adssi limited
case study

How ADSSI Limited, a home and community care organisation, moved from a culture of pessimism to one of optimism with The Oranges Toolkit

from pessimism to optimism

You can feel it the second you set foot in any office space or corporate headquarters. In every place of business, there is an intangible atmosphere; an inescapable, all-encompassing emotion, better described as the organisational culture, that permeates all aspects of life within the organisation.

The question facing business leaders at every turn is: How can I ensure that the culture of my company is one that encourages happiness, growth, creativity, and longevity? The answer is not always easy to grasp, however many businesses are finding a key ingredient that makes a huge difference: The Oranges Toolkit's science-based workplace wellbeing programs.

Investing in wellbeing can shift organisational culture

Negativity in the workplace can have effects far beyond the relatively simple experience of a negative emotion. When employees are happy and engaged in their work—when they believe in what the company does, what they are doing to help the company achieve its goals, and in the things they do to help their clients get what they want and need — a myriad of positive outcomes are generated.

70% fewer safety incidents, an over 40% reduction in absenteeism, and an over 20% increase in profitability are just some of the benefits of investing in wellbeing as revealed in this workplace study conducted by the Langley Group. The Oranges Toolkit's programs are designed to deliver such benefits and this is demonstrated in its partnership with ADSSI Limited.

ADSSI Limited supports people to live their best life, independently

Run out of Tuggerah on the Central Coast, a hundred kilometres north of Sydney, ADSSI Limited (ADSSI) provides home-based care for older people and people living with a disability, managing a staff of approximately 200 and over 100 volunteers, and a client base of approximately 25,000. Jenni Allan, an accountant by background, has been CEO since 2010.

Jenni Allan CEO of ADSSI
Jenni Allan, CEO of ADSSI

“I’m actually very much a people person,” Jenni says when asked to describe herself. “I love the fact I’m using the skills I have to benefit the community, to make an absolutely outstanding difference to people’s lives.”

And when it comes to her views on leadership?

“My philosophy on leadership is really one of service. I’m here to serve my staff so that they can do the very best job that they can do for our clients,” Jenni explained. But she doesn’t just do this for her clients; she does this for her employees.

“People who are professionally satisfied and enjoy coming to work in a service industry will also go to great lengths to benefit the clients.”

Why did ADSSI need a resilience program?

ADSSI employees need to give excellent, compassionate care to a host of clients who face a litany of challenges based on age, illness, and injury. Factors such as emotional fatigue become an issue for the carers.

This is why maintaining employee resilience, a key component of The Oranges Toolkit programs, is a problem ADSSI has come up against before.

People and Culture Manager Colin Henson explains.

Colin Henson, People and Culture Manager at ADSSI

“It’s a people industry,” he says, “and you need a lot of energy and strength and resilience to turn up at a client’s home day after day after day and be the person that client needs you to be - which is positive, future focused and solution focused. The reason we exist is because our clients have a need, and their lives can be really tough.”

It is a challenging field, draining both physically and mentally. Being able to stay well emotionally, mentally and physically means understanding how to deal with difficult circumstances.

“Our staff members are doing very personal things in the clients' home,” Colin explained. “They’re cooking meals and cleaning. They do personal care, which is showering and toileting at times. You get to know the client, and the client gets to know us and trust us. Sometimes when we see those people deteriorate, that’s awfully hard.”

External change is also a factor, says Jenni. In recent times, there has been enormous change in the aged and disability care sectors. It has required service providers to change their business models significantly.

“It’s a big ask,” she says, “for my staff to cope with change that’s being externally driven. And if we don’t cope we won’t survive, so it’s not a matter of choice. ADSSI has to change its role and see benefits within what’s happening within the community, or we won’t be here another 30 years.”

Both Jenni and Colin wanted to make sure that the challenges inherent to their industry and the impact of external changes and uncertainty didn't negatively impact company morale and corporate culture. In the course of her search for a solution, Jenni came across The Oranges Toolkit program, and felt immediately drawn to it.

Why ADSSI chose The Oranges Toolkit

Jenni and Colin did their research before deciding The Oranges Toolkit was right for the ADSSI organisation.

“We found out that it was based on analytical data and had the research to back the program,” Jenni said of what she and Colin found after looking into The Oranges Toolkit. “I liked the way it was an acronym, and I liked what the acronym stood for. And the more I delved into it, I thought, ‘Gee, optimism and resilience and living in the moment are all things that I think can lead us to better lives ourselves, professionally and personally.’”

Jenni and Colin attended an Oranges Toolkit program themselves before deciding to implement it at ADSSI. This two day workshop covered the Seven Segments of Wellbeing - Optimism, Resilience, Attitude, Now, Gratitude, Energy and Strengths (ORANGES).

When they did decide to bring it into the organisation, they didn’t immediately roll it out company-wide. Change can be difficult, even when it’s positive. So, they did it in stages — starting with their biggest champions.

“I got The Oranges Toolkit facilitator to come back and do a bit of a refresher with a few of us,” says Jenni. “And we formed a subcommittee. I asked for volunteers to work with me. We meet regularly, and we have an action plan to roll this out and embed it in our culture.”

Colin explained how they chose the people who would participate.

“We were very selective,” he explained. “What we said to them was, this is a way forward for us. You’re here because we think you’re open to new ideas, you are open to growth, you’ve got a growth-focused team. We want you to go back and be honest with your peers about what you’ve learned here over the two days, and build a groundswell of people who want to attend.”

Some of the ADSII staff coming together to mark ANZAC Day

A successful implementation

The ORANGES program was gradually rolled out in waves throughout the company. The process served as a means of identifying pessimism and resistance to change which may have been a source of underlying negativity within the culture. The new approach wasn't for everyone - some people self-selected to leave the organisation.

Once the program was introduced, it was simply a matter of adding subtle reminders of the ORANGES ethos, which Jenni and Colin found several creative ways to do.

“Some of the things we’ve done are visual,” said Jenni. “We’ve got posters around the building that Colin changes from time to time. They just make you look and think about optimism or attitudes, whatever it might be. We’ve got little magnets on the fridges, too, in the shape of oranges.”

In short order, Jenni found, the ORANGES ethos became part of the ADSSI corporate identity. Now, it’s a point of pride. The visual cues she and Colin added to the workplace serve to keep that ethos in the day-to-day mentality of everyone involved.

“When you finish the training course, we give you a badge in the shape of an orange. So it’s sort of like, oh wow, I can wear that on my lapel with pride,” Jenni enthused. “Other people will ask you, external people and new staff, ‘What’s your orange badge? Tell me about it.’ So that launches you off in another conversation.”

ADSSI embeds ORANGES into the business

In addition to impromptu conversations about what employees have learned via the ORANGES program, methods of mindfulness and focus have also become a regular part of company culture.

“We’ve started doing mindfulness regularly at most team meetings,” Jenni explained. “We’ll have a few minutes using an app just to focus our minds on where we are.”

Perhaps one of the most important implementations is that ORANGES is now part of the company’s language.

“We use it in our everyday words,” said Jenni. “So, for example, if someone says something like, ‘Oh, everything’s going wrong today. What a shocking day I’m having. I can’t expect anything to work out.’ We’ll say something like, ‘Well, that’s not very ORANGES, is it?’”

You can start fast, but it requires upkeep

The ORANGES program can work quickly. The practical tools can be implemented immediately after a training session. But it does require effort and focus to maintain these practices, so that any positive gains don’t deteriorate over time.

Positivism requires upkeep. Negative thinking takes hold when you simply do nothing at all.

Jenni recommended committing to it and doing it properly.

“You don’t just set and forget,” she explained. “It’s something we’ve got to keep doing all the time. Like Work Health and Safety, really, if you believe in it.”

What about the results?

Jenni hesitated to dive into measurable results because, as she pointed out, it’s hard for her to be objective.

“I think we have more energy now than we had before,” she said. “And so it’s hard for me to be objective, but people tell me anecdotally. People walk in and say ‘the atmosphere’s really lovely here’, or ‘all your staff seem really happy and pleased to be at work’.”

The staff surveys put this into numbers. Colin pointed out that, according to staff surveys, their numbers in 2016 in certain categories of job satisfaction were already good.

Thanks to ORANGES, he says, those numbers have gone from good to great.

“We do our staff surveys using a model from a core unit called Your Voice,” he explains. “They said to us in 2016, ‘don’t expect anything better because these numbers are about the best anyone can achieve’. But in 2017 we bested those numbers. Ninety-nine percent of our staff believe in the mission and the values. Now that’s extraordinary.”

This level of personal investment is achieved not just from what ADSSI does, but also the value that ORANGES has brought to that work. Colin explained how the Your Voice traffic-light system allows the business to gain insights quickly, and how impactful the change has been. The traffic-light system shows you what you need to work on, by providing indicators in orange or red.

For ADSSI, it was green across all of their staff sectors.

Colin talked about how rare that is, even in strongly values-driven organisations.

“In our last survey, we achieved green across all staff. The Your Voice project told me that is rare even in aged care. Even in the community sector.”

ADSSI has seen great results from The Oranges Toolkit program

Referrals to Employee Assistance Programs have also dropped

Colin explained how they have seen such a reduction in the number of Employee Assistance Program that the EAP itself called to see if something was amiss.

“Our EAP referrals are down. Just a few weeks ago the provider rang me up and asked if we were using another provider because the numbers are dropping,” Colin laughed. “I actually said no we’re not, but what we’re doing is we’re getting more proactive. We’re getting ahead of people getting stressed or ill.”

Advice for others considering The Oranges Toolkit

The benefits seen by ADSSI are obvious. But, as they rolled out the implementation of the ORANGES program gradually, so too do they recommend that you take your time. Change, when most effective, goes from the top down.

“I’d say put yourself through the training first if you are someone making a decision on behalf of the organisation, so you have first-hand experience,” recommended Jenni. “Then you can be a champion of the training.”

Colin is quick to compliment Jenni’s leadership skills in this and other initiatives, which has led to a respect-fuelled culture at ADSSI.

“We have a fabulous CEO, and she sets the standard for civility and positive feeling. However I feel that ORANGES has given everyone else the official permission to follow suit. I think there’s a, what would you call it, a civility groundswell?”

That civility groundswell, Colin goes on, made it easier for employees to provide input into the direction of the company. It’s also made brainstorming sessions more engaging and enjoyable.

“People are more likely to speak freely and jump in with ideas and build on people’s ideas,” he says.

“One of the tools that we’re struggling with is that when you’ve got an issue, everyone has to come up with ten ideas, ten solutions, no matter how crazy they are. The thinking is that even if someone has come up with something that’s totally impractical, totally off the wall, someone else will say, ‘Oh yeah, if we took that and matched it this way…’, and it gets the creative thinking going. Our problem-solving now is much more creative and fun, and people value other people’s input much more.”

When to introduce ORANGES

Colin offers the suggestion that the need for change is often self-evident. Even though making a change is rarely easy, the reward is worth the struggle. He says that if your staff are tired, or worn out, it’s time to bring in fresh tactics.

But he also warned against bringing in ORANGES to fix the unfixable, or for trying to make it fit if you’re not open-minded.

“If you’re closed and not open to new ideas — some of it is quite challenging! — it’s not for you.”

In the end, ADSSI, and its CEO, couldn’t recommend the ORANGES program highly enough.

“I would personally and professionally recommend the program to any organisation to improve staff engagement, and staff satisfaction,” says Jenni.

“Ultimately, in a service driven business, this will improve your business and the quality of services to your clients. And I’m really glad that I’m part of the ORANGES initiative.”

This case study interview was conducted and written by Gina Brooks, The Oranges Toolkit facilitator.

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