also involved tp facilitate the anticipated large number of expected activities to open bank accounts and payments, for both females and males. Other external stakeholders include the Ministry of Interior to validate the citizen ID, name and personal details. We have also connected with 20 different ministries and government agencies for data verification and 58 private and public universities to verify the student statuses in addition to more than 300 city/town municipalities. In addition to initial phase we also have survey where the job seekers fill during their periodic sign on to the portal; this provides us a feedback channel in order to improve our services based on the stakeholders’ insight.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The program is executed and run by the Human Resource Development Fund (HRDF), however the financing of the program which has so far reached 8.3 Billion USD (cost of the financial support to the jobseekers), is being funded by the Saudi Government though the Ministry of Finance as stated in the Royal decree. The program began by establishing two call centers have in two difference cities, the two locations were selected far enough from each other as an act of precaution to ensure business continuity in the event of what may cause a disruption of service with a total of 600 agents, in addition to a back office team was hired of around 50 employees to manage the operations. A large number of outsource service vendors have been utilized for the IT implementation, project management, business requirement specifications, data collection, system operations, risk assessment, auditing, communication agency, training content development and many others.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The most important outputs of the program can be summarized in the following: 1- Hafiz has created a comprehensive and accurate up-to-date database of all Saudi job seekers with their detailed information. 2- It has defined the gaps in labor market though jobseekers data and available vacancies. 3- Provided a clearer understanding of the educational and countrywide infrastructure needs. 4- Hafiz has now become a core element of the planning activities in the country in various sectors and domains. 5- Hafiz managed to pay to around 1.9 million job seekers with an amount of 8.3 Billion USD as financial support to the job seekers that was not available before. In addition to employing for than two hundred thousand registered job seekers.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The program is evaluated through a set of key performance indicators to measure the progress of various activities; these indicators are measured on a monthly basis though a robust electronic dashboard. Some of the measures include the number of supported job seekers to monitor the unemployment rate and financials of the program. The number of referred job seekers and number of employed job seekers are also monitored to measure the effectiveness of the supporting channels and how are they are contributing to placement of job seekers. Customer service satisfaction and performance is also monitored through measuring the call duration, average number of calls and agent utilizations. Another aspect of the customer service is the Appeals/cases opening and resolving rates are measured to make sure we are not breaching the service levels and expected response times. Another key measurement is to measure the applicants’ distribution by geographical location, age and education level in order to provide the suitable supported services in the closest locations and tailored to their needs.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The implementation and management of the Hafiz Program have never been easy. Faced with an unknown number of applicants, estimations were significantly needed to plan and design the program and its underlying activities. The challenge that the Hafiz Program faced and is still facing is the need to perform monthly an eligibility validation for all the applicants. This validation exercise is limited in time while complex in nature. The complexity stems from the increasing number of public and private agencies that need to be automatically interfaced with. The banking landscape has been confronted by a massive increase in bank account opening requests by potential Hafiz applicants. It is certainly accurate to state that the use of electronic channels to reach out for citizens and avail Hafiz services automatically was the main drive for its success. It is almost impossible to manually capture the huge number of resumes available now in Hafiz using mere traditional unemployment assistance methodologies. Traditional methods of focusing on the physical interaction with the job seekers are costly and demand larger teams of skilled personnel. When operating under a tight schedule of project implementation and high expectations from the political leadership, resorting to electronic government applications has proven to be the key for success

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
During the two years since the launch of Hafiz it has financially funded more the 1.8 million job seekers, this was not to be done without robust and efficient method. As delivery of this service was purely electronic and it has brought new innovative ideas to deliver financial public services to applicants, this has made other public services reach out to us and use the same methodology used to implement their service in a more satisfactory approach many of the Saudi citizens. Hafiz program was a very good example to the public of how rapid and accurate the project was delivered. As in the first month of opening registration more than half a million became eligible for financial support and by the fourth month of launching the program, Hafiz was supporting more than 1.1 million job seekers on a monthly basis. Such an outstanding results an immaculate execution team, and a collaborative environment.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
We believe that this program will sustain as long as there are job seekers who are looking to be employed in the labor market and as it is currently funded by the Saudi government as it was stated by the Royal Decree. HRDF is also committed in providing the services to the Saudi unemployed citizens through the financial incentive and through their available supporting channels. The message communicated by HRDF has been always maintain a sustainable highly demanded workforce. This can only be achieved through supporting the job seekers of Hafiz either by providing them counselling, advice or training to fit their needs. This program has also become a database for employers to seek for Saudi employees as the Ministry of Labor has been pushing and mandating the nationalization of private sector jobs.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The Hafiz program was implemented within a timeframe of around 8 months, which is without precedent globally. The key success factors of the program and the major learnings out of this experience were mainly in the areas of Concept development and Execution/Implementation. In both regards, we have engaged heavily with external experts, studied a variety of international benchmarks and involved experts from international organizations, such as the World Bank, the ILO and others in the process. The know-how and expertise we could access through this has allowed us to define a superior concept and anticipate and overcome many challenges. CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT From a concept/policy angle, we have learned that a customer centric (i.e. citizen-centric) approach in both benefit policy and customer journey design are a major success factor. In everything we do, be it on the application process, the service delivery to recruit the job seeker or the customer relationship management, we always put the citizen and his/her need first. This is also ensured through the close engagement of an external communication consulting firm, who in every conceptual discussion takes the "view of the customer". EXECUTION From an execution perspective, we have learned about the power of close integration between government, external experts, IT provider and strategy and communications consultants. We believe that only through a tight teaming of those diverse backgrounds, we were able to make this program a success. For any future program, we would again strive to ensure leveraging the best expertise available internationally. Also, we will continue to focus our efforts in stakeholders’ alignment as well as citizens’ engagement, being ready to review both the concept as well as the execution whenever required, in a framework of continuous improvement. In fact, we have learned through our project experience that the effort invested in these activities definitely pays off.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Human Resources Development Fund
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Basim Al-Ferdous
Title:   General Manager  
Telephone/ Fax:   +966504433508
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   b.alferdous@hrdf.org.sa  
Address:   Almaather Road
Postal Code:   11517
City:   Riyadh
State/Province:   Central

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