https://www.epo.org/en/node/goal-1

Key achievements: Goal 1

Goal 1 – Build an engaged, knowledgeable and collaborative organisation 

The EPO's people are at the centre of its success as an organisation. In 2023, the Office continued to invest in attracting, developing and retaining the best talent. We intensified efforts to foster engagement and a sense of belonging while the New Ways of Working continued to provide flexibility.

Attracting, developing and retaining talent

The EPO continued to attract the brightest talent from across Europe in 2023. The Office received 11 246 job applications in 2023, compared to 8 204 in 2022. This illustrates the EPO's attractiveness as an employer of choice.

KPI: +37% increase in number of job applications received in 2023 vs 2022

We recruited 100 new examiners in 2023. The recruits reflect the diversity of the organisation in terms of nationality, gender balance and professional experience. Demonstrating the success of the Pan European Seal Young Professional Programme in developing young talent, four of the 100 new examiners were current Young Professionals in year two or three of the programme, and one was a former Pan-European Seal trainee from an earlier cohort.

Figure 5 – New examiners recruited in 2023

Source: EPO

Following the strategic pipeline approach, whereby a pipeline of suitable candidates for different profiles is established, there was also an improvement in the timeliness of recruitment. This approach enables the EPO to react in a fast and agile manner to changes in workload and business needs, resulting in 75% of newly recruited examiners in 2023 starting in the first half of the year, compared to less than 50% in previous years. This helps to get needed resources to the examination teams earlier and allows for knowledge transfer. 

The EPO maintained efforts to attract diverse talent, through attending targeted events such as the IT Futures Talent Summit, the Top Women in Tech IT Summit and herCAREER events for gender diversity, and the Sticks & Stones job fair aimed at LGBTQ+ inclusion. For the first time we also hosted the MyAbility network event, which supports talents with disabilities, in the fifth year of partnering.

The EPO's language policy, introduced in 2022, supported our diversity objectives by enabling people from underrepresented nationalities to join the EPO and acquire the three official languages in subsequent years – nine individuals joined the EPO in 2023 under this policy. 

Further contributing to the diversity of the organisation is the Pan European Seal Young Professional Programme. The launch of the 2023-24 edition in September saw 79 new Young Professionals joining the Office. They represented 22 nationalities and over 70% of them were women. This includes 24 allocated to the PGP area. The programme now counts 141 university partners – an increase from 103 in 2022 – with more than 80% offering degrees in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Figure 6 – PES Young Professionals programme welcoming ceremony, September 2023

Source: EPO

Looking at all new recruits (both core business and corporate areas), the EPO is now more diverse than ever before, with 45% of women among the new recruits in 2023, compared to 30% in 2019. To promote transparency in assessing the impact of the Office's efforts in increasing diversity and inclusion, a D&I Dashboard was launched in 2023. The dashboard provides information on important KPIs such as the geographical diversity of staff, the gender balance of staff and managers and a focus on the Young Professional community. 

 

Figure 7 – Diversity of EPO staff in 2023

Source: EPO

In 2023, the EPO continued to invest in the development of its staff following the established 70/20/10 approach – comprising learning on the job (70%), peer-to-peer networks and knowledge sharing (20%) and official training (10%). This approach to learning is underpinned by the skills framework, which identifies expiring, evolving and emerging skills for different job profiles, and uses skills self-assessments to target tailored training for each individual. Based on the skills framework, the EPO provides development programmes targeted at specific job profiles to ensure maximum impact. In 2023, development programmes for further profiles were launched, including legal professionals, management assistants and finance and data protection experts. These programmes ensure that staff keep up to date with the latest developments in their fields.

KPI: 91% of EPO staff covered by a tailored development programme by the end of 2023

A focus in 2023 was the training provided to the EPO's examiners and formalities officers. The 100 newly recruited examiners have started the two-year initial examiner training (Academy for new examiners). Upskilling activities were offered to all examiners and formalities officers around new digital tools to ensure that the full benefits of digital transformation can be reaped. For example, focused training was taken by 1 600 examiners on the use of ANSERA, the EPO's search engine, to enhance their search skills and ensure they can make the best use of this tool. In terms of peer-to-peer learning, 8 iLearn days were organised for all staff, more than 370 Continuous Knowledge Transfer (CKT) events took place in different business units, and 250 "CKT day tips" on good practices were shared with all staff via the Intranet homepage.

 

Figure 8 – Learning facts and figures

Source: EPO

The EPO's managers have a key role to play within the organisation, in terms of fostering engagement, ensuring alignment with the EPO’s strategy and catalysing change. The EPO Management Community is an internal business school aimed at fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing among managers; 594 managers were members at the end of 2023. There were 25 learning events on various topics from strategic to operational, with 2 522 participations over the course of the year. Resources offered during the year included 64 micro-learnings, 12 manager briefing kits and 26 courses related to EPO people management skills such as managerial communication, team building and collaboration or change management. An example of the impact of these activities, measured via a survey of managers, was a 40% increase in managers' understanding of EPO strategic priorities and alignment.

In the spirit of finding synergies between the EPO's internal and external training offerings, as well as strengthening the European Patent Network through knowledge sharing, the first iLearn Together Day was held in October 2023. The event brought together EPO staff and staff from national patent offices to discuss topics such as the Unitary Patent, the EPO Observatory on Patents and Technologies, Patenting AI and various search techniques.

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Fostering engagement and a sense of belonging

With engagement continuing to be a fundamental goal of the organisation, follow-up on the results of the previous staff survey, conducted in 2022, continued with the organisation of many activities to bring staff together and strengthen the sense of belonging. This included the 50 Years EPC celebrations (see special feature on the 50th anniversary above) and the Campus Days. The first Campus Days were organised in September 2023 around the main themes of Focused-Connected-Supported with the aim of strengthening the sense of belonging among staff within the New Ways of Working environment. The event was composed of a variety of presentations, workshops, keynote speakers and social/networking events that staff could attend on a voluntary basis. More than 3 000 staff were present on site per day and feedback was very positive, especially with regard to the various networking possibilities and opportunities to reconnect with colleagues that were offered in the programme.

Figure 9 – Campus Days, September 2023

Source: EPO

Part of fostering staff engagement is ensuring that all staff members feel included in the EPO community. A key objective in the modernisation of the EPO's internal legal framework was achieved in 2023 with the approval of a change in the recognition of partnerships. All partnerships are now recognised as equal to marriage, with the benefits and obligations for staff being fully aligned. Moreover, the Office continued to strengthen the role of Diversity & Inclusion Promoters, as key interlocutors supporting the EPO's D&I activities, and to promote inclusive behaviours,[1], as well as providing support to three staff-led groups (the Women’s Network, the Rainbow Group and the Special Needs Network). The EPO continued to celebrate international events putting a focus on gender diversity (International Day of Women and Girls in Science, International Women's Day, Girls Day, Women in IP) and LGBTQ+ inclusion (Vienna Pride and Rainbow Parade, Christopher Street Day Pride Munich, Pride Month Berlin, Amsterdam Pride, LGBTQ+ people in STEM). We also supported the inclusion of people with disabilities, with a special networking event to celebrate the International Day of People with Disability and a panel on inclusion and disabilities during the 50 Years EPC celebrations.

Figure 10 – Supporting diversity and inclusion: raising the rainbow flag on Isar building

Source: EPO

The pilot New Ways of Working scheme was in place during 2023, providing staff with broad flexibility to balance their personal and professional lives. This flexibility contributes to staff wellbeing, while maintaining the strong sense of belonging within the EPO community and the EPO's high quality standards. In 2023, the flexibility provided by the pilot scheme was widely used by almost all staff, with 98% having teleworked for at least one day during 2023. About 54% of staff used all types of work (on-site, teleworking from the country of employment or teleworking from another EPC contracting state). On average around half of all staff's total working time was on-site. Full compliance with the minimum on-site attendance (60 days) foreseen by the scheme was observed (with only 16 cases in 2023 requiring intervention from the Office). The New Ways of Working Planning Tool was also used by staff to plan their working patterns and enable them to meet colleagues for collaboration and exchange. The EPO monitored the implementation of the pilot scheme in 2023, in preparation for presenting an evaluation report to its governing bodies in 2024, including a proposal for a future scheme.


[1] The 10 inclusive behaviours at the EPO are: be open, involve me, no blame, care, leave no-one behind, behaviour, safety, inclusive communication, value differences, empowerment.

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Creating an attractive, sustainable, and healthy working environment

In 2023, the EPO continued with initiatives aiming to enhance the working environment in its buildings. As our professional homes, the Office’s buildings remain crucial in the New Ways of Working as places for staff to connect and collaborate. The 'bringing teams together' project was completed in Munich, Berlin and The Hague, ensuring a more sustainable use of office space through new 'workplaces for a day' while bringing staff members closer to their team colleagues, to support collaboration and a sense of community in the New Ways of Working.

There was significant progress on the Vienna Green Hub project in 2023, which remained on track to be completed on time and within budget. The new building will provide Vienna staff with a modern and engaging working environment. In 2023, the installation of the façade was completed, and the interior works began. Vienna staff are expected to move back into the renovated building before the end of 2024.

Figure 11 – Visiting the Vienna Green Hub construction site

Source: EPO, ATP Wien Planungs GmbH

Finally, the set of priority works to ensure the health and safety of staff and visitors as well as the sustainability of the EPO's buildings continued to be implemented. In the PschorrHöfe buildings, necessary measures were implemented to maintain compliance with fire safety regulations. Additionally, the Uninterrupted Power Supply for the IT servers and the cooling machines for these servers were upgraded to meet the latest standards, resulting in an annual saving of 167 MWh of electrical energy. Elevators were refurbished to enhance accessibility for individuals with disabilities and improve building efficiency, leading to a further saving of 90 MWh/year of electrical energy. All light fixtures were replaced with LED lights by the first half of 2023, resulting in an additional saving of 1 435 MWh/year of electrical energy. Other ongoing projects, such as the replacement of the water treatment system and the renovation of data centres in Isar and in The Hague, are expected to be completed by 2024. 

KPIs:

  • In 2023 the electrical consumption decreased by 3.6% compared with 2022
  • In 2023 the district heating that is used decreased by 16% compared with 2022
  • In 2023 the biomethane consumption decreased by 11% compared with 2022

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Foster social dialogue

In 2023, the EPO continued to foster social dialogue with its staff representatives and unions on a range of topics contained in the Social Agenda 2023. We held seven meetings of the General Consultative Committee (GCC) and four meetings of the Central Occupational Health Safety and Ergonomics Committee (COHSEC), leading to concrete results that benefit staff, on topics such as simplifying reimbursement requests for educational costs, recognition of PhDs for part-time work, and extending the recognition of partnerships. In addition, 19 technical and working group meetings were held with staff representatives prior to the submission of the documents to the GCC, to ensure a deeper consultation on topics that are important to staff. 

The Joint Working Group on the Appeals Committee was concluded in 2023, resulting in the amendment of Circular 356 and leading to appointments by the Central Staff Committee (CSC) to the Appeals Committee in February. Staff Committee elections were also successfully held. 

The EPO also continued to pursue constructive dialogue in the resolution of conflicts. This saw positive results in 2023 with a 19% reduction in management review cases registered and a 67% decrease in ILOAT complaints compared to 2022.  

In 2023 fewer individuals filed more internal appeals: 118 internal appeal cases were registered in 2023, compared to 58 in 2022, while the number of individual appellants associated to these appeal cases dropped to 336 in 2023 from 620 in 2022 (a 46% decrease). The most common topic in internal appeal cases in 2023 (44% of cases) was the Education and Childcare Reform. 

Figure 12 – Conflict resolution

Source: EPO

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