The Sutherland District Trade Union Club (Tradies)

The Sutherland District Trade Union Club (Tradies) has been selected as an ABA100® Winner for Process Improvement in The Australian Business Awards 2020. The Australian Business Award for Process Improvement [BPI] recognises organisations that have achieved outstanding results through initiatives that demonstrate excellence in the field of business process improvement.

The Sutherland District Trade Union Club (Tradies) is part of the Registered Club industry in NSW. Since opening its doors in 1960, the club has grown and developed into an integral pillar of the community; supporting charity and junior sporting groups through financial and in-kind donations, providing local employment and offering a safe and welcoming environment for members and guests to socialise. From humble beginnings with just a handful of passionate Trade Union members, the club now operates 3 successful venues in Gymea, Caringbah and Helensburgh with a membership base of 57,000 people. The club measures its success by community contributions and in the last financial year alone, the club donated in excess of $900,000 to over 110 junior sport and charitable organisations in the Illawarra and Southern Sydney region. The Tradies team is made up of 200 employees ranging from 18 to over 70 years of age and a Board of Directors, elected by the club members. Together, their mission is ‘To proudly support our members, community and environment’. This mission is achieved by following the club’s five organisational values; integrity, empowerment, unity, wellbeing and sustainability. These values underpin all club decisions, both inside the venues and out in the community, where the club is active in volunteering, donations and partnerships. Within the club industry, Tradies has long held a reputation for innovation and excellence across all aspects of business from corporate social responsibility to sustainability and employee wellbeing.

Although Tradies is a not-for-profit organisation, the club strives to maintain a successful business model with offerings including restaurants, cafes, function & event facilities, kids clubs, bars, gaming facilities, entertainment and promotions for members and guests. The driving force behind each of these offerings is the club’s purpose: supporting their members by providing a welcoming environment for them to enjoy, helping their community grow and develop to its full potential and protecting the environment through sustainable practices.

The need to improve processes at Tradies became apparent after a drastic change in leadership at the club. As the toxic cloud of the old workplace culture lifted in late 2017, worrying discrepancies were revealed across many of the club’s policies & procedures. The team developed a long term three-step strategy to ensure future success for the club, the team and the club’s key stakeholders (members, community and partners). The first step was to assess all critical discrepancies and issues such as those that were costing the organization money or were significantly behind on best practice. The second step was to lay the foundations for cultural change and re-engage employees with the club’s purpose and values. The third step was to tackle the haphazard internal policies and procedures for everything from stock takes and bar wastage to employee contracts, induction and loyalty programs. The idea was not to find fault, but to find solutions and more effective ways of working and using resources. With the foundations now in place for greater financial transparency, security and efficiency, the Board appointed the club’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), Joumana Jacob, a new Compliance Manager portfolio in October 2018. The Compliance portfolio included maintaining the new standard by overseeing departmental audits, WHS, compliance with all relevant legislation, systems and contracts. With the cultural shift firmly underway, the team progressed to focusing on processes that directly impacted frontline operations.

One of the most meaningful outcomes of Tradies mission to improve processes and efficiencies, was the proof that process and culture are inextricably linked. Overall, the Board and Management Team believes that the success of the initiatives is owed not only to the realization that culture and process are linked, but also the team’s dedication to living the organizational values, in particular Integrity, Empowerment and Unity. Even before they were introduced in November 2018, these values underpinned every action throughout this initiative. The initiative was launched in order to establish a transparent, sustainable and ethical business model. It was with integrity and fairness that contracts were re-tendered. Results from the Employee Engagement Survey and the subsequent action plan were shared publicly to show the club’s commitment to Integrity and moving forward as a unified team. Using the organizational values to guide decisions on strategy and action plans firmly embedded them into the club’s culture and laid a solid foundation for process improvement. Tradies is committed to using their own experience to assist other clubs trying to navigate the line between being a ‘not for profit’ but also being a ‘business’.  The success of the initiative is further demonstrated by commitments already made by the club to continue monitoring and improving processes, such as the Tradies Management Team completing the ‘Workplace Mental Health & Wellbeing’ Training with the Black Dog Institute. This forms part of Tradies commitment to WHS and employee wellbeing, as well as ensuring the club is compliant with best practice processes for supporting employees experiencing mental health difficulties.

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