Australia’s disability workforce has been in the public eye with the recent release of the Government’s Growing the NDIS Market and Workforce Strategy and the subsequent backlash from peak body National Disability Services.
The NDS, who has been calling for a National Workforce Strategy since 2013, said the strategy released in March contained only a few items that would assist in the development of the NDIS workforce.
Despite this, disability service providers are working conscientiously towards embedding proactive workforce recruitment, retention and development initiatives to ensure their ongoing success with the Royal Commission looming.
Kate Rush, Head of Disability and Mental Health for Anglicare SA, believes workforce growth should be about more than the quantity of staff
“I think it’s important to think about growth in the context of not just numbers of how many people you have in the organisation, but growth also as in strengthening and maturing the teams that you’ve got and growing the level of trust and engagement within teams and staff- successful growth happens when you’ve got a shared focus on both of those things.
“Yes, most of us are in positions where we have to grow the numbers of staff but we have to do that in a way that also grows, develops and strengthens teams that are quite often being disrupted by new staff coming on board simultaneously.”
The rate of sector growth, Rush believes, is one of the biggest challenges facing service providers currently.
“It’s attracting a lot of people to the sector that traditionally haven’t been attracted, simply because that’s where the jobs are. And so I think the challenge for organisations is to make sure that you’re recruiting for people who are the right fit for your organisation or company and also the right fit for the customers that you’re engaging.”
Rush says it’s importance to assess their genuine interest in and understanding of the role and whether their values align with the organisation’s.
“So being clear and up front about the expectations of the role, the expectations of the organisation around values alignment and whatever your specific mission is, but also getting a sense of their understanding of the critical importance of the relationship with the customer ultimately is really important too.”
Anglicare SA have found success in partnering with educational institutions and employment agencies to offer the opportunity for students to become familiar with the organisation. Often, Rush says, it becomes a successful pathway for employment.
The provider also hosts information sessions for up to 50 people to learn about the company and what a day in the life of a disability support worker looks like. It’s crucial, Rush says, to be open and honest about the type of person and values you’re seeking to recruit.
Once recruited, staff retention is directly correlated with engagement and how the staff member feels they are contributing to the bigger picture.
“I think having a really strong sense of purpose for staff is probably the number one around engagement; making sure that staff have a really good understanding of how much they are valued and what value they bring to helping us achieve our team goals, customer goals, organisational vision.
Organisations should seek to draw a “strong and simple connection between what they (the staff) bring to work everyday and how it helps us to achieve the things that are important to our customers, things that are important to us as an organisation and our long term purpose as well as viability.”
For example, Rush cites one of Anglicare SA’s visions is around supporting customers to participate more in the community.
“That means one of things that needs to happen for that community participation to be enabled for the customer sits well outside of us as an organisation. We need to create communities that are inclusive, you need to create supermarkets and pubs and schools and football teams and all those sorts of things that are inclusive and willing to understand the value of someone with a disability being involved in the community.”
Once staff understand that they’re making is bigger than the organisation, it strengthens the sense of purpose and encourages the values Anglicare SA seeks in their staff.
“That sense of purpose can really be a good motivator for people to get up out of bed and bring their best to work. And I think alongside of that is all the practical things around how we continue to prioritise supporting staff through individual supervision sessions and team meetings and training opportunities.”
This staff engagement should continue throughout the Royal Commission through ongoing communication and ensuring employees have an understanding of what it is, why it’s important and how it will help the sector.
Criterion Conference’s Growing the NDIS Workforce is taking place in Sydney from 29th – 31st October 2019. Bringing together executive teams from disability service providers nationally, the conference will impart effective recruitment practices, workforce growth strategies and tactics to prepare for the Royal Commission.