Interview: Michael Saddington Corporate Services Manager Westpac Group, Barangaroo
Westpac Group was the first to join the International Towers community. Over three years in the planning, it provided the two-century old organisation a unique opportunity to transition to a leading, contemporary workplace culture and operation, within an environment that shared the organisations values, and was actively engaged in delivering world-class support services.
Michael Saddington is the Corporate Services Manager for the Westpac Group at Barangaroo. He shares his personal story, and insights into the journey of joining Australia’s most progressive workplace community.
I’ve been with Westpac for three and a half years. My professional history is a little unusual actually, as I managed theatres, both in the West End of London and in Sydney for most of my working life. It just so happened I was working for a theatre owned by Lendlease at the MLC Centre in Sydney, and they asked if I’d be interested coming to help their team at their Australia Square head office. And that’s how my career in property began! I think Lendlease was looking for someone who understood the various aspects of property management, along with front of house services, customer service, even food and beverage operations, all of which you deal with when running theatres. So on the surface it may appear that theatre management has very little in common with managing property or a corporate workplace, however in practice, there are far more commonalities than not.
So my most significant role with Lendlease was working on the Campus MLC project in North Sydney, which was a pioneering development at the time, and that was my first foray into the world of the workplace as a cultural change enabler. I’ve been fascinated by that ever since, and that’s the area I’ve worked in for the past 18 years.
More recently I’ve worked with Westpac in consolidating team working in over a dozen different buildings into two central locations, one being at International Towers.
What became evident is that if there is a need for cultural change, it must firstly come from within the organisation itself. There has to be a deep belief and commitment to the change. However the act of physically moving to a new location provides a very real and tangible opportunity to enable that change. In a way, it allows you to tear up the old rule book, and introduce new ideas, a new vision and new processes. Westpac is a 201 year old company, and it’s an organisation that wants to continually evolve and improve, which means having a solid strategy for managing change.
Our WorkSMART program was a great example of that – the move from a static, somewhat traditional way of working to a much more dynamic, agile workplace, with the ability to build teams that can contract or expand as needed in a way that is far more flexible, agile and much faster than would have been possible previously, and of course harnessing the power of technology to help enable this level of progress.
There’s so much talk about employee engagement and productivity, and it has so much to do with placemaking – not just the physical attributes of an individual workspace, such as ergonomic chairs, laptops, apps, etc., but the entirety of the space itself – big open spaces, high ceilings which provide healthy access to natural light, the sustainability programs and commitments that both Westpac and International Towers share, the quality of the air, indoor greenery, the views – all of these things combine so powerfully. Both Westpac as a tenant and International Towers as host share so many of the same values and have made significant investments to make the well-being of everyone within the community here the absolute top priority.
This is now such a thriving, dynamic precinct, and that itself is an enabler of some of the changes needed to evolve and grow an organisation.
Apart from the ongoing task of helping to physically relocate people from one location to another, and to help them transition to a new way of working, the one thing that keeps me personally challenged and interested is something that is I believe unique to Westpac, which is a mandate to treat our employees the way we would our customers. So, trying to build a service culture for the organisation, which ties into our vision to be one of the world’s great service companies, by providing a concierge service to everyone in our workplace. When we started that concept – to provide workplace concierge services to support people on their new agile workplace journey, and provide them all the help and technology to enable that successfully – we very quickly realised the benefits of being able to deal with any issues almost immediately, purely because there was now a dedicated resource to service all their needs.
There are so many things that we as an organisation, and that International Towers share in common – and I believe this likely to be true for all of the partner tenants within the International Towers community – such as support for diversity in the workplace, whether that be a commitment to equal representation of women in leadership roles, support for people with a disability, support for the LGBTQI community, support for our Indigenous communities, commitments to sustainability and recycling – there are so many conscious and active areas of support that are aligned, which provides a powerful and very solid foundation on which to build a highly positive and effective organisational culture.
I have the responsibility for the Westpac Group tenancy at Barangaroo, which is a community of about 6,000 people. So our team is responsible for all the property specific elements, such as maintenance, air conditioning systems, housekeeping, etc, basically all the property management relating to our individual workplace, and working very closely with the services team at International Towers to ensure everything is operational and functioning as it should be.
And this is where it gets extraordinary, in my view, because you have an organisation in Westpac that believes absolutely in having the one of the world’s best service cultures, working in a world-class precinct, and within a workplace, in International Towers, that is equally committed to delivering a world-leading service culture. So the marriage of these two bodies, with aligned values, creates a remarkable environment for both the prosperity of the individual, as well as the business.
The experience coming in to International Towers was different from the start. We knew this was going to be a flagship building, we knew Lendlease was going to create something very special in terms of the precinct. It was a bold and ambitious project, and not many organisations have the capacity to execute that the way Lendlease do, so when we first had a conversation about coming to International Towers, it was framed by our understanding that this was a historic moment for the Westpac Group.
However, right from the beginning, the experience working with International Towers was unique. At the very start, all the teams and future tenants who would be working together at Barangaroo were taken to Cockatoo Island for a cultural alignment day, focusing on how we could all work together to create a service culture. That in itself was something I had never experienced, and truly demonstrated how aligned our values really were. And in some ways, having a “landlord” that believes so strongly in service and culture actually helps to inspire us to do things better – in my experience this normally works the other way around!
That degree of care, of thinking, of investment in the ambition to make this one of the best workplaces in the country, is one of the things that enables us as a tenant to reach our own goals.