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Health’s team of cleaners nominated for integration prize

Health Byg Rengøring (Health Facility Cleaning) has been nominated for Aarhus Municipality’s Integration Prize 2014. We interviewed Cleaning Manager Bente Levisen to find out more about integration in the workplace.

Two candidates were already nominated for Aarhus Municipality’s Integration Prize 2014, which was presented by Mayor Jacob Bundsgaard yesterday. The nominees were the team of cleaners at Health and the Virksomhedsskolen at Aarhus Ø.

Cleaning Manager Bente Levisen is responsible for the team of cleaners at Health. She is responsible for around 50 employees, and of these, approx. 80% have a different ethnic background than Danish. 

How do you work with integration at Health Byg Rengøring?

Working with integration is naturally enough not without problems. We therefore carefully target two parameters in this work; Danish as a common language and respect for each other.

We absolutely insist that this is a place "where we speak Danish." It is a Danish workplace, and we therefore speak Danish. And this is a way of quickly raising the level of language skills for everyone. Here we think it is better to say something wrong rather than not say anything. We have a lot of laughs when things are said wrongly. We call it “affectionate bullying”.

In relation to culture, respect is a crucial focal point. No one has the right to insult other people's culture. This attitude provides a sense of security and it helps make sure everyone dares to tell us who they are and what they can contribute. We have, for example, many Muslim employees. They have some rules they must observe to do with praying and dressing in a certain way. These are challenges that we openly discuss and which certainly do not cause any problems for our daily work.

Why do you think you have succeeded so well with integration?

It requires a high level of dedication and a great deal of effort from all parties. An essential part of our success is that my managers at AU have always accepted our way of thinking and working. And we are also unbelievably privileged to have users who really demonstrate respect for, and acceptance of, our mix of employees. It makes a big difference to the employees in the team that they are respected for the work they do. And at Health they are respected.

What does this recognition mean for the employees in your department?

I certainly experience a great deal of happiness when I tell them about our nomination. But I think more about our everyday work where I experience a great deal of pride among the employees because they work at the university in general and Health in particular. I see a daily enormous commitment to succeed in doing our work and achieving our tasks, and we also support and help each other when things are hard.

What does the nomination mean to you personally?

I am naturally very proud and very pleased. You never get too old to enjoy recognition! Our most important job at Health is, of course, to make sure our premises always appear nice and clean and that our work is done in the best way possible.

When you have built up a group of around 50 employees with around 20 percent ethnic Danes and 80 percent with a non-Danish ethnic origin, than the biggest "cost" is that you cannot fail to feel involved yourself. Of course, that takes its toil on our resources and we have therefore built up a really good team with an assistant supervisor and an administrative officer who helps make sure everyone can be seen and heard. That is important and we have a good constellation.

In my experience, when you meet people with respect, trust and openness, then you develop an environment that creates a basis for a really good psychological workplace environment that really benefits all of us, concludes Bente Levisen.

The winner of Aarhus Municipality’s Integration Prize 2014 was the Virksomhedsskolen at Aarhus Ø.

About Aarhus Municipality’s Integration Prize

The Integration Prize was established by Aarhus City Council with the aim of honouring companies from Aarhus who have made a special effort to strengthen the employment situation for refugees and immigrants, or who have distinguished themselves through their approach to integration in the workplace. The Integration Prize can also be awarded to individuals who have made an extraordinary contribution towards the integration of others or themselves.

The award was presented by Mayor Jacob Bundsgaard on Wednesday 18 June, 2014 at 3:00 pm in the City Council Hall at Aarhus City Hall.

Read more about the Integration Prize on Aarhus Municipality's website.