Rescuing Safework SA with the help of ORANGES: A story of upheaval, resilience, and trust
‘It’s not an Xbox game. And this is not Playstation 4. 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.’
They’re the words of Martyn Campbell, the Executive Director of Safework SA.
An investigator himself, Martyn has worked at the pointy end of law enforcement: Homicide, undercover drug squads, and even terrorism. Martyn Campbell worked in the National Crime Faculty (NCF) in the United Kingdom, an International Centre for Investigative Excellence. At the NCF, Campbell 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 Australian mining. Martyn has previous experience in government regulators, where he redeveloped the investigation capability and training programs for agencies like the Fairwork Ombudsman and the Australian Taxation Office.
Yet, while Safework SA’s investigators are often handling gruesome situations, this is only one part of Safework’s resilience story.
When Martyn joined Safework SA, the organisation was facing two landmark events: The first was the biggest organisational shakeup in its history. The second was 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 with the culture of the business. What began as 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 Campbell. ‘I was reporting to the ICAC commissioner, because I considered them as 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 made. Among these recommendations were strategic direction and governance basics; transparency to Parliament; body cameras for inspectors; improvements in communication; and more besides.
‘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.’
All of this happened at around the same time, and yet 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.
Martyn Campbell first heard about The ORANGES Toolkit from his change manager, Prema. She was “on loan” to Safework SA from the Attorney General’s Department (AGD). Prema had been through The ORANGES Toolkit herself whilst at AGD, and told Martyn about how game-changing it was for her and for her department.
When I spoke with Prema, she 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’ve gone, “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. Even if it doesn’t necessarily benefit the whole organisation, it will still create benefits in other ways, that you wouldn’t expect.’
Martyn said that Prema was so enthusiastic about ORANGES that he booked a session for his leadership team. Safework SA initially put all of its executives and managers through the program.
Once he’d been through it himself, Martyn realised how valuable it would be for the rest of the workforce.
That’s how Safework SA came to put all 220 staff members through the program.
‘I opened every one. I closed every one,’ Campbell 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 even now Martyn walks the floor to speak with and check on people, and evidence of the training and its tools is still on everyone’s desks.
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 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 pictures and the 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 training sessions, and that it would leverage Mark’s talk about resilience.
Even so, not everybody was excited. Safework SA had a lot of people who were reticent, who couldn’t—from the outside—see the value that it was going to deliver.
But as people came out of The ORANGES Toolkit training, they were transformed. As Martyn Campbell explained, his team’s intensity and desire for 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 bad news story for 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 about resilience. Resilience is step one; building trust is step two.
In an agency like Safework SA, one that has been through the wringer of abrupt change, corruption investigation, and reputation damage, it’s not enough to focus on resilience. You also require trust. For Martyn Campbell, The ORANGES Toolkit enabled the culture to shift. Beyond ORANGES, the agency is continuing to work on 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 looking at 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 of them 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.
These days, the team members are starting to smile and enjoy it.
‘It’s the little things,’ Martyn smiled. ‘A couple of weeks ago was 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.’
Even this event has its roots in The ORANGES Toolkit. The dogs in the workplace encouraged people to speak to those that they wouldn’t normally talk to. It lifted everyone’s spirits and energy: They got up out of their desks, they had to get out of the building and walk. It even sparked fun activities, like competitions about which dogs looks like which executives.
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:
- 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 that they have observed, of someone else doing a positive thing that links back to the values of the organisation
- changing how Safework SA’s 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.
In the early days post-ORANGES, Martyn had to be conscious about the language that he was using. Simply talking about each of the aspects of ORANGES (optimism, resilience, attitude, mindfulness, gratitude, energy and strengths) isn’t something that comes naturally.
‘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 the people that we have now are having different types of conversation. 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.’
Previously, Safework SA’s leadership had up to 20 KPIs, which they were given and expected to meet. Martyn has 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.’
It doesn’t mean that the approach is right for everyone. As ADSSI Home Living Australia found, 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.
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 been present.
‘We still have a lot of union members, but we don’t have union meetings anymore,’ Martyn said. ’We work collaboratively. In fact, no-one talks about the union or issues any more. People come and knock on my door and we have a discussion and work things out. We just don’t have a union issue.’
As a regulator, the impact of the shift at Safework SA has been far bigger than simply moving the needle for the agency itself. By resolving its own issues, the agency has found a renewed public confidence in its capabilities.
Martyn pointed out that if you’re 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?
‘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 frightened, because these 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.’
If you’re thinking about The ORANGES Toolkit, then Martyn Campbell has a generous invitation for you. While he encourages you 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 starting to come out of it. We’re still not where we need to be, but we’re a long way from where we were. And I think ORANGES and the frank conversations we’ve had has been a factor.’
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