A value base can be good. But for the values to be lived up to and become part of everyday life, it requires ownership and employee involvement. This is the message from unit manager in Odense Arrest, Elsebeth Bendiksen.
A 10-year-old value poster on the door and a co-worker culture characterized by a bad mood, grumbling and high sickness absence, was Elsebeth Bendiksen's starting point when she was hired as unit manager in Odense Arrest. It was the start of a long process, which culminated in a two-day value seminar with the consulting firm HUMI. A seminar that aimed to create some new values, where the employees themselves became activated. As a result of a major reorganization in the Danish Prison and Probation Service, savings and a shortage of prison officers, the work culture in Odense Arrest was pressured on several fronts.
The work environment internally was miserable and the well-being surveys were at rock bottom. Elsebeth Bendiksen explains: - “When I entered the department, there had not been a staff meeting for 2 years. There was a really bad tone between the staff. The employees were under pressure, and they lacked a common starting point for how we really wanted to be together about the work tasks. My employees could not stand listening to each other and several were ready to resign due to the bad tone. We simply had to take a step towards a major cultural change and get the staff group together ”.
The logical next step
It turned into a major preparatory work, where Elsebeth Bendiksen teamed up with both the shop steward and the work environment representative to organize a process that would bring together the staff, culture and improve the work environment. - “We made a lot of considerations about the value seminar. We then had moments where we were in doubt whether it could be done, ”says the then union representative Pia Terndrup, who has been employed by Odense Arrest for 18 years. - “Because the atmosphere was uphill, and there were a few employees who were very negative, but most were into it.
Few tried to set an agenda for the seminar itself, but work was done professionally to deal with that resistance, and it was two constructive days where the resistance quietly unfolded because we were together about something in the community, ”says Pia Terndrup. - "We were quite convinced that it was the only thing right," adds Elsebeth Bendiksen. We needed to get the mood set, how we abide by agreements, rules and everyday challenges. For that, we needed a common platform and a completely new value base, from which we could take these conversations.
And we got that at the seminar ”. - “Yes, and then we got in a positive community focus on the things that we can change. Let's get the problems to where they belong, because we can not change things that are decided from above, ”says Pia Terndrup.
No one is called to order
After the value seminar, the old posters were thrown out, and new posters were printed for the walls in Odense Arrest. - "We have had posters printed with our new set of values, which at the seminar were prepared by the staff group," says Elsebeth. "They remind us how we want to treat each other." - "We have agreed that we want to be the best version of ourselves. We will be helpful and make a difference and will take an interest in each other. We will provide what is needed. It's the employees' own words, it's their values. And we, as management, will support that ", says Elsebeth Bendiksen. - “The set of values that I was met with in its time was partly an outdated set of values that was not lived in the culture at all. On the one hand, none of the employees owned the values, and no one was interested in them. Due to the replacement of the staff group over the years, the vast majority of my employees had not helped to put the old set of values into words either, ”says Elsebeth Bendiksen. We have it now, with the seminar and it has definitely made a difference and moved us. So far, I have not needed to call anyone to order, and even though we are still struggling with understaffing, the mood is positive ", she says.
It has lifted the mood
The positive atmosphere is noticed by both people from outside and inside. Elsebeth Bendiksen says: - “We get positive feedback from our colleagues from outside, who help us in the house when we need extra hands. They express that it is a nice house to get into. Here a few days ago I actually got an email from a colleague from outside who had helped cover a guard. The letter stated that it had been a really nice experience and that he would like to come again. - “We have also presented our value work to the Area Management, which covers all types of service locations, prisons and detention centers. They would like to hear about how we have managed to change our culture ”, says Pia Terndrup.
To the question of whether the positive mood can be felt by the inmates, Elsebeth Bendiksen answers promptly: "I'm sure they can", and continues: "We had a case just as we returned from the seminar, where an inmate asks our boss about what we have done… and he replies that we have been to a two-day seminar, to which the inmate says: "Well, you should have been something before, because it has probably lifted the mood here" . "So I'm sure they can." “At the seminar, we agreed that we should get better together, and how did we do that? Our value seminar has been a milestone in relation to this. We received help to facilitate the process, and in this way jointly prepared our values, which everyone is behind from day one. The fact that the employees were really involved has given them ownership. The change in mood was marked after the two days, and it actually still applies, now here eight months later ", concludes Elsebeth Bendiksen.