From ugly duckling to beautiful swan
Remember the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, where the ugly duckling grows into a beautiful swan? That’s one way of describing the rapid transformation Parcel Operations in Odense has undergone.
Dedicated leadership and a good dialogue have turned the once troublesome Parcels Operations in Odense into a model workplace. “I wouldn’t have dreamed we could get this far in a matter of months,” says Kenneth Christensen, Director of Parcel Operations, Region Southern Jutland and Funen.
In early 2022, Parcel Operations in Odense was not doing so well, Paw Nielsen, postal worker and trade union representative recalls. “Odense was battling low productivity, low satisfaction, too much overtime and too many sick days,” he says.
Paw believes that constructive communication between the management and employees has been crucial to bringing about change.
“Former leaders have tried solving the problems using more ‘stick’ than ‘carrot’. But the stick doesn’t change the culture. Finding the source of the problems and coming up with realistic solutions together does,” he says.
Working together is the key to Odense’s success. “If you don’t succeed at work, you don’t thrive,” says Kenneth. “So we reorganized people into teams of three or more, where everyone is responsible for finishing each day’s tasks. This means that nobody gets to leave early and nobody has to work overtime,” he explains.
Equal terms and shared responsibility have had a tremendous effect on productivity and the social climate at work. “A culture of ‘every person for themselves’ has been replaced by a sense of fair play and working for a common cause,” says Paw Nielsen.
Using input from workers and behavioral psychologists, Kenneth and his team have
taken many steps to make it easier for employees to do their work correctly and harder to make mistakes – whether it be through easier scanning, more efficient transportation, or standard procedures for parcel delivery.
“When things go wrong, I look at myself first,” says Kenneth. “Have I, as a leader, been good enough at planning your work so that you can be as efficient as possible? When we take responsibility for our mistakes, we can use them to establish better practices.”
The positive change in Odense means productivity has gone up, while the number of sick days has decreased. “Others now come to Odense to learn from our experiences. It makes everyone proud,” says Kenneth.
Parcel deliverer Anke Wagner Sørensen can feel the difference at work, too.
“It’s the sum of many things. But the fact that our union and our leaders are working together instead of against each other is the most important aspect. Everyone is now working towards the same goal,” she says. “It sets a good example. And good examples inspire others to do better.”