“Our DNA, our purpose, is really putting the person at the center of everything we do.”
This is the guiding principle behind New Horizons, Australia’s leading non-profit social enterprise, as shared by Judi Higgin, CEO of the company.
“It’s really about wrapping services around people. It’s about their journey,” said Higgin during a recent interview. “Wellbeing is very individual and different for everybody, and we recognise it’s not meant to be a cookie-cutter, rubber stamp approach, but rather a very unique experience.”
Working across aged care, disability, homelessness, Indigenous services, employment, mental health and social enterprise, it’s the diversity of the skills and experience housed by New Horizons that makes them stand above the rest.
From Humble Beginnings to a Social Enterprise
“We’re an organisation with roots dating back to the 60s, started by a group of parents who wanted something better for their adult children with a disability,” said Higgin.
Founded in 1981, New Horizons began with the intention to offer employment opportunities for young adults. Over the following 30 years, the organisation grew to offer services and supports for people to find and maintain accommodation, seek meaningful employment, manage day-to-day tasks, learn new skills, access services, establish networks and connect with the broader community.
“Over the years, the organisation has grown in terms of diversity and size,” shared Higgin, “a lot of that growth occurring during the last 10 to 15 years.” The success of New Horizons can be attributed to a number of reasons, but a primary factor is the organisation’s drive to transform the customer experience. “In light of recent changes in the sector, driven by the launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, we’ve released our Design for the Future and Strategy for Success,” said Higgin. “These plans detail a number of key priorities to future-proof our business so more people can benefit from our unique approach to enhancing wellbeing.”
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) represents the single biggest change to the community sector in Australia’s history. By the end of 2019, it is estimated that more than 460,000 people nationally will be participating in the NDIS, which is estimated to cost $22.2 billion dollars annually. The change brings the industry into line with the individualised and personalised approach New Horizons has been taking for more than 30 years. It also provides the organisation with one of the single biggest opportunities for continued growth.
Staying Ahead of the Times
Staying on top of constantly changing trends and new developments in any industry is a challenge on its own, but New Horizons is staying ahead of the curb by keeping a finger on the pulse both internally and externally.
“Recognising that the entire sector was catching up to delivering customer-centric supports rather than program-centric services, we decided it was time to do some reflecting of our own,” Higgin said. “Teaming up with more than 90 top executives from the Commonwealth Bank, we conducted an honest assessment of our business blueprint to ensure we were up to the challenges ahead in the sector.
“Over a period of 12 months, we put a microscope to our systems and processes, and completely reviewed our organisational structure, which revealed where we were, where we wanted to be, and how we needed to change. What we came up with was a model for the community services company of the future.”
A Plan Distinct from the Rest
With a plan to improve greater focus across the business and enhance their ability to meet customer needs, New Horizons has released their Design for the Future and Strategy for Success. One of the first steps in implementing these plans has been to reorient the business into a regional structure, with all roles and resources aligned in six key business divisions.
In ensuring New Horizons is also equipped to meet the demands of their customers, team and industry in the coming decades, the organisation has released four strategic priorities critical to their ongoing success.
Financial Strength: Building on the sound economic management and investment practices that underpin New Horizons independence and security.
Sustainable Growth: Defining a vision and developing a strategy to achieve future growth in a planned and sustainable way.
One Team. One Horizon: Establishing and promoting a single culture that aligns with the business’s vision, purpose and values.
Customer Centric: Realigning our business, our policies and our practices towards the future, customer-oriented market.
“We’re quite diverse when it comes to our service provision, which is why we needed a plan that would really align our efforts,” commented Higgin. “Diversity is one of our strengths and one of the things that sets us apart. This Design for the Future and Strategy for Success will allow us to be fresh in our approach and continue to deliver value for our customers and stakeholders.”
Building an Empowered and Efficient Team
With close to 900 team members across NSW, it takes an effective management program to attract and sustain such a large staff at New Horizons.
Over the years, New Horizons has invested in establishing a workforce that is not only experienced to meet the needs of New Horizons customers, but is also as committed as the organisation is to enhancing wellbeing.
“We know that our people are our biggest asset,” said Higgin. “Our organisational development, people management and recruitment priorities ensure we recognise, invest and provide opportunities for our internal staff, as well as attract top talent to set us apart.
“Over the last 10 years we’ve focused on our frontline workers getting their certificate III or IV in disability, mental health studies and welfare,” said Higgin. “Most of our middle managers have also gone through an Advanced Diploma in Community Sector Management. Recently, our entire workforce also undertook cultural competency training to ensure we’re up-to-speed on latest practices for the benefit of our customers.”
“We’ve really invested in our people that may not have had the opportunity before to gain their qualifications,” added Higgin.
When it comes to leadership, Higgin believes in empowering her team. Helping them gain their qualifications is one way, but she also believes in supporting them no matter what their career progression may be.
“We want to make sure that we are supporting people to gain the skills and capabilities that they need to be able to do their job really well and also continue to attract top talent,” said Higgin. “We have a number of reward and recognition programs for staff available, remuneration and benefit packages, and are constantly seeking feedback to improve.”
Bottom line, according to Higgin, is to give her team the experience for their own professional development.
“We live and breathe by our values of enhancing wellbeing and I want to extend that to our team,” said Higgin.
Always Striving Higher
“In this world, you definitely need to think about not just how you’re going to survive, but also what an organisation needs to look like in an ever-changing environment,” said Higgin.
So what does New Horizons have planned?
“In the next five years, I’d like to have grown our customer base and completely transformed our customer experience,” shared Higgin. “I want to do more good for the communities we work in because that’s what we’re all about. We’re all about people – about maximising wellbeing outcomes for each individual.”