Warrigal CEO Jenni Hutchins discusses equity
This International Women’s Day, we asked our CEO Jenni Hutchins some questions about her thoughts on the meaning of the day, and how #Warrigal is embracing equity.
See her thoughts below.
What does embracing equity mean to you?
Embracing equity, particularly gender equity, means that men and women are treated fairly, equally and are compensated in equivalent terms for their work. Women, for generations have worked hard to be seen and have their voices heard. This includes arguing for the right to vote, the right to be educated and the right to equal pay. They have done this, often, whilst leading families, being single parents, caring for children and parents.
How is Warrigal currently embracing equity/promoting female empowerment in the workplace?
Diversity of gender, culture and age brings a richness of thinking, innovation and reward to Organisations. As a human services Organisation, Warrigal embraces equity – both for our clients and customers as well as our employees. Over 85% of our employees are women, half of our Board are women and the same can be said for our executive team. One of the particular joys of this role has been listening to our older women – women in their 90’s who started the fight for gender equality, for rights for women, to be treated fairly – and hearing them say that they are proud that the new CEO is a woman. It reminds me of the generations of work that has gone on before us and our responsibility to keep up the work, to keep fighting for equity, for equality and for difference in the workplace. Research shows that women add value to the workplace in many ways.
Two of our greatest tools at Warrigal are our signature behaviours (called The Warrigal Way) and our values. Warrigal is a values-based not-for-profit. We recognise the richness in culture and how that builds productivity and skills in the workplace. Warrigal’s workforce, a workforce focussed on our clients, leans in on these values and behaviours to create an environment that supports all women to reach their heights in terms of career and aspirations.
As CEO what is your vision for how Warrigal will further embrace equity for women in the workplace?
Workplace culture has to be at the centre of how we embrace equity. Having succession plans, building career and employee programs that enable success, recognising challenges in people’s home lives and working with them. Acknowledging the impact of trauma and working with it. Adopting Domestic and Family Violence Leave. Regarding women as skilled and integral to Warrigal’s success, providing women with the opportunity, skills and tools to succeed, mentoring women to be successful – being an ally in a woman’s quest to grow and build her career. Being grateful, humble and thankful.
What do you think we can do to empower women in the workplace, particularly aged care?
Acknowledging women’s role in human services – Look. At. The. Stats. Overwhelmingly women. If we pause and ask why, we would recognise the broader familial, connecting and community roles women play in the community and workforce. Our role is to show that women can do anything. Women can be the CEO of their own lives, they can direct their passion, their interest, their career, their life. Validating women’s roles and their importance is vital in aged care. At Warrigal, we are helping families traverse through some of the toughest stages of the life span – ageing and dying. Our employees do this with such dignity and respect. As a society, it would be great to see us respect the important, honouring work this is.
What do you think women bring to the workplace, particularly in leadership roles?
I AM SHOUTING EMPATHY! EMPATHY! EMPATHY! Sorry for shouting, but empathy, caring, experience, love. Women bring their soft skills to leadership. Soft skills are just as important as hard skills.
Do you have any messages or advice for women wanting to grow their careers?
Lean on other women to help you. Be aspirational. It is OK to be aspirational. Surround yourself with other women who will push you to try what you thought you couldn’t do. Be humble, gracious and be kind.
Mark's CEO Reflection
In July 2022, I announced that I would be retiring from full-time work as the CEO at Warrigal. As I enter this new and exciting stage of life as a retiree, it has allowed me time to reflect on my career and life experiences.
After 15 years of being a CEO, 20 years before that in management (10 of which were in Government), and being on seven boards (four of which I have been the chair), I have been lucky enough to learn from many different people while establishing my own views on what I believe what not only makes a great leader, but a great contributor to our workplaces and communities.
I’d love to share with you some of the things that I have learned over the years, and tips I would like to pass on for your own lives and careers.
Tip 1 – Get good at prompt decision making.
A leader’s success is summed up in how good they are at making decisions. Big, small, annual, daily – they all matter and define your role. Delays cost money, and in some situations, can even cost lives. Most of the frustration experienced in organisations is a result of poor decisions that are poorly communicated. It’s best to make a call, explain the why, move forward, and have no regrets.
Tip 2 – Know what a good process looks like.
I’ve also noticed that a good leader is also dedicated to good management of good organisational processes – especially when it comes to customer service. Transactions are important to get things done, and good processes work for everything & everyone. Don’t restructure with disruptive changes. Instead continually refine the systems and processes you have in place. Continuous improvement is almost always better than a distracting reorganisation.
Get rid of the red tape, and instead create repeatable, simple, sound processes – this is what makes a good organisation.
Tip 3 – Relationships matter most.
This might just be the most important suggestion of all. Create a people-centred culture. It works, because people matter most! A culture of trust enables engagement and satisfaction that enlarges all of your efforts. Don’t make it harder for yourself – magnify your leadership, and encourage everyone around you.
Trustworthy engagement greases the wheels of everything you do, and the CEO’s role is to be the Chief Encouragement Officer.
And finally – some personal tips…
When managing yourself, give it all away to get it all back. Your time, your talent, and so on isn’t for you, it’s for others. Be generous and responsive, and set the tone for everyone around you as a giver not a taker. Imagine if your team and everyone around you did the same. Even in your family – your children & grandchildren’s lives could be enlarged. It would be a compelling approach for everyone who came into contact with you. Challenge yourself to treat the world better than it treats you. Reciprocity works, give it a go. Don’t hold back.
Introducing the Warrigal Way
This year Warrigal won the National Provider of the Year Award from Aged and Community Services Australia. It’s a major achievement recognising the 51 years of outstanding work by everyone who has been part of the Warrigal journey including our incredible customers, wonderful volunteers, kind staff, innovative business partners and our inspiring community – and we thank them all for their contribution to this great vision that older people across the Illawarra and Southern Highlands could have great lives!
So why did we win? It can be summed in the one unique element that sets us apart from the thousands of other services across Australia – The Warrigal Way.
And what is the Warrigal Way I hear you ask? It’s something that’s been created over a number of years, built into our DNA. I really believe it comes from our origins in being established by a group of community-minded volunteers. Some of whom are still part of Warrigal today, like the inspiring Norm Rowland, still a volunteer at Warrigal at the mere age of 98! It means we have been a part of our community since day one, and this continues to be how we operate.
We are about to embark on a conversation with our community about what the Warrigal Way means to them. But for me, it is about putting older people first in everything we do; engaging them at every level of the organisation; smashing ageist paradigms and changing mindsets about aged care and retirement living; and building an intentional culture that celebrates all of this and more.
It is also about the everyday little things that are vitally important: that we are all about fresh food and serving fresh food choices at every meal at every aged care home; delivering lifestyle and wellness programs with an emphasis on connection not illness; and building inspiring communities through an approach that enables people to create their home environment when they move in with Warrigal.
Then there’s the other details like the fact we are owned and governed by community volunteers, not rich investors! There are no shareholders, or bonuses or executive privileges. We have gold level environmental sustainability initiatives and a relentless search for innovative improvements with our university research partnerships.
But most of all, it’s that we create affordable, inspiring communities for older people with exceptional places and a compelling purpose…this is what makes the Warrigal Way.
When I show family, friends, colleagues and others through some of our homes and villages they are genuinely surprised. Often they say “This is not what I thought aged care was” – and that’s the response we want people to have when they come to our places. That’s the Warrigal Way.
Think you know aged care? Think again! Step inside our Shell Cove community and be part of the difference!
Building a Collective Culture - The Warrigal Way
Last year, I sat down to be interviewed for episode 1 of The Collective Question – a series that discusses the idea of creating a ‘collective’ purpose-driven team as a priority, and placing the needs of the group back to the centre of our corporate consciousness.
They speak to thought leaders and experts from around corporate Australia to learn from their experiences, and I was honoured to represent Warrigal and the aged care industry when I sat down to chat with one of the Boardroom Media reporters, Velvet-Belle Templeman.
We spoke about how to build a collective culture in the workplace through honesty, recognition, and collaboration, the challenges that we may face along the way, as well as what it means to be a part of The Warrigal Way.
If you’d like to watch the interview for yourself, click on the link here.
Designing for Dementia - Doors hold the key to feeling like home
Dementia is a very big issue for Australia. There are 425,416 Australians living with dementia and an estimated 1.2 million Australians involved in their care and #Every3Seconds someone in the world develops dementia.
Being an award winning aged care and retirement living provider in SE NSW, Warrigal wants to offer our customers the best building and interior designs to ensure people living with dementia at Warrigal experience comfort and ease.
Recent research conducted by Warrigal and the University of Wollongong (UOW) has supported the implementation of striking door designs in assisting with way-finding around our homes.
In several of our aged care homes across the Illawarra, doors into resident own spaces have been designed with unique architectural features including colours, front door mouldings, room numbers, and different door knobs to help support customers to feel at home and to help recognise their own private suite more easily. The hallways have also been designed with brick and timber wall wraps to further support wayfinding.
Some of the other features of the newest aged care community at the Shell Cove Marina include a 1950s backyard complete with a timber shed and an original looking Hills Hoist to encourage connection and reminiscence.
Warrigal is now building on this knowledge with specific dementia training, partnering with the well regarding Dementia Training Australia at the UOW. We are implementing new ideas, fresh thinking and innovative approaches to help improve the lives of people with dementia and their family and friends and helping to create a dementia-friendly world. Anyone can make an appointment to visit Warrigal’s locations by contacting the Service Innovation Team on 1800WARRIGAL.