In 2006, 208 new examiners joined the EPO, compared with 169 in 2005, despite the freeze on posts which was in effect in the first half of the year, and there were 117 new non-examiner staff (2005: 151). In the latter part of the year the use of electronic recruitment was introduced for recruitment in the non-examiner area, and this has helped speed up the hiring process there.
As a knowledge-based organisation, the Office is aware of the need to provide its highly skilled professional staff with effective training to help them improve their skills on both a personal and a team level. In 2006, in addition to technical instruction for patent examiners and formalities
officers, over 700 seminars were held with more than 8 000 participants. The courses were designed to improve team and personal skills in languages, human relations, communication, professional knowledge and IT.
During 2006 the project aimed at implementing a single consistent project management methodology gathered pace. Critical staff involved in projects received training, and a number of project managers were formally certified as practitioners in PRINCE II methodology. By the end of 2007 the vast majority of staff involved in automation projects will have received the relevant training.
In 2006 the first module of the management development programme was implemented. Aimed at first-time managers, it involved 51 participants in five training events. The management development programme also covers potential, middle and senior managers. Appropriate training and support was prepared for all four groups for 2007, ranging from the acquisition of basic people management skills through to strategic leadership for the more senior management functions.
A first Office-wide staff survey amongst 6 150 employees was carried out in March 2006, achieving an 82% response rate. It aimed to provide information on aspects influencing value creation and employee satisfaction, and also to monitor the implementation of measures taken by management. To help with result evaluation, more than 380 reports were delivered to managers, and a thorough process involving 30 management workshops and 300 individual feedback sessions with assessed managers was carried out. The next Office-wide survey to monitor improvements is due in spring 2008.
The EPO and the Netherlands have concluded a new Seat Agreement for the site in The Hague. The new treaty improves employment conditions, such as the right to gainful employment for family members, identity cards for all EPO employees and residence permits. It also provides a valuable basis for decisions concerning the future of the site in terms of financial and human resources and infrastructure investment.
Housing the Office’s staff
In 2006 the last phase of the extensive Shell building renovation project in The Hague was finished on schedule and within cost.
Due to the hard winter of 2006 in Munich and to unexpected delays over planning permission, work on the eighth unit of the PschorrHöfe complex slipped behind schedule, but by the end of the year was back on track. Since much of the technical installation and interior fitting work had already started ahead of schedule, the project is likely to be ready by the scheduled completion date of 31 December 2007.
Fig. 1 Analysis of staff in post on 31 Dec. 2006 by grade & nationality
Fig. 2 Analysis of staff in post on 31 Dec. 2006 by place of employment & grade