Changing the Work Environment at Afford

In 2018, Afford was named Voice Project’s Change Challenge award winner for the large organisation category. It was a truly remarkable achievement for Afford, who in the space of just two years transformed the work environment for their 1300 strong workforce. These efforts helped to engender:

  • An average 5% improvement across all engagement survey questions, which is difficult to achieve in a large organisation
  • A 27% improvement on Cross-Unit Cooperation
  • A 22% reduction in voluntary turnover
  • An 85% reduction in client exits

As a disability service provider navigating the challenges of transition to the NDIS, one of their key improvements was staff satisfaction with how the organisation managed change.

Below we asked Afford how they were able to so successfully address the three priorities identified in their survey, as well as handle the process of change as an organisation.

A Short Q&A with Afford, the 2018 Change Challenge Award Winner

Describe the actions you took to achieve change in:

1) Technology
Ideas and implementation plans were discussed with Senior Managers across the business. They then communicated with Team Leaders, who communicated with Lifestyle Assistants. During this time, all staff were involved in our final solutions and all their ideas were discussed and considered.

Once the final solution was agreed upon, we advised all staff how we were going to implement technology upgrades such as improved WiFi and remote access connectivity.

2) Change & Innovation
We implemented “Project Teams” from across the business to make sure that all areas of the organisation had representation. Again, all staff were encouraged to put ideas forward, big or small, and all were discussed.

In addition to this:

  • We set up a group email (called “Burst of Brilliance”) that staff could send their ideas to
  • A reward and recognition program was introduced to acknowledge employees whose ideas were implemented
  • New policies and procedures were written, made easily accessible on the intranet, and discussed at each team meeting across Afford

3) Cross-Unit Cooperation
As a multi-disciplinary team going into the NDIS, we wanted to work on our Cross-Unit Cooperation issues very quickly and create a cohesive team. Accordingly:

  • Conferences were set up for all staff across the business - not division specific
  • Customer Service Awards were introduced to enable employees to recognise colleagues across Afford
  • Induction days involved all new employees regardless of division
  • We added a “Staff Profile” section to our organisation-wide weekly newsletters

What were the main obstacles and challenges to achieving positive change in Afford?

For us, the biggest challenge was to make sure that all changes were communicated before the grapevine took hold. For this reason, our reaction to changes and new processes was almost instantaneous.

The management team with Afford have been, and remain, committed to ensuring that all “good news stories” and positive feedback are shared and discussed.

Did your change go as planned?

As with most change, there were obstacles and hurdles. This happened mostly in the rollout of new technology, with all the I.T. type glitches that can disrupt a perfect implementation plan.

Whenever this happened, our CEO and CFO were on the front foot communicating what the issue was, what the solution was, and the expected delay so that employees were kept updated. For longer delays, information was published in our weekly newsletters as well.

Which factors were the main contributors to your organisation’s success in achieving change?

Our CEO believes in complete transparency, and this filters all the way through the organisation.

We also have a senior management team all “singing from the same song sheet”, which presents Afford as being run by like-minded, positive, and highly respected individuals no matter which area they’re from.

Do you think these initiatives could be applied to other teams or organisations?

Absolutely, without a doubt.

It is all about making employees accountable, and having their ideas heard and seriously considered. They know that they are part of an organisation that’s heavily invested in them.

Each individual has something unique to offer, and we appreciate and welcome that here at Afford.

What do you think of Afford's journey of change, and how would your own organisation handle change throughout a difficult period? Please comment and share your thoughts and experiences below.