A culture of innovation
The Harvey Health and Community Services Group is a privately-run community health organisation that has been providing aged care services to Harvey, Western Australia for almost 30 years. Originally, the Group was incorporated from a community committee established to look at the health and welfare needs in the local area. They secured government funding for some home and community care programs, and have evolved from a small organisation run wholly by volunteers into a group with more than 100 employees and a budget of more than $1 million a year.
Today, the Group remains a not-for-profit and a non-government organisation. They now provide a whole range of home and community care services to aged and disable people in the area, including physiotherapy, occupational services and more.
Claire Roach is the Executive Officer of the Group. After earning several diplomas in management and business fields, she started her career in the mining industry before progressing into the education sector. Over the years, she’s run a number of private organisations and government departments, and she brought that experience to the Harvey Health and Community Services Group more than seven years ago. Since she joined, she has helped the organisation grow at a sustained rate of 10 to 14 per cent every year.
Over the last decade or so, the aged care industry has experienced many changes in funding structures and regulations. According to Claire, however, her industry background has helped Harvey Health and Community Services Group to adapt and evolve.
“I’ve always felt that it’s important to strategically position our organisation to accommodate changes when they come,” she explains. “We spend a lot of time scanning the environment and going to network meetings, and generally keeping an eye on the changes that are being handed down. We make sure we have our systems and processes in place to handle the change when it occurs.”
“We tend to embrace the changes, and we tend to embrace it early,” she adds. “We even have experience with other providers in the local area contacting us for help in terms of implementing changes. It’s something we do quite well.”
Claire adds that the Group is also able to stay ahead of the changing aged care environment due to their focus on innovation. She says the Group’s whole team – from the top down – is trained to always look for new opportunities and embrace improvements wherever they can be found.
“And we’re innovative about how we do it,” she says. “We have opportunities for brainstorming, we have staff development days, and people are rewarded for coming up with good ideas. There are multiple systems woven through our organisation to support that culture of change and innovation.”
“We like to think of ourselves as being leaders rather than followers in community aged care,” she explains.
Friendly and supportive
A common challenge in the aged care sector is retaining staff. At Harvey Health and Community Services Group, however, they have a lot of “support mechanisms in place” to earn the loyalty of a lot of “really good, solid people” – people that fit right in with the Group’s culture of empathy, accountability, and innovation.
“We have what I would consider to be a friendly and supportive environment,” Claire says. “And I know the staff would back me up on that.”
“We have flexible work arrangements, so our staff can attend school assemblies, or attend to their child if they are sick,” she explains. “We even let some staff bring their dogs to work. Because we have a day centre here, and we have a lot of aged and disabled people who come to our centre to attend different groups – social groups, exercise groups, that kind of thing. We find that having a couple of pets in the building is really good for not only the staff, but also for our clients.”
“A lot of them may have had pets when they were younger, but may be in a position now where they can’t take care of a pet,” Claire continues. “So they really appreciate having a friendly dog around.”
When it comes to their staff, Harvey Health and Community Services Group also promotes a “culture of training and development,” Claire says.
“We encourage people to upskill, and we do pay for their training if it’s directly related to the industry and will bring benefits to the organisation.”
The HESTA Aged Care Awards recognise the dedication and professionalism of those working in aged care. In 2013, they recognised that dedication in the Harvey Health and Community Services Group, and named them as a finalist for their Team Innovation Award.
“We were very excited about that,” says Claire of the awards attention. “From a management point of view, I find it’s really valuable as a motivator for staff. And it’s also a way of recognising the fabulous job they do. They get recognised on an individual basis, but it’s lovely to have something that indicates that our organisation is up there with the best of them nationally.”
The HESTA nomination was earned by the group’s “Gopher Gold Team,” for the work they did informing and empowering older people and those with disabilities, by providing information on services that can improve their health, independence, and lifestyle.
“Because our nomination was in the Team Innovation, instead of me attending the awards night in Sydney, I actually sent three of our staff,” Claire says. “At the same time, we had a group of our staff here in Harvey, WA, here in our activity room. We had a Skype link with our people in Sydney, so we could all be there. I think that really speaks to the closeness of our team, and the supportiveness of the environment here.”
Claire credits the nomination to the fact that at Harvey Health and Community Services Group, they “simply do remarkable things.”
“We are an innovative organisation,” she reiterates. “We take a slightly different approach than more traditional organisations within our industry. We like to get out there, we like to market things, and we like to keep our clients informed – which we do through a number of different means.”
One of the Group’s best marketing tools is their monthly newsletter, which Claire describes as “actually a really good quality magazine,” which they have professionally-produced.
“That’s one of the best means we have of informing clients and the community as to what we’re doing, and we get a lot of feedback from that, which we love.”
Moving forward, Claire says the vision for the Group is to maintain that innovative streak, and to continue to stay one step ahead of the changing aged care environment. In the very near future, that will mean relocating to a new premises on what was once an agricultural college.
“We’re going to have an entire campus under our jurisdiction,” Claire explains. “That will allow us to expand in a whole lot of different areas that w-e haven’t been able to up until now, because we have been constrained by the relatively small building we’re in at the moment.”
For example, she says they are looking forward to increasing their range of occupational therapy services, and building on their range of home and community care services. They are also having a computer network installed, with fibre optic cable and free wi-fi. On top of that, they are adding a facilities management company to the group, and are going to set up and run a conference centre and retreat for other not-for-profit organisations.
“We’re just going to have so many more options,” Claire says. “This is a big step for us, and we’re excited about what the future holds.”