By Sophy Edmonds (7 minute read). Image sourced from Korn Ferry – Reimagining the Aged Care Workforce 2018.

Achieving high employee engagement in aged services has never been so challenging or important. For several years now the industry has faced unprecedented upheaval with major Government reform and a move towards consumer directed care. This has coincided with a shift in consumer expectations, workforce shortage and now the intense scrutiny from a Royal Commission.

Employee engagement aims to ensure employees completely understand the organisational ‘brand’ and what it stands for. Not only does it inspire them with a common sense of purpose, it also provides them with a clear understanding of what they can do and the role they can play in contributing towards the organisation’s mission and brand promise.

Effective employees understand how to use organisational values as a filter for decision making. In this way the brand becomes not only a medium of communication with the outside world but also a driver of ‘on brand’ choices and decisions. The result is a transformation in the way business is conducted throughout the organisation and delivery of a differentiated customer experience.

In our view there are four key components:

  1. Truly valuing staff and being clear about what your internal value proposition is – staff are your greatest advocates
  2. Well understood and upheld organisational values, behaviours and beliefs
  3. Communicating clearly and consistently to staff
  4. Championing and celebrating best practice
  1. The Internal Value Proposition

Edmonds Marketing worked with a provider of aged care services who had high retention rates and long-term clients. They wanted to strengthen their ability to attract more experienced nurses in a highly competitive market.

We undertook research to uncover insights from ideal employees to enhance the engagement of other staff and drive recruitment efforts.  The provider had an established reputation providing quality services and had been operating over ten years.

Our research demonstrated their longest standing and highest performing team members really bought in to the founder’s vision of the organisation and her mission to provide team members with a caring and supportive workplace that took on board their needs and desires for flexibility.  This focus in turn inspired and enabled them to pass that care and support on to those in their care.

Many of them confirmed they had approached the organisation about work as a result of their reputation or after speaking to other employees. Dedicated staff who take pride in their work want to work for an organisation that prides itself on exceptional service excellence and honours their contribution. The staff felt supported, that their employer had their back and importantly the brand vision was fulfilled through their experiences. As a result, they were loyal, hard-working team members who advocated hard on behalf of their employer and recommended their services to others.

2. Organisational values, behaviours and beliefs

Often working in the aged services sector, we have seen time and again the commitment of staff. These acts of dedication and kindness shown towards those in their care are truly inspiring.

As mentioned, to succeed in a fast changing and competitive industry, staff members need to understand the organisation’s brand promise and values and then apply these to their decision-making process.

In this way they are able to uphold their brand promise and deliver a truly differentiated customer experience. It is not enough to give out statements around values. Instead, values are embedded across the organisation. However, it can be challenging for team members to really take these on and understand how they deliver a customer experience that matches their organisational brand promise.

We previously worked with an organisation who had recently redeveloped its mission and values and implemented a comprehensive communication process. The problem was that desired behaviours were not being implemented and the executive couldn’t understand why. We undertook a review and uncovered why… Essentially, while the top line messages were getting through, they were too strategic or top level. The staff did not understand how the top tier brand messages related to them in their role and what they were supposed to do. They needed to understand how the values could be translated into everyday practice. The organisation needed to provide further supporting communication to ensure resonance and effective delivery.

In contrast we worked for an organisation who were redefining their brand in the light of NDIS changes. In our research we uncovered that all staff had a clear understanding of their organisational values and guiding principles. Their values were communicated throughout the organisation and were supported by clearly defined behavioural statements. A few years earlier the staff had been involved in the development of these values and they had crafted examples to show what related behaviours looked like in practice. Posters with these details appeared throughout the organisation reminding staff and clients of what was expected.

3. Communicating clearly and consistently to staff

Effective two-way communication is important to developing and maintaining any long-term relationship. Strong communication pathways build trust, support and understanding of their organisation and their contribution.

In aged services, internal communication is challenging. This is because the industry is supported by a casual and often mobile workforce, many with English as a second language. For this reason, aged services need a variety of communication mechanisms to reach staff members.

At the very least, staff should be able to depend on regular, timely, trustworthy communication vehicles to find out what is happening within the organisation. If they can’t, they will rely on the rumour mill.

We have worked with organisations who have taken this seriously and developed different communication touchpoints. As a result, team member feedback has been positive. Regular staff communication available via different touchpoints builds community trust and cohesion. Tiered face to face meetings are important to enable messages to filter down from the leadership and should enable opportunities to gain two way feedback, record and filter this back up the chain thereby providing a responsive two way channel. Town hall meetings, intranets, CEO newsflashes and internal newsletters (linked to payroll or scheduling details and apps) are all good ways to support communication.

4. Championing and celebrating best practice

It’s important to cultivate a culture that clearly reflects an organisation’s vision and values. HR processes should be key to driving this process through training and support, clearly stated expectations of behaviours, performance management monitoring and best practice championing.

Internal communications also play a strong role in helping to engage staff and clarifying what their organisation expects of them and how it celebrates and awards ideal behaviours and commitment. Giving out regular awards and championing employees who are delivering best practice or presenting ‘on value’ behaviour can guidance and a clear narrative to explain the culture’s values.

At Edmonds Marketing we support organisations to drive ‘on brand’ decisions internally as well as externally thereby supporting delivery of an authenticated and differentiated customer experience.

For further information on how to increase employee engagement, please contact Edmonds Marketing on 07 3175 9905.