More time for citizens

At Denmark’s largest workplace, they are in the process of implementing an unprecedented management reform. Trust is on the agenda.

More time for delivering core services, increased job satisfaction, improved productivity and greater innovation. Here, Lord Mayor Frank Jensen talks about the trust reform, which is quietly changing the City of Copenhagen as a workplace.

What is the trust reform?

It represents a completely different working approach for both managers and employees in the City of Copenhagen – a kind of cultural revolution or, perhaps more accurately, evolution. We are in the process of shifting focus from rules, bureaucracy and reporting requirements to the question of what is best for citizens and how each employee can deliver greatest value. As a consequence, managers and employees are assessed on the basis of feedback from citizens rather than processes and all various kinds of written reports, of which there have been plenty enough.

What is the purpose of the trust reform?

The purpose of the trust reform is to free up more time for providing core services, delivering better quality, increasing job satisfaction, reducing costs and fostering greater innovation – all for the benefit of Copenhageners. The means is greater trust and the professional skills and judgement of employees. In other words, we show trust in our employees out in the field being the ones best able to assess a situation and to do what is needed.

Who is behind the trust reform?

A broad political majority and the trade union organisations are behind the trust reform. In 2013, the Copenhagen City Council adopted a “Code for trust-based management”, which provides the platform for our work on replacing checking and reporting with trust and responsibility to the individual employee. Since then, the individual institutions, in close collaboration with, for example, the union organisations, have focused effort on specifically developing the trust-based management concept and on developing good workflows and procedures locally.

Why is there a need for a trust reform?

Copenhagen is growing and each day new Copenhageners are arriving. This is positive for the city. But in combination with a ceiling on service costs and budget cuts, it means that there is a pressure on the services we provide to citizens, such as home help, cultural offerings, schools and daycare centres. Therefore, we need to harness our best resource, namely our employees, and use them for what they do best, namely engaging with citizens at eye level and using their professional skills, experience and common sense to deliver the best quality service. It is also vital that we remain able to recruit talented employees in Copenhagen. Trust-based management is a keyword in creating good workplaces and satisfied employees who recommend the City of Copenhagen to others.

How much progress have you made with the work?

We are changing 30 years of ingrained culture, and that, of course, takes time. When the New Public Management concept was introduced in the City of Copenhagen, it took 10 years to implement fully. The trust reform has been on the agenda since 2012, so it will be a few years yet before the concept has been rolled out to all corners of the organisation. Progress is being made, and there is a will and determination to succeed among managers, employees, union representatives and politicians. But we have a huge job ahead of us in sustaining the intensity and translating the good intentions into practice that will enable us to bring about a genuine change in culture in all parts of the organisation. For this reason, the trust reform is also a fixed item on the agenda, for example at meetings between directors of the various administrations and also at political committee meetings, where we regularly discuss trust.