Modernising EU organisational structures/HR practices impact case study

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    Impacting European Union (EU) Organisational Structures

    The EU is a highly complex system of governance supported by a permanent, multinational civil service located mainly in Brussels and Luxembourg. Two key bodies are the European Commission, and the European Council and the Council of the European Union, also known as the Council Secretariat or GSC.

    Research led by Prof Connolly and Prof Kassim from the University of East Anglia (UEA) informed a rethink in organisational practice and culture in both bodies, resulting in greater self-awareness and an openness to change within the Council Secretariat.

    Impact on the restructuring of the European Commission, 2014

    It was a book, ‘The European Commission of the Twenty-First Century’ and a research report, ‘The European Commission: Facing the Future’ that were key to change. Both were co-authored by Prof Connolly and Prof Kassim, and each played their part in influencing reforms enacted by President Juncker.

    "I found their work on leadership and coordination within the Institution particularly useful in my reflections on how to organise and focus the work of the next College of Commissioners."

    - President Juncker

    Impact on the Council Secretariat, 2016 – 20

    UEA research was also influential in the modernising of the Council Secretariat from 2016 onwards. It was Prof Connolly and Prof Kassim’s ‘Understanding the EU Civil Service: The General Secretariat of the Council’ that established the context for the measures, leading to a cultural change within the Secretariat.

    The findings of the research were presented to a meeting of all staff with 300 attending in person and a further 500 viewing via video streaming.

    "The openness of the exercise, with the study team presenting their findings in a clear and extensive written report and in an open meeting with staff was an important success factor."

    - Senior official, General Council of the Secretariat

    Impact on the von der Leyern European Commission, 2019-20

    Prof Connolly and Prof Kassim’s 2018 report, ‘The European Commission: Where now? Where next?’ also helped inform the development of a new HR strategy undertaken by the von der Leyern European Commission in 2020.

    Invited to deliver – virtually – three two-hour Masterclasses to members of the Cabinet, HR leadership, and senior management in the European Commission, the sessions were deemed a great success.

    "These events were very well attended, very much appreciated, and extremely useful in terms of reminding staff of the history and progress on people issues in the Commission."

    - Senior official, Directorate General Human Resources and Security

    A lasting impact

    As external researchers, Prof Connolly and Prof Kassim have real authority and authenticity, respected for the quality and detail of their work, as well as for their independence and objectivity.

    "You deserve recognition for the excellent work done. Your study was a game-changer in the Council Secretariat."

    - Senior official, General Council of the Secretariat