attorney-general's department case study

The South Australian Attorney-General's Department boosted employee wellbeing and psychological safety with The Oranges Toolkit

using the oranges toolkit to boost employee wellbeing at attorney-general's department

"It's not just about ensuring the person is fit and healthy to work, it's about ensuring the person is fit and healthy to live," explains Louise Cartwright, Acting Manager for Workforce Development and Wellbeing within the Corporate, Finance and Performance arm of the South Australian Government's Attorney-General’s Department (AGD), when asked about the rationale behind its workplace wellbeing programs.

It's not just about ensuring the person is fit and healthy to work, it's about ensuring the person is fit and healthy to live

"It's important that people have the skills to manage their own wellbeing. Employers have a responsibility to look after their employees' health and wellbeing, as well as their work engagement and productivity. We need to give people the tools to manage their own wellbeing and for managers to lead the wellbeing of others too."

This focus on providing practical tools is one of the reasons AGD chose to introduce The Oranges Toolkit's 'Seven Segments of Wellbeing' holistic two-day workshop program to all 1800 staff across the diverse government agency. The science-based wellbeing training was originally introduced in 2018 to mitigate the risks associated with lowered wellbeing, aligned to the South Australian government's Mentally Healthy Workplaces Strategy (also see picture below). With COVID-19 exacerbating the risk of lowered wellbeing, AGD’s proactive interventions to support psychological health and safety of its employees have become even more pertinent.

"Our lawyers and scientists are dealing with quite challenging work. We have a duty of care to make sure that they have tools to look after their own wellbeing. These preventative steps help them to identify triggers and risks and put strategies in place to help themselves at work and at home," says Louise, who leads the HR team responsible for areas such as workforce wellbeing, work health and safety, employee engagement, organisational and workforce development for the AGD.

The Oranges Toolkit program falls under 'Prevent Harm and Manage Risk' and 'Build the Positives' within the Government of South Australia's Mentally Healthy Workplaces Framework.

The Oranges Toolkit adds zest and flavour

The South Australian Government's Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) promotes justice by protecting the rights of all South Australians, holding people to account according to the law, improving safety, and contributing to an efficient and fair justice system. Introducing The Oranges Toolkit's innovative and immersive training program to the workforce was a bold move.

"Previously, training at AGD was more traditional and focused on technical skills. Oranges was quite different and radical!" says Louise. "The feedback we get from people is that it is high energy, fun, different, enjoyable. The level of enjoyment means people retain a lot of the tools - also because they are quite simple to apply," she adds.

"We have a range of professionals across different business units such as prosecutors, solicitors, forensic scientists, and others involved in the justice sector. There's not a lot of connection or interaction between the disciplines because they are quite distinct and different. It makes doing anything across the organisation quite challenging - each unit has its own head and they operate relatively independently." The program gives an opportunity for staff from different disciplines around AGD a chance to meet and learn skills together, irrespective of their business unit or background.

Despite a small amount of initial uncertainty about The Oranges Toolkit program, Louise says, "It gained momentum quickly. Some colleagues have become quite evangelical about the whole thing!”

This program is about the person as a whole person, as opposed to something that will just help you do your work.

"This program is about the person as a whole person, as opposed to something that will just help you do your work. People really like that you can also apply the learning at home. The other spinoff benefit is the opportunity to connect with people from different business units and build networks in AGD," explains Louise.

A sell-out success

"The Oranges program has sold itself. We're getting people asking when the next program is running. Previous attendees do the marketing and promotion for us. I think it’s because there’s something in it for everyone, no matter what profession or prior experience."

The two-day Seven Segments of Wellbeing workshop program – covering Optimism, Resilience, Attitude, Now, Gratitude, Energy and Strengths - has now been delivered to more than 600 staff. The roll-out is set to ramp up as COVID restrictions ease in South Australia, while AGD also has the flexibility to offer virtual classrooms to keep momentum up on the program delivery.

Evidence suggests it’s working!

In May 2021, SA Government conducted an employee engagement survey with a focus on assessing employee wellbeing levels. The AGD employee survey received a 66% response rate, with AGD is performing above average on employee wellbeing comparative to the SA Public Sector overall and above comparable large agencies (with 1000+employees). The survey also suggests that employees agree that wellbeing is an important issue to address and AGD is doing well in this area in their eyes.

Consistent with global research on the positive link between employee wellbeing and engagement or performance at work, the AGD employee engagement index is also at 70%, showing a four-point increase from 2018 and higher than the averages for the sector and similar agencies.

These fantastic improvements can be attributed to the effectiveness of AGD's holistic wellbeing strategy and its focus on mentally healthy workplaces that includes a wide range of initiatives. Beyond giving every employee access to The Oranges Toolkit training, AGD offers a premium Employee Assistance Program (EAP), body scans, financial and career assistance, career guidance, a dedicated intranet portal full of wellbeing resources, assessment and awareness tools, training in change management and neuroscience-focused leadership, flu vaccinations, ergonomic assessments and more.

The ten factors that contribute to employee wellbeing at AGD

Specific program evaluation is the next step 

The positive participant feedback on the programs and the uplift in engagement results are welcome, but Louise wants more.

"How we evaluate the impact of interventions is our current focus. We're trying to see how we can evaluate initiatives better. For example, to support areas like the Energy and Now (mindfulness) segments, we've recently introduced meditation and chair yoga. This is great, especially for those working from home - we're finding people are working through and not taking necessary breaks. The yoga and meditation are getting fantastic feedback but we're trying to understand the impact on things like inclusion, sick days, and so on. We can see people feel energised, refreshed and it improves their focus, but we want to take this a step further to show the positive impact," she says.

Advice for HR professionals considering The Oranges Toolkit

When asked to provide advice to other professionals considering a program like The Oranges Toolkit, Louise suggests getting solid endorsement from senior leadership first, and then considering your communication plan for the rollout.

Learning and Development (L&D) programs can often fall over due to lack of attendance, despite the best intentions of everyone involved. It can be challenging for HR teams to get people to commit to time away from their 'day job'.  Louise suggests that buy-in and role-modelling behaviour from leaders is critical, and so is the messaging around a new program.

"Look at your organisational culture and be considered about the communications. We are quite a conventional agency and this could have been perceived as out of people's comfort zone and a big investment of their valuable time."

"We started with why we were doing it and aligned it to our strategy around psychological safety. We focused on the positives, the personal benefits, and highlighted how fun, engaging and practical it is to apply at home and work."

"Even though business units say they want training, we often put programs on and struggle to get attendance. With Oranges, it's the opposite - we have people lining up to do it! So, for us, it's really refreshing. It's been great for the organisation and a really positive intervention!"

With Oranges, we have people lining up to do it! So, for us, it's really refreshing. It's been great for the organisation and a really positive intervention!
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