How Disability Support Organisations Can Lead with a Culture-First Approach

Businesses all over the world attempt to create something that disability support organisations already have in spades: Humanity. 

Workplace experts such as Culture Amp and Deloitte praise the benefits of a purpose-driven workforce. It’s said to drive higher workplace engagement, improved customer satisfaction, and better financial results. The great news for organisations in the disability support industry is that you already have a purpose that aligns to exactly what your employees want: to improve people’s lives every day. 

When we surveyed frontline support workers for our Support Workforce Guide, we found that almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents chose to pursue a career in disability support because of a desire to improve people’s lives every day. This desire is often deeply personal too, with 49% stating that they are motivated by a personal experience with disability.

By leading with a culture-first approach, you can make the most of this enviable position and connect to an inspired workforce that will grow your business — and achieve the shared goal of improving lives. 

Top 3 reasons why support workers chose to work in disability services:

Layer 1 Layer 1 64%

Desire to help improve people’s lives every day

Layer 1 Layer 1 49%

Personal experience with disability (yourself/friend/family member)

Layer 1 Layer 1 26%

Working in a similar field and had transferable skills

Making communication and culture meaningful

Purpose is not a buzzword in the disability support industry. You don’t need TED Talks or Tony Robbins to connect staff to your purpose. When it comes to making a real impact in people’s lives, disability support workers are walking the walk — but the reality is that the work people do every day can be quite challenging, too. This is why it’s crucial that support organisations do more than make their purpose and values clear. Leaders should also find meaningful ways of ensuring teams feel valued in the contribution they’re making. 

Pip Jankowski, Head of People and Culture at Victorian provider, Leisure Networks, believes that a strong internal culture is the cornerstone of their success as an organisation. This is more than sharing values or a mission statement. Her team have developed initiatives that allow staff to contribute to the vision and direction of the organisation.

“Our people do difficult, challenging work, but it’s also really rewarding for them. It’s our responsibility to work hard on addressing their concerns and show them that we are taking action where necessary,” explains Pip. “We don’t just share our strategic plans, we get them involved. All staff should contribute to the impact we have as an organisation,” she adds. 

There are always external factors that we can’t control, but what we can control is how we interact with each other. Leisure Networks has a relentless focus on our people and company culture. It’s created a highly engaged workforce and helps us attract candidates to jobs without spending much money [on recruitment].

Pip Jankowski
Head of People and Culture, Leisure Networks

Leisure Networks have many initiatives that ensure staff feel valued and connected to their workplace (you can find them here). Getting started could be as simple as reviewing how often your managers are checking in with frontline team members. 

Our support workforce survey showed that less than half (42%) of employees have monthly check-ins with their manager. For those organisations that aren’t connecting regularly with frontline staff, this is a lost opportunity. These meetings allow managers to address feedback before problems arise and find ways to support staff in achieving their goals and career aspirations. 

This positive impact can extend well beyond your current workforce. Of the people that do report having monthly check-ins — 96% would recommend working for their employer to friends and family members. 

Read more: For tips on establishing retention and employee referral programs, download the The Support Workforce Guide: How to Find and Keep the Best NDIS Support Workers.

A thank you goes a long way

With an established purpose and internal communications initiatives in place, next it’s time to look at how you recognise achievement within your organisation. When staff members are actively achieving your shared goals and purpose, how is this acknowledged? Do you celebrate meaningful outcomes that align with your purpose? 

“A thank you goes a really long way,” says Pip. “Our staff are very passionate about their work, so if we receive feedback, we make sure we do something about it. People are individually recognised through their team leaders, and we also run peer-voted awards for those who demonstrate the company culture,” she explains. 

Creating opportunities to champion your staff  

Providing support should never feel like thankless work, but creating opportunities to recognise people can be challenging if you don’t have any mechanisms in place to collect feedback. 

GoodHuman Chief Operating Officer Andrew Erskine explains. “It’s common that families only hear from their providers when an incident occurs and providers only hear from families when they’re unsatisfied. There’s not a lot of opportunity for positive reinforcement or to celebrate when things are going well,” he says. 

To address this, the GoodHuman platform provides a simple way for customers to leave more feedback for their support workers, including their thanks. 

“Most provider organisations don’t have a mechanism to collect that feedback in a formal, but simple channel,” says Andrew. “GoodHuman makes it easier for families to give feedback and improve outcomes for everyone involved. Many employees don’t do this for the money, they genuinely enjoy supporting people. It’s important that this doesn’t go unrecognised and feedback goes a long way in ensuring they feel valued for the service they provide,” he explains. 

How to find and keep the best NDIS support workers

A purpose-driven workforce is a powerful asset to your organisation. By establishing an internal culture that is meaningful to staff and champions their commitment, you’ll find it easier to attract and retain high-quality support workers — even in a challenging market. 

For more advice on recruitment and retention from three experts in the disability support industry, along with fresh insights from frontline support workers, access our free resource The Support Workforce Guide.

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