Lessons learnt from NDIS Transitions

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 involvedLessons learnt NDIS (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.

Andrea Collett
Email: consulting@cbb.com.au


Talent Management Part 4– Measuring success

In this Talent Management series (Part one: Do you have a lack of talent?, Part two: exploring the employee journey and Part three: getting confused with definitions?) we have defined Talent SuccessManagement as a series of interconnected development activities that when executed thoughtfully, add value to the employee journey and the organisation’s brand.

As our sector continues to grapple with the VUCA environment and shrinking risk appetites from Boards and executive leaders, there has never been a more crucial time to invest in our organisations. This puts pressure on workforce leaders to provide evidence based measures of program success. Continue reading…


Talent Management Part 3 – Getting confused with definitions?

Are you getting confused about all the definitions that are thrown into the conversation when we manage and develop our talent?

If you answered yes, you are not alone. It can be a real turn off for operational managers to deal with ‘HR speak’ at the best of times. Being crystal clear about what we mean becomes an important part of our organisation’s underlying approach to Talent Management. Our managers and leaders are the major stakeholders and drivers of our Talent Management efforts, and so it becomes our responsibility as HR professionals to make it as easy as possible to reduce confusion and inspire engagement. It is easy to get into semantics when we are developing our terms of reference and essentially at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter which words we use to describe what we mean. The most important thing, is that we develop a shared understanding across the whole organisation.

Here are the five key definitions that we regularly use and what I think they mean in the Talent Management context:

Continue reading…


Talent Management part 2: exploring the employee journey – it’s a marathon, not a sprint

Talent management: the employee journey marathon

In my last article of this Talent Management series, we concluded that Talent Management (TM) was not a stand-alone activity that can be ‘done’ to people.  It is the compounding effect of people practices, leadership and thoughtful execution. As a definition TM is having robust people and culture structures, practice and initiatives that when combined add value to the employee journey while enhancing organisational brand. Continue reading…


Talent Management Series – Part one

Do you have a lack of talent? It could be a reflection of the leadership culture

Often in my consulting work I am asked to help ‘fix’ the culture of a team, unit and in some instances, a whole organisation. So as I listen to leaders describing the unproductive behaviours, workforce issues and customer problems, I ask questions that help to uncover why these issues have arisen in the first place. Continue reading…


Customer loyalty – it’s simple yet complex

Loyalty is hard to come by these days – even in the not for profit sector.  Our communities are becoming more sophisticated, informed and savvy about the services they chose to engage in.  For community based organisations the issue with developing customer loyalty is not attracting new customers – it’s more about how we retain them.

Our regular customers need to walk away from every type of interaction feeling better than the start.  Think about it this way – every time you meet someone’s expectation you have only partially engaged them for their next visit.  If something newer or different comes along they may tempted to ‘check them out’.  We need to continually exceed expectations so when other options come their way they think – ‘nah I love where I am now’ or the best case scenario is that they don’t even see your competitors – it’s not even on their radar to try something else.

Loyalty is about creating a sense of allegiance in your customers where they become your advocates rather than a transactional customer.  Here are five ways to promote a sense of allegiance in your customers. Continue reading…


Customer Service or Customer Experience?

There is no doubt that consumer directed care has placed our service standards under the spotlight.  In a market place that is becoming more crowded and noisy, finding that special ‘something’ to attract and retain our customers has become a necessity for survival rather than a ‘nice to have’.  With so much focus on packaging effective and efficient products and services, the disability sector has come to the harsh realisation that ‘commercialisation’ and ‘bottom line’ results are now standard items on the strategic agenda.  The attraction and retention of our customers has become a vital part of our organisation’s success.

To keep our doors open we need customers that Continue reading…


Using carrots to focus on customers first

focus on customers first

Employee engagement principles are easy to understand, at least on a theoretical level.  Employees that feel valued for their inputs (knowledge, skills, experience, work ethic, ideas, feedback, performance etc.) are more likely to have higher engagement levels.  They go beyond the basic service deliverables and as a consequence they deliver positive customer experiences that add value to their customers’ everyday lives.  From a practical point of view, how can we encourage our employees to feel valued?  Here’s a few ‘carrots’ to consider. Continue reading…


Five tips to bring your customer service charter to life

Customer service charters can often be bland documents full of big hairy promises that sound more like a fairy tale than real life.  We often mistake these charters as vision statements and promise the world. Delivering on these promises becomes a stretch goal rather than the minimum standard required.  Consumers have more information available to them than ever before and are usually well prepared for their purchases.  So if we are to stand out in a crowded market place we need to manage the consumers’ expectations and be truthful about what we can deliver.

The reasons for having a charter in the first place is to sell our organisation and differentiate ourselves from our competitors.  To do this we have to identify what we do better than anyone else.  Creating a service promise is just the first step.  Once all the elevator speeches and tag lines are done and dusted we then have to deliver on that promise, and that is where the hard work begins!

  1. Can you deliver on the promise?

Continue reading…


Power – it’s not a dirty word: it’s all about how you use it

As 2017 comes to a close and we head off to enjoy the holiday season, it is often a time of reflection and planning for the new year ahead.  One of the underlying themes in the consulting work that I have been involved in this year has been the effect that ‘perceived personal power’ has when we communicate, work and grow together. Continue reading…