Leading the way – building and maintaining ethical workplace cultures


2:00 pm Thursday 7 May 2015

Mr Michael Pratt
Customer Service Commissioner NSW

Assistant Commissioner Peter Gallagher
APM, Professional Standards Command, NSW Police Force

Mr Robert Tickner
Chief Executive Officer, Australian Red Cross

The information and views set out in this transcript are solely those of the presenter and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Public Service Commission or the NSW Government. Neither the NSW Government, Public Service Commission nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained in this transcript, or for the accuracy of the transcript. This transcript may contain material that is subject to copyright and other intellectual property rights (including moral rights). Any use of this transcript must be in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968 and other laws concerning intellectual property, and publication of this transcript on the Public Service Commission’s website should not be viewed as granting permission to use the transcript in a way that is inconsistent with those laws.

Peter Mares

One of the kind of themes that's already emerging from the discussion so far is the gap or the difference between formal rules or codes of ethics and those sorts of things and what actually happens. So the difference between the formal structures and formal rules and the culture, if you like, of an organisation, that more intangible stuff. And we're turning our minds to those, that discussion this afternoon in our next session.

There's a short piece of writing by the distinguished American philosopher Amelie Rorty called How to Harden Your Heart: Six Easy Ways to Become Corrupt. And it tells the story of two men, one called Cain and one called Abel. They're academics, she must have had some problems in her workplace I think. But these two academics, Cain, he takes a set against Abel.

And in order to get one up on Abel, Cain starts, you know, he engages in some sort of petty indiscretions and after that initial victory kind of ratchets it up a notch. And sort of doing whatever he can to sort of undermine Abel and his behaviour becomes devious and Machiavellian and scheming and downright nasty.

And when we...we discussed this story, in the Cranlana Programme that I do, participants often say they've come across a Cain in their working lives and this is part of Rorty's point in telling the story. That the slide into unethical behaviour can happen in very kind of mundane and ordinary ways and can be facilitated, encouraged, or at least not stopped or hindered in any way by our environment, by the environment we work in.

In other words, the institutional settings or the culture of a workplace has a huge impact on behaviour. To quote the powerful words of the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, in his YouTube address a couple of years ago that went viral in response to sexual abuse in the ADF [Australian Defence Force], one of the things he said is this, the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

So in this session we'll be presented with three case studies from three leaders, New South Wales Customer Service Commissioner Michael Pratt, New South Wales Assistant Police Commissioner Peter Gallagher and the CEO of Australian Red Cross, Robert Tickner. I'll invite each of them to come up and speak in turn – three case studies on building and maintaining ethical workplace cultures - and then I'll invite them back onto the stage to engage with my questions and your questions.

So our first speaker is the inaugural Customer Service Commissioner of New South Wales, Michael Pratt. Before taking up that position Michael Pratt had an extensive career in banking and wealth management throughout Australia, New Zealand and Asia. And he is also among his many roles, Deputy Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney and a non-executive Director of Credit Union Australia. Please welcome Michael Pratt.

Michael Pratt

Thank you Peter, and good afternoon all and great to be with you. I really want to focus, in the brief time in presenting to you, around culture. Now given my background is banking, you're all well aware of some of the significant banking failures, particularly the GFC [Global Financial Crisis] over the last eight or nine years.

Fundamentally that had to do with culture and my underlying premise to talk to you about really this afternoon is that; with as many rules and regulations that we might put in place, and policies and standards, what will save you at the end of the day is culture.

So I want to talk to you about some of the things that we're focussing on, and I might add this is absolutely a team effort and Glenn is here, Glenn King the CEO of Service NSW and the executive team who are leading this work. And it's not about an individual, it's about the team that have really put this together.

Firstly just a little bit of background re the role that I have, because as Peter mentioned it is the only role in Australia and as far as I can gather, the world. But it's fundamentally about that, it really is to be the voice of the customer, and I use that word deliberately, not citizen. And we can have a long debate about are all citizens customers and vice versa. The reality is technically they're not but when you're undertaking a major change program, nomenclature is important and therefore one of the early challenges I had was getting the word ‘customer’ into Cabinet.

So the Ministers started to talk about you and I as customers of government. That starts to bring a different conversation. So that's a key part of the role and it really is around driving innovative strategies and a different way of thinking around how we interact with citizens. And not surprisingly a lot of that today is digital related.

Where are citizens at?   Fundamentally two things have changed where citizens see government. One is a very different modernization of social values, if you like, that you see almost daily on a whole range of fronts, and secondly it's technology. And the reality now that in a cultural sense, there is nowhere to hide, if you get it wrong, everything is transparent.

So my fundamental premise and response to that is, well why not be transparent in the first place? Because with Twitter, Facebook etc., if something goes wrong in culture it'll be out there very very quickly. And in the old days, in my banking days of pulling out the corporate spin doctor, known as corporate affairs, to get out there and try and put some spin around whatever the issue may have been, they have fundamentally gone.

And so citizens’ expectations of us now have really changed. What are they saying about us? There's just some qualitative feedback, we do a lot of research because everything I'm talking to you about today is absolutely based in customer feedback or citizen feedback. And you can read that for yourself, but they really do feel undervalued.

I think one of the key ones, if I was to bring all the feedback together is the piece on the bottom right here. When they have an issue to deal with us in government they find us incredibly hard to navigate. If they have a complaint to lodge they don't know where to lodge it, if they have a particular issue with government they don't know where to go.

And that is a huge indictment on all of us today in government. And the fact that in our wonderful Westminster system we still fundamentally operate down the silos of government – and that has stood us well – but I can tell you now that the absolute strong emerging view of citizens is that we join up the horizontal, not just the vertical, and we think very differently around the way we apply that to citizens.

Because it won't surprise you to know that citizens say to me, that I don't really care what level of government meets my need and frankly half the time I don't even know, I just have a need that I want met. And by the way you're not delivering it to me as a customer, you're delivering it to me as a product, down a silo, not seeing me as a total need in terms of government. So a lot of feedback here around a need for improvement.

So we've put together a really broad strategy called Customer Now. And there's not time to discuss it in detail today but not surprisingly it's quite holistic and around the outside is culture because that's what brings all this together in getting that right. And in the middle there is the first part of the culture where it touches the citizen, the delivery of Service NSW. And that was quite deliberate because our interaction with citizens around transactions has been left way behind.

So when I deal with a bank today and do my banking at 2:30 am in the morning, why can't I log onto government and pay my car registration at 2:30 in the morning? Or renew my driver’s license? And so you and I deal with airlines, banks, utilities, all who've got up to speed with a lot of this and we have been a long way behind. So a need for a lot of change.

But that is the strategy that brings a lot of this together and as you'd expect, when you start to get into this, it brings in systems. And I mean that in the whole sense of end-to-end Peter Senge’s Systems Thinking. And then, of course, technology innovation, and so on.

In terms of the model of how we're thinking about operating these changes, it really is three dimensional, around people process and performance with four guiding principles there on how we're thinking about this.

And I'd put it to you, unless you get those three right, you won't be successful. I've always said that bad process beats good people every time. So despite good intention, if you've got bad process you will not be successful. And of course performance in terms of monitoring how we're going is critical, and in Service NSW we have every metric you can think of around service.

We monitor on our mobiles and we just launched this week, you may have seen on our website, the actual wait time for every service centre now. So it is completely transparent and that's absolutely great data for us to help monitor the performance of that business.

Now I just want to talk briefly about Service NSW, around the culture piece. This was really about, as I said, building a capability to fundamentally change the way we interact with government in a transactional sense. Now, simple transactions deliberately – so I'm not talking about complex transactions here at agencies – I’m talking about simple transactions: that I have a need, I have a payment I need to make or whatever it is, I need to get it done and by the way I need to get it done quickly, I need to get out.

Unlike banks who, as you know, when you walk into the designer bank branches, the tellers are right at the back. Why is that? Because they want to sell you stuff on the walk to the teller. If you go into a Service NSW centre, you'll see it's exactly the opposite way around. So license testing which is obviously more intense and time consuming, is at the back and right at the front are the digital counters – and we help you do that – or if you like, to see one of the representatives to deal with you and get you in and out quickly. So the whole design is around that.

But even, in terms of culture and privacy, we've done things here. Like this privacy area, people who come into a bereavement, obviously a very difficult situation. If you have a look at the design, you'll see there's a number of couches that are designed facing away from where all the traffic are and that's very deliberate.

So our operators can sit down in that situation in some privacy and deal with those issues. So there's a lot of thought that's gone into the design. But we measure you from the time you take a ticket to the time you get out, we know why you're there, you know what forms you need, you know what your wait time is etc. and you give a customer satisfaction rating on the way out.

Contact centre: similarly a lot of rigour put into that. Cloud technology 24/7, you only ring one number now to deal with government. We get some incredible questions and Glenn's known for ringing up himself, and testing it and saying, the dog's barking in my neighbours backyard, what do I do? Right. If you want to have a go please try it, I'll be really interested in what response you get. But the operators are trained to take any question. If they can't deal with it they take responsibility for dealing with it and getting back to you, and that's part of our culture which I'll talk to in a moment.

And then thirdly and most importantly is the whole digital piece, around web and increasingly around mobile. Mobile is absolutely the device of choice and it's what you and I want to use and make payments, to get information etc. with government. That app is now up, if you haven't seen it I'd encourage you to download it and have a play around with it. And those of you that might have fines in the room, you'll be able to pay those on there as well, alright? And tell you what your points are, it's all about being transparent and giving you information.

Now the most important thing that we did around culture, what we call our DNA, is when we first got together for this work, rather than us actually get into design thinking on a whole range of things that had to be done, the very first thing we did was our culture.

So we said, what is the culture that we want in Service NSW? And we developed a one pager called our DNA. We recruit to this, we induct to it, we train to it, we manage to it. That is absolutely embedded in who we are. We now have 800 people in Service NSW, we've had two failures in recruitment. And you know the great thing about that, the peers called them out, not us, was at two service centres, they said to these folk, obviously you don't fit. When we went back to check how they got through the gate, they actually didn't get through the gate, but they both appealed and got in, and both failed. So it gave me a lot of confidence in our recruitment processes, they were right.

But the core values – we have only three, which are passion, teamwork and accountability – just over here. And they are the three that we manage to all the time. In terms of the recent People Matter Survey, on the left there are the response rates. The overall public sector response was 19.4, we had a response rate of 97.8 and those researchers in the room will know that response rate correlates very strongly to engagement score.

So really high response rate and you can see on the right some of the responses around some key questions in the survey. And if you look at the employee engagement index, on all those scores are extremely high results. I think most importantly the middle one here, I've always looked at in engagement surveys, would you recommend this as a place to work? Very high response. So when you put all that together, the engagement index for Service NSW is 84 % against the sector at 65.

So example of DNA in terms of what we're doing. One of the things we've developed is what we call circle of service which is fundamentally a kaizen approach to process improvement, those of you that would be familiar with that.

This has been hugely successful, driven off a Yammer platform, so huge communication opportunities as well. We've had over 800 responses to this in the brief time we've had it in market, with about 35% of those to date actually implemented. This creates a very different culture where we genuinely say to our people, what are the things bothering you, in the interactions with citizens, what can we do better? And it's been hugely powerful for us.

Glenn puts out a weekly message and every Friday morning that goes out to the team, all 800. I think one of the really important parts about this, I mean many CEOs do this, but what's important, half that message is made up of messages from the team. So for example, one week it'll be the manager at Wagga putting his message about what's happening with him and his people. Another week, it'll be the contact centre leader, or whoever it might be. And it's a great way to get messages and have them involved in the communication process as well.

And then Yammer I mentioned, huge work on Yammer now around all sorts of things, just basic communication, best practice sharing etc. etc., really important for us in the business. What's the response rate to date? Served 14 million customers in the time we've been a market since July 13. Most importantly, on the bottom left there, it has hit a nerve: 98% customer satisfaction we are still getting. So customers have responded to this hugely; wait times in the middle are a key factor here. And as I said now that's live on the net so you can actually get in and look at that if you're looking to go to one of the centres.

So I showed you some of the negative feedback earlier. Almost daily Glenn and I get this sort of feedback and some of it's pretty amusing. I mean the middle one here was some feedback recently where I used to take my book to renew, now I didn't even get to open my book and it was done.

And then the bottom one here, I'll leave the adjective out but, it has been “beep” ripper and finally left hand speaks to right hand – if the rest of government could get that sorted that'd be great. That is the silo piece I talked about at the beginning. This is what citizens are saying about us and the way we interact. And they are seeing the changes in terms of what we're driving.

So key learnings, just to close out on this? Can I suggest to you that one of the critical things you must do up front when you're thinking about culture is actually develop a culture plan. Now we're good at developing Strat. Plans and Operational Plans and Budgets and you name it, how many of you have a Culture Plan? So mapping out where you are today versus where you'd like to be in your culture, and what are the set of initiatives that go with those changes that you want to make? That to me is fundamental in thinking about culture.

Must be led by leadership teams – an obvious one – but so often it isn't and leaders will speak, they'll talk but they will not act that way. Which brings me to the third point around congruence and alignment. If you're out there as a leader talking about the new culture and you're behaving in a completely different way, it's all over, forget it. You're never going to get by in credibility, so that's really critical and often leaders forget that.

Communication I've talked about, and finally, and this is not just in government by the way, it's also in the private sector, but we are really bad at celebrating success. And you know, when you do have success, make sure you put the time aside to celebrate with your people. They appreciate it. It's good for you to take time out and do it. And most importantly it reinforces the culture that you want going forward.

Thank you.

Peter Mares

Thank you very much Michael, and I'm looking forward to when Service NSW takes over Service Victoria and Service Federal Government, a one stop shop for everything, it's very impressive.

In your program it says that our next speaker is the New South Wales Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione. Unfortunately he's been called away on operational matters. But we're very pleased that we'll hear instead from the Assistant Commissioner Peter Gallagher APM.

Peter Gallagher joined the Force as a cadet in 1976. He's worked around the State as a detective, he's worked internationally with, or studied with, or beside or trained police forces around the world, in Solomon Islands, England, Scotland, Canada, China. And he also was seconded to ICAC, to the Independent Commission Against Corruption where he worked as a senior investigator. And Peter Gallagher, the reason we're very pleased to have Assistant Commissioner Gallagher here is that his current responsibility is as Commander responsible for Professional Standards Command. So please welcome Peter Gallagher.

Peter Gallagher

I wanted to talk to you today just mainly in relation to how we look after unethical conduct, how we deal with you know, a lack of integrity in our offices. I'll give you a quick story, a few years ago there was a young officer out at Hornsby and he was driving a police car stupidly and he actually wrote it off. Now how he got that police car under the car park of Hornsby Police Station and left it there, I've got no idea, we should've given him a medal for that because the thing was completely undriveable.

Now while that was being investigated he went off sick one Friday night and spent the weekend off sick and we couldn't contact him, and you know, just to check on his welfare. He came back to work the following week and you know, he got spoken to about making sure he's available, just so we know you're okay.

But what he'd done that weekend, he'd participated in the surfing competition which he won up in Catherine Hill Bay and then posted his winning on YouTube. So look, we sacked him and I remember going to the...he quite rightly had an appeal to the Industrial Relations Commission, and I remember giving evidence down there and I said, look we haven't sacked him for pranging the police car and we haven't sacked him for rorting his sick leave. What we sacked him for is he lied to everyone about it. He lied to his workmates, he lied to his Sarge, and he'd lied to his Inspector and he lied to me as his Commander.

And the Industrial Relations Commissioner said, well that's fair enough you know, this person has shown such a lack of integrity in relation to how he dealt with this matter that he can no longer be a member of the Police Force. And he appealed to the full bench of the IRC and they upheld the removal, based on the lack of integrity.

So it's a really big issue for us, and last Friday the Commissioner swore in 108 new police officers down at the Goulburn Academy and what he said to them was, look the ethics that you need to display in this organisation is up to you. And it is you, it's just you. If you behave in a manner that your ethics and your integrity is so poor, then – and I lose confidence in you – then I will remove you. And unfortunately what I can say for a number of those 108 officers that were sworn in, in their first 12 months of service they will fail and they will be removed because of lack of integrity.

It's a really really difficult situation for us at the moment in relation to police forces around the world, in relation to leadership in police forces. Because traditionally New South Wales, like so many police forces, we come from really militaristic background and it's still there. Like there's still severe rules and regulations that we use every day. We call it command and control, and it sets us in good stead.

Because you can imagine, you know, at the scene of a siege and someone is shooting at you, it's not time for a “Kumbaya” moment. It's time for someone to take charge, command and control and take you know, resolve that situation. The problem we have is that we then take that command and control leadership environment back into the workplace where it's just not suitable.

Back in the workplace, in HR management. we have to show procedural fairness, a right to know, a right to respond and a right to independent arbitration, we have to know it, we have to show it. And I think for a lot of leaders in our organisation, a lot of managers in our organisation, they really struggle with that and what comes across, especially with new generations of police coming through is that command to control environment that is so important to us out on the street, back in the workplace is actually bullying and harassment, and it is a real problem for us.

So do we need to change our culture? Look I'm actually not a huge believer in culture, I believe that what we are is like many organisations: we're a complex, adaptive system, where each of us are agents within that system. And what becomes the norm for the organisation is how as agents within that system we interact. So how as agents, as senior leaders and managers, we interact and what we show becomes the norm of the organisation.

Leading into the Royal Commission, I can tell you, you know, working in plain clothes through the 1970s, the norm was unfortunately, there was, not, I don't think we were systemically corrupt but there was a high level of corruption. And you know, working as a detective in the eastern suburbs, you know, I actually became aware of it. You didn't have to become involved, and I just said, I didn't become involved, look I was still supported at all the jobs I attended to, I never had a problem with operational matters. I just wasn't invited to too many barbeques, I just got to tell you.

But what happened after that? It's not the culture that's changed, it's the way we interact that's changed. And that's been set about by a very very tight scrutiny of us by oversight bodies: definitely, that's caused us to act in different ways and has become... So acting ethically, fortunately for us has become the norm. So that's the culture, the culture is the way we interact, the way we talk with each other and the way we speak with each other.

And sometimes there's really significant momentum shifts in an organisation to change the way we deal with each other. And for us it was the Royal Commission. So today we deal with matters of unethical conduct on three levels.

Sorry, before I say that. Some unethical conduct is absolutely evident, like last year we locked up a serving senior constable while he was doing an armed robbery – so no-one’s going to have a problem about that bloke, he's still in jail, no issues there.

But sometimes we see some things that happen in the organisation that we're not really sure about. What we try and do, we try and really differentiate between performance and conduct. Where a matter is performance, that is, the person does not know how to do the job, easy, we deal with that by training and development.

A conduct matter is a little bit differently though, what we define conduct as is a deliberate action to do something, or a deliberate failure to do something. And if you add in lack of integrity, then there's always got to be a question of whether or not that person can remain to be an officer in the New South Wales Police Force.

But we deal with them in three different ways. If there's a systemic performance issue or a minor conduct issue, the local area commander, normally a superintendent, will deal with that matter in the workplace. It's very appropriate. Right up to the commissioner, who will lose confidence in an officer and they're removed under our Act. As I mentioned, that removal is subject to review at the Industrial Relations Commission, in that it's either beyond power, harsh, unreasonable or unjust.

Last financial year the Commissioner removed 20 officers out of 16,500: it's not too bad. So the majority of things are dealt with at the local level.

There's another way we deal with things and it's called reviewable action. What it is, it really is in my opinion, a leftover from days long gone. And what we do, we demote people, we hold up their increments, we forcibly transfer them and do things like that. So it is really punishment driven, in my respectful opinion. That level of what we do, in that middle area between local management issues and the Commissioner losing confidence, is all very much about punishment.

What I think that does though, I think it so dramatically affects the officer it does more damage than good. So just in recent years, the Government provided us with some money, and we started to study what it was that's really important for police officers. And over a two year period, we spent three days with over 270 of our officers, employees.

Three things shone through: What's really really important to them, number one, that they believe that they're doing a good job, competence; number two, that they have a say in their workplace; and number three is relatedness, do they actually feel part of a team?

So if we've got an officer that we're not going to sack, and we want to get back to being an absolutely optimum officer on the front line, how the hell does demoting them, holding up their increment or some other punitive type of action, how does that help us get that officer back to being the best that they can? Because you can imagine, can't you, it can affect actually all of those three things. Their feelings of competence, their feeling as relatedness as part of a team, especially if they're forcibly transferred, and their feeling of having a say, in control of what they do in the organisation. Especially if we, you know, deduct their pay or stop them you know, getting paid, you know, when their increment's due.

So for us, I think leadership is about the way we interact, and it's very very important, but for managing integrity and conduct, I think the New South Wales Police Force has come a long way. But I think we do have a bit further to go in relation to removing the command and control punitive style of actions that we take in relation to our officers.

Thank you.

Peter Mares

Thank you very much Assistant Commissioner. Our third speaker is Robert Tickner who has been Secretary General and CEO of the Australian Red Cross for the past 10 years. And in the process has overseen major reforms to that organisation.

And Mr Tickner has also been seconded to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as an Under Secretary General. And of course he was, in the 1990s, a member of the Hawke-Keating Governments and Australia's, in fact, Australia's longest serving Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs …Robert Tickner.

Robert Tickner

Thank you very much. I take refuge in the podium because I've got a few notes here that I might refer to. Can I first of all thank people for the opportunity to talk to you today, I must say I'm a little bit of an imposter because I've never been a public servant, I've been part of a government but most of my life has been in the not-for-profit sector. But your organisers invited me because they wanted me to share some of the case story of the reform of Australian Red Cross that's occurred while I've been privileged to have been in that job. And I guess its relationship to the kinds of issues that you're discussing in your conference.

Can I say also at the beginning, perhaps some very unfashionable things because I'm one person who has a very deep belief in the nobility of public service. I've been privileged to work with some of the finest public servants in Australia. And I certainly owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the New South Wales public service.

And if I could indulge you, just to tell you about that, in a couple of sentences. I went through an adoption reunion process back in the 1990s and I met my birth mother and subsequently my birth father and two brothers and sisters. And I can tell you this, I could not have had a more outstanding professional dedicated group of people, and particular individuals working on that process and I will always owe this enormous debt of gratitude. So there's a personal story, but I say those things on the personal level first, but Red Cross itself has a deep relationship with government, we're called an Auxiliary to Government under International Law.

We’re an organisation that usually mobilises the civilian population in terms of natural disaster. I know Adam Dent, the Commissioner for Emergency Services, is here. He's actually a former Red Cross senior person in Victoria, so you stole him from us. But that's okay, I'm sure you will enjoy his time with you in that critical role.

Can I also just say a couple of other things as well. I'm also, I obviously have that personal history as a Member of Parliament and as a Minister, or as I'm fond of saying to people I don't know and haven't met me, when they ask what I’ve done in my life, I sometimes say, I had the world’s most socially unacceptable occupation. And they immediately say, you weren't a politician were you? So if you feel hard done by as a public servant, don't worry about it, it could be much much worse for you.

But I refer to that because obviously that's a backdrop to some of things I say about ethics and leadership, and I'm not talking in that role but I'm more than happy to pick up on some of those things in the course of any questions.

Can I say that, the story that I'm going to tell you about the Australian Red Cross, is not about me because I'm very much a team player, but as a result of being recruited to be the CEO of Red Cross 10 years ago now. I had the job of driving one of the most, to be frank, fundamental transformations in a major Australian not-for-profit that's been brought about.

Because you all know our Federal system, trying to get anyone to work across State boundaries is hellishly difficult, in a membership based organisation with 30,000 volunteers, 3000 staff in the humanitarian section, another 3000 plus in the blood service and a very complex governance structure that I walked into. I had the task of turning eight separate State's CEOs, eight separate State’s boards into one cohesive national organisation which has been accomplished with unanimous support from all the key stakeholders.

So that's a really important part of the change that we've brought about. I mention it because the challenge was enormous and the great success, I think, of the way we went about building that organisational capacity, was really taking people on the journey, you know, really giving of ourselves and really building that coalition for change in the organisation.

This has been incredibly important, of course, in building the management and governance capacity that we'll talk about in a minute, to provide the national leadership and the change so important around leadership and integrity issues.

Second thing we did as part of the process was to look with an ethical lens at the work that we were doing in Red Cross. You know, we were trying to be all things to all people. Every time we'd see a government contract, you know, the... Unfortunately too many in the not-for-profit sector just chase the contract and that's because of the very fragile base of resources that most not-for-profits have. But you're on a hiding to nothing if you let government contracting drive your strategy.

We have a very proud and good relationship with government but we're very focussed on the eight priority areas that we work in and you can see more about those on the Red Cross website. But the ...Part of the reform that has been so important for us was to stop being all things to all people and to have a very deliberate strategy and that was a very ethical driven, ethically driven decision, as well, because we sought to drive much more of our resources to the areas of greatest vulnerability and greatest need. And I think that's a very very important principle.

So Red Cross now has 150 plus Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, we work in areas supporting prisoners, ex-offenders and their families. We are really reaching out to particularly marginalised communities in various parts of the country and building our capacity and our volunteer base to be able to work in programs in those communities.

Third thing we did that I think is particularly important was essentially around recruitment and the focus on really seeking out outstanding people for leadership positions. I've got a very big national leadership team. It doesn't sit in permanent session but it is still nonetheless a cohesive team that really operates in a very strong and unified way with a very strong focus on ethical behaviour. There are 18 people in that team.

I've been very involved not just in the recruitment of those people but in recruitment of a whole range of other managers in key positions around the country. And in that recruitment, the focus that we have on an ethical underpinning for the recruitment, is always there as one of the major drivers.

I'm privileged to work with people like Michael Raper who many of you know was a former ACOSS [Australian Council of Social Services] president. He heads up our services of international operations. And I have the rest of the team of comparable standing. I like to call it a sort of a cabinet of rivals, you might have heard that expression used in relation to Abraham Lincoln, you know, in that he appointed people who were highly talented, not necessarily always in agreement with each other, but who were going to make a real contribution. And that's the sort of approach that I have tried to adopt in the appointment of people in Red Cross, and giving them the freedom to speak and the freedom to challenge my views as well as the views of each other.

I wanted to say to you that we have some objective evidence that we're doing pretty well. We've now conducted three employment engagement surveys. We've got an 87% participation rate for the entire workforce, 97% of people who answered the survey – and that's a huge percentage of the workforce – strongly believed in the goals and objectives of Red Cross, and 90% were proud to be part of the organisation.

In terms of personal style, everybody’s different, and I wouldn't for a minute seek to give you a prescription but for me it's really important to be close to the volunteers, the staff and the members of the organisation. So all of them have got my mobile number, believe it or not, it's amazing how infrequently that's abused. I gave up having an office. I sit in the workforce, I move around the country wherever I have to be, sit with teams …it freaked them out a bit you know, in the first instance, but they've kind of grown to like it.

But you know, it basically sends the message that we're there as a team, we're as one around our values. I'm going to run out of time, so I'm going to cut to just some other key things. We do a lot of things that you do as well. We place a particular importance as I said, on recruitment. Induction is hugely important for us and the values we talk about in the course of that induction. It's a face-to-face induction and we put a lot into it.

Our learning and development teams are also very focussed on growing the capability of our workforce to ensure we share the same values and goals. We have some, what I might call, core documents, the fundamental principles of Red Cross which include our neutrality, the fact that we don't get into the political realm, that we are fundamentally a humanitarian organisation providing those humanitarian services. And of course that we work for all people, irrespective of their background, their race, their politics, or whatever.

But those core documents include our code of conduct, and our code of conduct is not simply a “Thou shalt not steal” kind of document. It's a very embracing document that tries to build a culture of collaboration and innovation and sets some real expectations out there for the workforce and for our volunteers as well.

Can I say to conclude, because I think my time is up, that these documents you can see on our website, our code of conduct, our ways of working, fundamental principles. And there's also a case study there, just go to Google ‘IFRC’, which is International Federation Red Cross Red Crescent, ‘IFRC case study’ and Australian Red Cross and you'll be able to read that in far greater detail.

Can I say that, in conclusion, for me if there's one thing that I think is really important above all else, in creating a safe space to create a confidence in our workforce and our people, that they have a right to be heard and they have a right to blow the whistle, we have all the policies that you have in that regard. But it is really pounding out that message, that we value and respect our employees, that we want to hear from them, that we want to engage with them and if they think that something is wrong, then you know, they can tell us.

I've just written to every single one of our volunteers, every single one of our employees, given them the mobile again, given them my email address and I can tell you I've been very busy. But I've been looking to ways in which we can really drive improvements in our efficiencies and our processes.

And finally, to end on an optimistic note. I am an optimist, I'm a believer in people. Anyone who's a humanitarian, as I'm sure you are as well, has to believe that. But of course there are occasionally the crooks or the cretins, you know, the people who let down the team, who don't uphold our values. And of course we need the systems and the processes to be able to hold them accountable, to discover when things go wrong and to properly be able to deal with those things.

But I guess at the end of the day, I do think, in conclusion, that this is a very exciting conference and I think it will make a real contribution to having a more ethical public sector, and not just here in New South Wales, but I think it will have a ripple effect in other parts of the country as well. So my warm congratulations.

Thank you.

Peter Mares

So I'm going to invite our three speakers back to the comfy chairs, and I'm going to invite you to put up your hand, ask a question, make an observation. Don't be shy. We have the roving microphones as usual, I'm aware that I've been asking most of the questions, I don't want to crowd you out but I will if you don't do it yourself.

So what...the... I'm going to whip around in front here and sit on the end. The starting point, the question I want to put to you all, while our audience are just thinking about their questions is, the tension between, the idea that you want your staff to be able to take, or all your volunteers as the case may be, you want them to be able to be innovative, you want them to be able to take risks but they also have to follow a central direction – there's a policy, there's a set of guidelines etc. How do you deal with that tension between ...and it might be particularly difficult, I guess, in the police force?

Peter Gallagher

As you can imagine, we've got more policies and procedures than you can poke a stick at. I think that we need too. The secret is, to continually look at your policies and procedures. Are they having the right effect on the people in the organisation? And if not, and if there's systemic evidence that they're not, then we need to be brave enough to challenge, you know, what sometimes has become the norm in the organisation.

Peter Mares

Michael, do you want to talk about this? Because I presume you want your, you know, your frontline staff in Service NSW to be as helpful as possible to staff, but they still have to implement government policy. I mean, they're still working within a confined area of what they can do.

Michael Pratt

Absolutely, and I think to echo somewhat the point that's just been made, I mean clearly there's legislation and there's regulation, there's policy that all sits around that. What we're trying to do though is create a culture where what, rightfully, that can be questioned.  And an environment where people feel safe to speak up and to say, look in this particular case we should go right back to policy actually and review it. And a great example we dealt with recently was the Seniors Card where it was a requirement to not only turn 60 but to have a Stat. Dec. (signed by a JP) that you only work 20 hours a week. When we took that digitally – that used to take about 12 days by the way – to get done and we thought there's a great opportunity to re-engineer that process end to end.

And it's now three minutes for a senior to log on their iPad or whatever and do it. But the point being that we took that Stat Dec but next week if I work 30 hours absolutely nothing happened. And so the people who re-engineered that process asked all the right questions and that's the point about how you balance it I think. And that ended up being a policy change, so it's about, I come back to, culture again because I think it's about creating the right environment.



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