Arise aged care: driving a high-performance culture in a post-COVID environment

June 29, 2022
Arise aged care: driving a high-performance culture in a post-COVID environment

Between 8 October 2018, when the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety commenced, and now, the aged care industry has undergone a period of reckoning like no other experienced by any other sector in the Australian economy.

The industry is known for its resilience, and that can be mainly attributable to its people, where the workers are overwhelmingly passionate, caring, and genuinely believe in the dignity of elderly Australians.

However, there are several challenges still facing the sector, including those which were highlighted by the Royal Commission Report, including attracting and retaining high-quality staff and creating career pathways.

While paying higher wage rates and increasing staff numbers is made difficult by funding uncertainties, many of these workforce challenges can be alternatively addressed by creating a high-performance culture.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves amid a unique opportunity to leverage the palpable degree of positivity in the community.

So how do we drive a high-performance culture in our teams? How do we ensure that employees conduct themselves appropriately and in a first-rate manner? How does a facility ensure that it becomes a provider of choice in the community? Here, I deep-dive into these questions and more.

Contributors to a high-performance culture

There’s no doubt that teams with a high-performing culture are more successful.

In most workplaces, measuring a high-performance culture is undertaken through an annual or biannual process where a business looks at financial results or other metrics like net promoter scores or employee satisfaction surveys.  But, in aged care, these measures can be supplemented by assessing the ratings meted out by Governments.

But just as important as knowing whether a workplace does have a high-performance culture, is knowing how to foster one. In my experience, the development of a high-performing culture can often be distilled to a number of common factors:

  • Leadership.
  • Engagement.
  • Values.
  • Celebrating highs and learning from lows.
  • Consistency in approach.

A common trap that inhibits the development of a high-performance culture is the belief that it falls to managers to develop that culture. While it’s true that without good managers, it’s certainly difficult to achieve such goals, but this is not the full story. In reality, creating a high-performing culture falls on every workplace participant to build it from the ground up and to each contribute, in their own way, to demonstrate leadership, even if they’re not in formal management positions.

Demonstrating strong leadership

If leaders are to drive workplace engagement and promote key values, it’s just as important that those who are not traditionally recognised as leaders understand and engage with the culture, and appreciate that the way they conduct themselves impacts the success of the organisation.

Facilitating employee engagement and values

When employees conduct themselves consistently with the objectives of the facility, it’s because they understand the importance of their place within the team and, critically, that their contribution affects the outcomes of the business. When values such as honesty and integrity are successfully instilled in a team, each employee develops a sense of teamwork and shared responsibility. This tends to increase productivity, employee satisfaction and reduce absenteeism.

Good teams accept responsibility for success and failures and adopt a positive frame of mind in order to attain it. Good leaders respect their employees and don’t view them as cogs in a machine, but as individuals who are capable of harnessing and contributing to a team’s strengths and weaknesses. Employees are not robots. They’re driven by how they feel and how they’re valued, particularly in an industry where the dominant characteristic of its workers is compassion. Caring for employees is as big a driver as the threat of disciplinary action in achieving a high-performance

Recognising the highs and the lows

To achieve strong employee engagement, leaders within a business must consistently demonstrate good behaviours and an even approach to responding to both the good and the bad. Celebrate the successes, shout out the individual and team wins, but do not forget to consider what could have been achieved better when there are failures. Focus on the team when doing so, build up the constructive feedback with recognition of what was done well, and respect the courage it takes to reflect and improve.

For leaders to achieve this balance, they must have confidence in their own actions and regard to how those actions affect the group. Leaders must also self-regulate and manage by example, as poor behaviours demonstrated by senior staff can have devastating impacts on staff morale, company values, and emulation of conduct.

The importance of consistency

Leaders must be consistent in their treatment of employees. Any actual or perception of bias, favoritism, inequality, or carelessness, can be fatal to a high-performance culture, as it shreds the trust that the staff have in the employer to support them through their successes and challenges.

From a legal perspective, managers have a right to make lawful and reasonable directions to their staff, subject to the:

  1. work being performed safely; and
  2. requirement that the management action or directive does not contravene an enterprise agreement, modern award, employment contract or any legislation or regulation.

When management action is taken, it must be aligned with the culture, and with what is has been set as acceptable or unacceptable. Employees need to understand where the line is and what the consequences are of crossing it, regardless of the worker’s seniority, involvement or closeness with a leadership group, or their performance (if the concern is arising in respect of a conduct issue).

Driving high-performance culture

Facilitating and nurturing a high-performing team can avoid the need for disciplinary action, allowing employers to offer the carrot over the stick through a positive and empowering employee experience. Development of such a culture can have wide-ranging and significant benefits to providers, improving care outcomes resident enjoyment, and with that comes improved service ratings and the performance of the entire sector.

The importance of a high performing team is heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic given the demands upon staff who have been patiently working on the front line with the virus.

For all of these reasons we fervently believe that this will become only more significant in the years ahead.

If you have a question about any issues that may arise from the content this article, please contact Michal Roucek.