Resilience to the rescue: SafeWork SA moves from surviving to thriving
“It’s not an Xbox game. And this is not PlayStation. People don’t hit the reboot button when they die and come back. It’s a gruesome scene, and the vast majority of people have no perception of what it’s like to see; but it’s not good,” explains Martyn Campbell, Executive Director of SafeWork SA, the government agency responsible for workplace health and safety regulation and enforcement in South Australia.
An investigator himself, Martyn has worked at the pointy end of law enforcement: homicide, undercover drug squads, and counter terrorism. Working at the National Crime Faculty (NCF) in the United Kingdom, an International Centre for Investigative Excellence, he managed the training and development program for the heads of homicide investigations across the UK.
Martyn’s work in investigations and compliance continued after he emigrated to Australia. Before joining SafeWork SA in August 2017, he worked in safety in the Australian mining sector. Martyn has prior experience in government regulators, where he redeveloped the investigation capability and training programs for agencies like the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Australian Taxation Office.
While SafeWork SA’s investigators are often handling gruesome situations that demand strong resiliency skills, this is only one part of what motivated SafeWork SA to invest in building employee resilience and agility with Camp Quality’s social enterprise, The Oranges Toolkit.
SafeWork SA: Dark days and upheaval
When Martyn joined SafeWork SA, the organisation was facing two landmark events: the biggest organisational shakeup in its history, and the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s evaluation of the agency.
Within two months of being in his role at SafeWork SA, Martyn had identified real problems within the culture of the business. What began as a localised change program to fix the organisation’s ineffective investigations protocols, became an imperative to turn the entire agency around.
“There were a lot of things that we were uncovering,” reflected Martyn. “I was reporting to the ICAC commissioner, because I considered the issues to be maladministration, or mismanagement of public funds.”
The ICAC recognised this as a high risk of potential for corruption. In the ICAC’s evaluation report of SafeWork SA, 23 recommendations were made. Among these recommendations were strategic direction and governance basics; transparency to Parliament; body cameras for inspectors; improvements in communication; and more. “It was hugely uncomfortable for the workforce,” Martyn commented. “These guys had been allowed to do the things that they were doing, the way they were doing them, for 20 years. And we suddenly turned the tap off.”
At the same time, SafeWork SA was also being thrashed by the media. A quick internet search reveals the extent of that reporting; even the ICAC recognised the challenge of the agency’s poor reputation. It manifested as a continuous battering in the media about failed investigations, charges withdrawn at court, cases that were failing because of incompetent investigations.
As if that wasn’t enough, the agency was being put through its paces internally.
“We were challenged massively by the unions, by work groups, by individuals. We were also performance managing under-performers and having really difficult conversations with them,” Martyn recalled. “There really was no good news.”
Moreover, SafeWork SA still had a business to run! Somehow, it had to help its team to keep its chin up, carry on, and do a good job.
The Oranges Toolkit comes to the rescue
Martyn Campbell first heard about The ORANGES Toolkit from his change manager, Prema Osborne. She was “on loan” to Safework SA from the Attorney General’s Department (AGD). Prema had experienced The ORANGES Toolkit ‘Seven segments of wellbeing’ program herself whilst at AGD, and told Martyn about how game-changing it was for her and for her department.
Prema explained that she’d never done anything like it.
“I’ve done many resilience courses, given that my background is in HR. I went in a bit reserved, hesitant, and slightly negative. I thought, ‘I’m not going to really learn much from this’. And, it’s the first resilience course I’ve gone to where I thought, ‘Actually, this has something, this is something I can actually apply,’ Prema explained.
“If an organisation is considering it, particularly if they’re going through a tough reform or change, I highly recommend it. It will create benefits in ways that you wouldn’t expect,’ she said.
Martyn said that Prema was so enthusiastic about the Oranges framework and program that he booked a session for his leadership team. SafeWork SA initially put all of its executives and managers through The Oranges Toolkit’s Seven Segments of Wellbeing program. A holistic resilience and wellbeing 2-day workshop program, it includes science-based skills and tools across a unique framework that forms the acronym of ORANGES: Optimism, Resilience, Attitude (mindset), Now (mindfulness), Gratitude, Energy and Strengths.
Once he’d experienced the training himself, Martyn realised how valuable it would be for the rest of the workforce.
From this point, SafeWork SA came to put all 220 staff members through the program.
“I opened every workshop. I closed every one,” Martyn explained. “I said to people, ‘This is not a sit-down and pin-your-ears-back lecture. This is interactive and I want you to take two or three or four tools away with you to implement immediately’.”
And as Martyn continues to walk the floor to speak with and check on people, evidence of the training and its tools is evident.
How SafeWork SA managed to get buy-in from its team
Martyn was realistic about rolling out The Oranges Toolkit. He knew that if he was going to get buy-in from the staff, he was going to have to make a real impact with the launch. He also knew that he wouldn’t create the cultural shift that the agency required unless the program was not negotiable.
“I flew Mark Donaldson over from Sydney to talk to our whole agency about resilience,’” he explained. “Mark Donaldson is an SAS soldier who won the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan. He pretty much dragged his Iraqi interpreter through a hail of bullets to save his life. And off the back of that, we launched the Oranges program.”
Martyn went on to explain how, when Mark presented to 250 people about his difficult childhood (his mother was murdered), and about his own actions at work as an SAS soldier, “You could have heard a pin drop.“
“He linked his story, and all the photographs and video clips that he had. He had real footage from his body camera,” Martyn enthused. “He could feel the wind of bullets going past his face and his legs! But he did what he did, and then the next day, he went out and did exactly the same patrol again. He talked about all of the resilience aspects that Oranges pushes forward.”
After Donaldson’s speech, Martyn announced that the very next week would be the first of The ORANGES Toolkit training sessions, and that it would build from Mark’s talk about resilience.
Even so, not everybody was excited. SafeWork SA had a lot of people who were reticent, who couldn’t immediately see the value that it was going to deliver.
But as people emerged from The Oranges Toolkit training sessions, they were seemingly transformed. As Martyn Campbell explained, his team’s intensity and desire for doing something different was so strong that they were desperate to action it.
“This training was so different to anything that they’ve ever had before - there was a new spark in people when they left that room,” Martyn recalled.
“The level of motivation, the energy around the individuals and the group about wanting to share this and do something different was immense.”
The last negative news article about SafeWork SA was published around Christmas 2018, a time that Martyn identifies as a turning point for the agency.
For Martyn, rebuilding SafeWork SA is not just about resilience. Resilience is step one; building trust is step two.
Resilience and trust as a foundation for psychological safety
In an agency like SafeWork SA that had experienced turbulent and abrupt change, corruption investigation, and reputation damage, focusing on resilience skills was not enough. Building trust was also a critical factor and a necessary foundation to create a sense of psychological safety at work.
For Martyn Campbell, The Oranges Toolkit enabled the culture to shift. Beyond Oranges, the agency is continuing to work on building trust.
He explains that when you add trust to resilience, “You fix the problems, and then you rebuild. Trust really underpins a lot of aspects of an organisation and leadership management. I thought, ‘How good would it be if we could actually leverage what we did in Oranges, about being resilient and hanging in there and supporting each other? We could actually link that into how to build trust’,’ he explained.
“We got a couple of our guys accredited to facilitate that, and now we’re rolling that out as part of our leadership program. We’re integrating it with the Oranges training to say, well, now we’re rebuilding the organisation.”
In the beginning of the change, underperforming or incompetent leaders were given an ultimatum: ‘If you stay, you have to improve; we’ll help you but it’ll be hard’. Faced with such a decision, and knowing that their old ways wouldn’t be tolerated, many opted to leave.
For everyone else, the agency’s staff members were invited to contribute to the restructure. Martyn’s team chose to make everything transparent. People could comment, and then see where their comments were accepted. This supported the trust, collaboration and commitment.
These days, the team members are smiling and enjoying themselves.
“It’s the little things,” Martyn smiled. “We recently had International Take Your Dog to Work Day. So, we celebrated that by letting people bring dogs to work. It was a really good day, and what we’ve done now is integrated it into our wellbeing program, because who doesn’t like a dog wagging its tail at you when you walk up to it? So now, one day a month we’re going to have Bring Your Dog to Work Day.’
This simple activation has its roots in The Oranges Toolkit. Dogs in the workplace encouraged people to speak to those that they would not normally talk to, building their connections and improving collaboration. It lifted everyone’s spirits and energy; they got up out of their desks, they had to get out of the building and walk during the day. It even sparked fun activities to promote positive emotions, like competitions about which dogs looked like which executives.
The impact of Oranges at SafeWork SA
Embedding Oranges at an organisation-wide level doesn’t stop when you have your team members trained. Rather, it continues as a slow and simple reorientation. For SafeWork SA this has included actions such as:
• Developing new values as a collaborative group
• Having a ‘value share’ at the start of every meeting. At every meeting, someone opens by sharing an example of behaviour that they have observed of someone positively demonstrating the values of the organisation
• Changing how Safework SA’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) work.
While the first two relate to how conversations have shifted at the agency, changing the KPIs has been significant for the agency’s leadership.
New conversations, new language, new attitudes
In the early days post-Oranges training, Martyn was extra conscious about the language that he was using. Talking about each of the aspects of Oranges framework (optimism, resilience, attitude, mindfulness, gratitude, energy and strengths) requires application of effort to create new neural pathways and form habits.
“You’ve got to be consciously thinking about it in the early days,” he pointed out. “But I think now, well… in fact, I don’t think about it now. It’s just the way that I talk to people."
"The vast majority of people are having different types of conversations. And I think the gratitude and the respect has increased enormously.”
He went on to explain that one of the exercises in The Oranges Toolkit was a game-changer for his own understanding of how he talked about change.
In that exercise, everyone pairs off. You are given 30 seconds to observe the other person and then, turning away from each other, you change one thing about your appearance — and then your partner has to guess what it was. Most people’s default is to take something away.
“Nobody ever added anything!” Martyn exclaimed. “For me, the insight was, ‘That’s right! When we change stuff, we tend to take stuff away.’ We tell people about what we’re changing and what we’re removing. We don’t say we’re going to change, and by the way, this change is by giving you this to do things differently. That’s how I reframed a lot of my messages to people.”
Redesigning KPIs: Create your own
Previously, SafeWork SA’s leadership had up to 20 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which they were given and expected to meet. Martyn flipped this model on its head. He asked his team to come up with just 4 KPIs, of which only 2 are work-related.
“They all looked at me like stunned mullets,” laughed Martyn. “I said, ‘I want you to tell me what you want to do, and then we’ll monitor and measure that.’ It really stumped a lot of people, because they’ve never been asked before. They’ve always been told what to count.”
This approach is not always right for everyone. Safework SA had some people leave the agency because they realised they wanted different things.
Martyn’s attitude is that even if they leave now, they might come back later.
Measuring the benefits of The Oranges Toolkit program
When asked if he has been able to measure the impact of The Oranges Toolkit, Martyn admitted that he didn’t take a benchmark beforehand—and wishes he had. Instead, he has a different measure of success, and it relates to the agency’s unions.
SafeWork SA has a highly unionised workforce: About 90% of the workforce belongs to a union.
In the early days of the agency’s transformation, Martyn locked horns with the unions over four or five big issues. Some of these ended up going to court. Since everyone has been trained in The Oranges Toolkit and the shakeup has settled down, the union has simply not had to be as active or present.
“We still have a lot of union members, but we don’t have union meetings anymore,” Martyn said. “We work collaboratively instead. In fact, no-one talks about the union or issues anymore. People come and knock on my door, and we have a discussion and work things out. We just don’t have a union issue.”
The positive ripple-effect beyond SafeWork SA
As a regulator, the impact of the shift at SafeWork SA has been far bigger than simply moving the needle for the agency itself. Resolving its own issues has led to a renewed public confidence in the agency and its capabilities.
Martyn pointed out that if you are ineffective as a regulator, or any of your functions is ineffective or incompetent, it has a domino effect. “If SafeWork SA can’t do the right thing, why should anybody else?” he posed.
“We do now have a very, very competent, effective, skilled investigation capability,” Martyn pointed out. “And if you do the wrong thing, now the message is getting out there that you should be concerned, because our guys know what they’re doing. And on the other side, we’re having a much more respectful, professional conversation with people to help them become compliant— and they know that.”
On top of this direct positive impact to the organisation and its stakeholders, SafeWork SA’s partnership with The ORANGES Toolkit has contributed to supporting kids facing cancer in Australia. As a certified Social Trader, The ORANGES Toolkit returns profits to Australia’s most trusted childhood cancer charity, Camp Quality.
An open door to organisations considering The Oranges Toolkit
For organisations thinking about implementing The ORANGES Toolkit programs, Martyn Campbell has a generous invitation. While he encourages leaders to take the plunge with the program, he also says that his door is open.
“Come and speak to people like me, or to any of my managers, or any person who works here, about how it can benefit and transition an agency,” Martyn invited. “We’ve gone from the lowest point that we have ever been in our history, and we’re now coming out of it.
We’re still not exactly where we need to be, but we’re a long way from where we were. And I think The ORANGES Toolkit and the frank conversations we’ve had has been a factor.”