Enabling Teams to Implement Innovative Personalized Activation in a Public Sector Context: Why and How Frontline Leadership Matters





integrative frontline leadership, activation, public sector innovation, personalisation


This article investigates the strategies used by frontline supervisors to lead teams in the implementation of innovative activation services and the ways in which these strategies are perceived by the frontline workers they lead. Empirical data are collected from team observations and in-depth interviews with frontline supervisors and workers known as employment specialists in a public sector context, i.e., in the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV). In this context,a large-scale programme known as Extended Follow-Up was implemented beginning in 2017 with the aim of improving activation services for persons with complex support needs. We identified two leadership strategies: a) a team-focused strategy based on interdependence, in which frontline workers were encouraged to shape and adapt the activation services to each jobseeker, and b) a rule-focused strategy based on constant monitoring of frontline workers to secure their adherence to predefined tools and aims. The former strategy promoted team cohesion and provided the necessary psychological safety to implement the personalized activation service,while the latter strategy limited the frontline workers’ creativity and room to manoeuvre. Our findings reveal that integrative leadership approaches that combine autonomy with support present greater prospects for successful innovation implementation in a public sector context.


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Author Biographies

Suzan Mbatudde Skjold, Department of Economics and Business, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway

Suzan Mbatudde Skjold holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Bergen, Norway. She is currently a PhD candidate in the programme Responsible Innovation and Regional Development, at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences. Her research focuses on innovation in the public sector, especially in activation services geared towards integrating long-term employed persons into the labour market. Other research interests include trust in public institutions, and change management seen from an institutional perspective.

Mai Camilla Munkejord, Centre for Care Research, West, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway; Department of Intercultural Studies, NLA University College, Norway

Mai Camilla Munkejord holds a PhD in Social Sciences from the Arctic University of Norway, UiT. She is currently working as a Postdoctoral Researcher in Caring Sciences at the Centre for Care Research, West at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, and as a Professor II in Intercultural Studies at NLA University College, Sandviken. Her research interests include ageing, elderly care, social care, palliative care, holistic care, indigenous issues, decolonizing processes, and diversity sensitivity both in (public sector) leadership, as well as work inclusion and public sector innovation.





How to Cite

Mbatudde Skjold, S., & Munkejord, M. C. (2023). Enabling Teams to Implement Innovative Personalized Activation in a Public Sector Context: Why and How Frontline Leadership Matters. Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration, 27(4), 37–51. https://doi.org/10.58235/sjpa.2023.15007



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