- On 1. June 2016
Trine and Simone come from the programme Uddannelsesvidenskab (the Education Science programme) at the University of Århus, Copenhagen. A contact established via Simone’s uncle, Preben Werther, who is an external consultant with AlfaNordic and owner of Wolfway, opened Trine’s and Simone’s eyes to the fact that AlfaNordic might be a place where they could work on their bachelor project.
On an education day in November 2015, they gained an insight into AlfaNordic’s concept, and they agreed that it could be tremendously exciting to do a project. In the middle of April, when they were well on their way with their project, they were interviewed for AlfaNordic’s Magazine.
What is the focus of your education?
Trine: In the Education Science programme, we have addressed learning in many different contexts, both in educational institutions like municipal primary and lower secondary schools (folkeskoler) and upper secondary schools (gymnasier) and in pre-school institutions like kindergartens and day care centres. We have also addressed learning in organisations such as organisational development, management structures and cultures in organisations. Our main interest lies with these last issues.
What is the time span of your bachelor project?
Simone: Approximately 6 months, these 6 months cover the thought process of identifying what it really is you want to write about, establishment of a group and then finding the shared interest. We will most certainly spend 6 months on this project.
Trine: We have been at it since December. That was when the first bachelor workshop was scheduled. We then formulated ideas for our project and for the mentors we would like to have. From 18 March we started being present at AlfaNordic’s site. At that time, the agreement was an established fact. Our deadline is 24 May. By then, it is all over.
How did you start up the process?
Simone: We started off by being present at AlfaNordic in the role of observers. We were shown around and AlfaNordic’s 5 principles were explained to us. We then interviewed one of the area managers and we were invited to a meeting regarding the 5 principles and the thoughts on how to communicate the principles to the employees and the outside world. Shortly after that, we had an interview with one of the owners.
Where in the process are you right now?
Simone: Right now we are working with the questionnaires we are going to send out at the end of the month. It is an attempt to also incorporate the employees’ perception of it all.
Trine: We are striving for getting a wide-ranging opinion of the way things are at AlfaNordic, and we also want to pick out some people to whom we can address additional questions.
What kind of questions are you asking?
Trine: They are not ready yet, but one of the questions might for example be about the 5 principles, how are they applied in the consultants’ daily work?
Simone: Another question might definitely also address involvement of the employees in relation to establishment of the principles; whether they feel that the principles do in actual fact represent their work.
What will happen next?
Simone: We will attend the education day at the end of the month when we are going to arrange a small event and we will have a chance to talk to some people. We then start processing the questionnaires, we develop statistics based on the questionnaires and pick out some key people for additional interviews. We hope that we will have all this in place within the first week of May, because from May 9 to May 24, we will be focusing intensively on finishing the project.
What are your expectations of AlfaNordic in relation to the problems and issues addressed in your assignment?
Trine: We clearly had the expectation that AlfaNordic had been facing radical changes as a result of the growth. As a consultant, you often change jobs, but this is something that is known and accepted if you are employed by AlfaNordic. Those are the conditions for working here, so as such you don’t experience the challenges resulting from these changes in the same way as other people might experience them in other kinds of jobs. So we have seen that remote management is actually a bigger challenge here than change is. The challenge here is to create a culture where you have a good sense of belonging to the company despite the fact that you do not work at the office on a daily basis. So focus has shifted a little from changes representing the main focus to being primarily something with organisational culture and self-image in the organisation – and then with changes as input.
Simone: And all the way through, we have been very interested in the 5 principles. How are they used as a tool within the company? Is it something that is being discussed or is it something being weighed tacitly among the employees? This is also something we have wanted to examine and evaluate on after the principles were implemented in earnest in November.
How do you feel that AlfaNordic handles changes? Are they good at it?
Trine: I think that AlfaNordic is good at it, but that is because those are the conditions for being a consulting house. You must be willing to adapt and you have to be able to help others see how they must adapt. AlfaNordic does a lot of good things. And that is one of the reasons why they are as successful as they are. A lot of things are really working. We just have to identify learning potentials. Identify the areas that might be improved.
Simone: AlfaNordic is really good at arranging social events like crayfish parties, Christmas lunches and all these things. So in that way, AlfaNordic establishes a strong sense of solidarity, but in relation to the vocational involvement we see some things that could be done differently – at any rate in the area of a higher degree of employee involvement. They do it on their education days when selected people are assigned technical topics that they are responsible for discussing with others and thus sharing their knowledge. Beyond this, the intranet is available for sharing news and asking each other questions, but we believe that increased involvement would benefit everybody.
Do you already at this point have some suggestions as to where AlfaNordic could do it better?
Trine: We have talked a little bit about AlfaNordic paying a lot of attention to receiving evaluations from the customers when a consultant has been out there doing a job. The consultant’s work is evaluated in relation to the external effectiveness, but what about internally? For example, as mentioned, the 5 principles were implemented on the last education day, but has anybody followed up on this? Not yet as far as we know. Following up on what is sent out to the employees might be a good idea in relation to internal evaluations. Particularly when you are growing as fast as AlfaNordic is.
Simone: I think it will help a lot when AlfaNordic moves into their new offices. The new offices will hold more work stations where the consultants can come more often to do some work. This is about the employees having a sense of ownership. Then you can also simply feel that AlfaNordic is landing on their feet and finding out where to actually land. Their goals and visions are enormously ambitious. Other companies we have visited have a minimum of 20 years’ work they can look back on, prepare statistics on. So all in all, some chances are being taken right now, and then over time, AlfaNordic will gain more insight as to whether some issues were addressed correctly.
What kind of welcome have you been given at AlfaNordic?
Trine: I think we have been given a very positive welcome. We have also felt that they have made demands on us. For example, we had to draw up a timeline where we match AlfaNordic in relation to the course of events. We also had to tell them a little bit about the benefits that AlfaNordic would gain by having us milling around. We have had a good reception. It is good that they make some demands. We are in no doubt that they know we are here.
Simone: We have also been allowed to do some exciting things. We have for example interviewed one of the owners. Not everybody is allowed this in connection with a school project so in that way we were admitted to some places and were granted access to some people that you would not normally have access to. We are also invited to take part in the education day. We originally wanted to give a presentation on that day, but the agreement was unfortunately changed at the last minute. It is a bit of a shame, but on the other hand, plans are in the making for us to sit in on a management meeting, so basically AlfaNordic has been really very open to us and our project.
Trine: We are really looking forward to having the last part with the education day, interviews with employees et cetera fall into place before long. We will visit AlfaNordic and hand over the paper at the end of June. We hope that the employees feel like reading it. They will at any rate be given the opportunity.