For the last 18 months we have been assisting nearly 100 disability providers in SA with their NDIS transition journeys. It has been an interesting ride and a steep learning curve for all involved (clients and consultants alike) as we’ve ridden through the white water NDIS landscape. As the year is coming to a close and our direct involvement with our current clients is coming to an end, it is time to reflect on the strategic impact of the NDIS in a People and Culture context.
While it is tempting to prioritise a ‘top five list’ of things to focus on, it might be more useful to talk about the ‘organisational hygiene factors’ required to succeed in an NDIS environment. These will not be prioritised, but rather seen as a collection of interdependent people and culture success factors that need attention.
Strategy, strategy, strategy
Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable – Dwight Eisenhower
Strategic planning is an oxymoron – Henry Mintzberg
Whichever side of the fence you sit on in regards to strategic planning, there is one basic truth; Have it and it doesn’t guarantee anything, don’t have it and it guarantees aimlessness.
The process of strategic planning has remained much the same over the decades however, I’ve noticed that strategic planning documents are getting thinner! Glossy, high colour one page documents are becoming the norm (finally!). So if less is definitely more, we need to accommodate this trend and be punchy and attention grabbing.
The outcome for People & Culture executives? This document becomes the centre of everything we do. Every initiative, practice and policy must be tied back to this document. Our specialist expertise should be a proactive critical engagement with this process. Understand your business, know the external operating environment, contribute, critique and ask informed questions to add value to this process.
People & Culture goes hand in hand with Marketing
If you are lucky enough to have a marketing team, then form a partnership. These two functions go together like peaches and cream – separately they can tick boxes, but together, you get something unique, unified and much more appetising!
The main synergy to get right is your brand DNA and resultant employee value proposition (EVP). Never underestimate the effect of your organisation‘s brand value in the marketplace. It attracts customers, clients and prospective employees to your doorstep. In a time of ‘shallow talent pools’ and skills shortages in our sector, we need to have this firmly on our strategic agenda.
If you do not have in-house marketing/HR expertise, it is worth engaging external assistance. After all, you would engage a financial professional with CPA qualifications to go through your books. You might even find that external investment positively affecting your balance sheet in the long run.
Values and culture is your foundation; Inspiring leadership drives performance
OK, we hear this a lot. So much so, that it’s starting to sound old hat, part of the background noise and identical to what everyone is saying. ‘Our people are our greatest asset’ no longer cuts the mustard. Having ‘collaborative leadership styles’ is not really inspiring anymore. Our audience (workforce) is getting more sophisticated and we are stuck using terms that they have grown out of. The intention of the messages are OK, don’t get me wrong here. What I often fail to see, is the ‘walk’ or the ‘how to’ behind these declarations.
What are the structures and frameworks that support the ‘talk’? How do we ensure that ‘walk’ is empowering, engages with technology, measures our targets, focuses on results and people? In short; how can you harness the energies in your workforce and tap into that huge discretionary effort where initiative and potential resides? This is the area to dabble in, and believe me, there is no step by step process to guide us towards organisational peak performance. We will make up the steps as we go along, and those steps will be different for each of us. If it was easy to do, then everyone would be doing it!
Place the people that you serve at the centre of your universe
We are often so focussed on what we have to do in our organisations, that we forget the needs of the people that we serve and the general community. At worst I’ve seen customers treated inappropriately – like an interruption to someone’s ‘to-do list’! Our customers provide us with our bread and butter and put food on our table. Employees who don’t understand and respond to this, need not apply for vacancies in your organisation.
Take the time to check with your stakeholders (customers and workforce) on their level of expectations and the quality of your exchange in services. Conduct surveys, quick pulse checks on service levels, check for underlying needs, are your products and services still relevant, are they changing, conduct focus groups for in-depth feedback. There is no shortage of methods to get feedback – we need the fortitude and desire to learn about our stakeholders and to be stronger than the desire to stand still and hear meaningless superficial feedback that results in BAU.
Manage change before it manages you
Full stop. Employees need a reason to change, so give them one. Then work together to make a new future. Listen to your employees who are confirmed resistors – they usually have a different way at looking at things that we cannot afford to ignore. Communicate with them, ask them lots of questions and overall have an open mind to their point of view. They are resisting for a reason – it’s up to us to find out what that reason is and then engage them early in the planning process. If they are still refusing to come to the party after all your efforts to engage them, then it’s time to discuss their suitability for the organisation and the other possibilities out there for them.
As with all hygiene factors, merely being on top of these things does not guarantee success – it will however form part of the ‘cost of doing business’. It’s the things that we do between the lines that brings these together to help us remain sustainable, competitive and here for the sake of our communities, the people that we serve and the sector that we support through meaningful employment.