Engaged staff are the key to high quality Mental Health services – but how?

Jun 18
Author:Sasha Eden
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Research has clearly shown that happier staff are more productive. When we are interested and challenged by our work, believe in the vision of the organisation, and are empowered by our leaders, we put more energy into bringing that vision to life. We personally invest in the team’s collective success and own the challenges along the way.

Neami National is a leading provider of community-based mental health services operating across Australia. At Neami, we have found that two key drivers really impact on staff engagement and ultimately a strong workplace culture: the way we recruit, and the way our leaders manage staff. I will speak to this more in my presentation at the forthcoming Strengthening Workforce Strategy conference. In the meantime, here is a preview.

Focusing on values

The importance of recruiting the right people is sometimes underestimated, and emphasis is often placed on things that do not effectively predict how well a person is suited to the work and the organisation. It became clear to us that the most important thing to get right was values alignment. We needed to recruit people who shared our organisation’s values and believed in our strengths-based and coaching-focused model of care. With that foundation right, we could train and support staff to build their knowledge over time.

We reformed our recruitment processes away from the predominant focus on minimum qualifications and specific experience to instead focus on ‘competencies’ that reflected our values. We did this by rigorously assessing behaviours to determine the extent to which people’s behaviours were congruent with their espoused values and approach.

Our other focus has been how leaders support staff. Research shows that staff performance is positively influenced when strengths are celebrated and a goal-oriented coaching approach is adopted to address development areas. This is not something unique to the ‘caring’ professions or the community sector, they use this approach at Google among other large firms. For us, there was a clear parallel with our approach to supporting consumers and this resonated strongly.

Slow to shed traditional performance management

Yet most of us have been slow to shed traditional performance management approaches typically characterised by rare (typically annual) appraisals that focus on complex assessments mostly of deficits, and little useful feedback in between.

We have designed a framework where managers and staff meet six-monthly to highlight key strengths, identify development goals, and adopt a coaching approach to work towards these goals. This is supported by regular catch-ups in between where managers provide real-time feedback, coaching and mentoring to staff. The beauty of coaching is its empowering nature. Staff are supported to draw on their own inherent knowledge and skills to think about challenges in different ways, find new meaning, self-identify options, and commit to actions to achieve goals.

We have reaped the rewards of these approaches. We now see increased diversity in our workforce, and strong levels of resilience and engagement at a time of unprecedented change in the community mental health sector in Australia.

Learn how to enhance emergency department design to support the well-being of patients at the Mental Health Access & Quality in Emergency Departments, 12th & 13th February 2019, Sydney.


Submitted by Sasha Eden

Sasha Eden

Sasha Eden is the General Manager Corporate Services at Neami and has a background and qualifications in Human Resources Management. She is currently completing a graduate Diploma in organisational Leadership and Coaching.
Sasha played a key role in the organisational change process with the introduction of a recovery based practice framework, in particular in shaping the organisation’s approach to values based recruitment and the use of coaching models as a parallel process in workforce development.

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