Implementation in the Danish employment system
The agency plays a crucial role in the implementation of reforms and employment policies by supporting unemployment insurance funds and municipalities which are responsible for the local enactment.
The objective of national management of employment efforts is to influence and promote a proactive employment policy in line with the overall objective. The aim is to help ensure that Denmark has a flexible, dynamic and efficient labour market in which employment policy supports people moving from unemployment to employment or education.
STAR plays a crucial role in the implementation of reforms and employment policies by supporting municipalities and unemployment insurance funds. The latter are responsible for the direct implementation of reforms and policies.
The role of STAR in the implementation process
When a reform has been agreed in the Danish Parliament (Folketinget), it typically consists of political goals (the overall objectives and targets), a legal framework (acts and executive orders) and a financial framework. Municipalities and unemployment insurance funds are responsible for the implementation of the reform within the given framework.
The role of STAR is to support the municipalities and unemployment insurance funds in implementing the reforms so that political goals are translated into results. The agency is aware that the outcome of a reform not only depends on the right intervention but also on the skills, knowledge, commitment and organisation of local managers and employees. The agency thus plays an important role in influencing the local context through a range of implementation supporting activities to ensure that the intervention is delivered as intended. In other words: to ensure a high degree of implementation fidelity.
STAR has established three overall standards for implementation:
- Transparency: We share information on goals, activities and legal framework concerning the reform
- Involvement: We know our target groups and stakeholders – and we include them early in the process and on a regular basis
- Priorities: We set implementation goals related to the reform’s core elements and aims. We plan and monitor the implementation – and adjust the strategy if necessary
The reform and implementation process
The reform process consists of a number of separate tracks each with their own objectives and procedures: Policy, law, IT, implementation etc. An implementation does therefore not consist of a single event but is an ongoing process that takes place concurrently with the policy process from the start and throughout the implementation of the reform. The model below illustrates the implementation process.
Exploration and preparation
The exploration and preparation phase begins when the Minister of Employment and the government as a whole wish to reform part of the employment system.
It is essential that policy- and implementation efforts run concurrently from the start of the reform process to ensure a focus on the challenges and requirements as regards data, IT-support and administration.
The process also encompasses:
- Identifying miscellaneous implementation requirements and challenges through dialogue and networking with practitioners and stakeholders
- Assessment of implementability and the need for implementation resources
Implementation planning begins when the reform proposal is made public. Bills are drafted when a political accord has been reached, and administrative orders are issued when the law has been passed in parliament.
In this phase of the reform-process municipalities focus their efforts on preparing their staff for legal changes as well as changes in work routines. To support the implementation, the agency produces legal guidelines and sets out the planned interventions, goals, administrative orders and support activities of the reform.
Implementation tasks include:
- Developing an implementation plan and risk management plan
- Communication through network meetings, direct dialogue and the agency’s website
- Establishing a steering group and an implementation group
- Setting implementation goals
- Developing a monitoring and evaluation plan
When a law is adopted, both municipalities and unemployment insurance funds are notified of the new legislation and the agency’s services in interpreting the new rulesets.
The following tasks are included in the implementation process:
- Providing implementation tools such as guidelines, manuals and Networks
- Collecting feedback from municipalities and unemployment insurance funds through networking meetings, individual job centre visits and the like
- Monitoring and benchmarking of implementation goals, activities and risks
The final phase is usually the longest and usually takes several years. It is a period of evaluation and adjustment of both legislation and practice.
In this phase, the focus is on day-to-day operations and the quality of the reform interventions. It is therefore important that the authority is focused on the continuing support of both the municipalities and the unemployment insurance funds. This is done through dialogue, distribution of best practice and initiation of implementation projects.
The following tasks are included in the implementation process:
- Continuous monitoring and benchmarking of implementation goals, activities and risks
- Continuous dialogue with municipalities and unemployment insurance funds
- Provision and an ongoing adjustment of implementation tools
- Collection and distribution of best practice
- Initiating implementation projects
A significant portion of STAR’s implementation-efforts consists of initiating implementation supporting activities such as guidelines and benchmarking. The target group is typically managers and employees in the municipalities and unemployment insurance funds.
The objective of the implementation tools is to ensure that local municipalities and unemployment insurance funds implement the reform in accordance with the political goals.
The effectiveness of a given implementation tool will always depend upon the context in which it is used. Selection of appropriate implementation tools requires knowledge of effective tools and the specific intervention as well as the organisational context of the municipalities and unemployment insurance funds in question.
Examples of effective implementation tools
According to the literature:
- Monitoring and benchmarking of municipal efforts and results
- Organizational specialization – can support aspects of implementation
- Municipal recruitment strategies – have an impact on the behaviour of future employees
- Cooperation-strategies – makes it easier to overcome complexity
- Communication of goals – eliminates ambiguity regarding goals
- Standardization of methods and tools– ensures uniform implementation
- Training combined with supervision – ensures a common understanding of goals among employees
According to practitioners:
- Legal guidelines
- Networks – support knowledge exchange and best practice between municipalities
- Manuals, guidelines and checklists
- Monitoring – especially using local data
- Interdisciplinary cooperation
After a reform has been implemented, status reports are made to follow up on targets and the development.
An example of this is a status report regarding the employment reform.