Organisational Development Strategy delivers major uplift in engagement culture and performance

Organisational Development Strategy delivers major uplift in engagement, culture and performance

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The Cancer Institute NSW works in partnership with all involved in the cancer community to reduce the incidence of cancer and improve survival and quality of life for people with cancer. The Institute’s passionate and proud workforce is committed to lessening the impact of cancer.

Employee engagement had slipped from great to good

Employee engagement had been consistently high, as measured by the People Matter Employee Survey (PMES) conducted by the Public Service Commission across the NSW public sector. But the 2017 PMES showed a decline in overall employee engagement, as well as in trust in senior managers and confidence in change management, recruitment decisions and grievance processes.

Although the results remained in line with the NSW health cluster and public sector more broadly, the Institute’s leadership team took immediate action to understand how the results went from great to good, and how to bring them back to great. It engaged Nous to explore the Institute’s engagement and culture and to create a three-year Organisational Development Strategy. The Strategy sought a comprehensive approach to people, leadership and culture, and to detail how the Institute supports staff to thrive, manage and lead now and in the future.

A two-tiered approach delivered immediate gains and strategic change

To inform the OD Strategy, all staff across the Institute were consulted. This involved desktop research, analysis of existing workforce and engagement data, an all-staff survey and face-to-face focus groups to identify strengths and areas of focus.

The OD Strategy identified initiatives to deliver an immediate response to the recent dip in staff engagement, along with a medium-term platform for organisational development. This two-tiered approach created a robust, systematic and coordinated process for addressing key issues, while building the desired workforce and culture of the Institute into the future.

The OD Strategy included several initiatives that Nous is continuing to partner with the Institute to implement, including:

  • designing and delivering the leadership development program, which includes 360-degree feedback, debrief and coaching sessions for senior leaders, team-building workshops at all levels of management and establishing an expanded senior leadership team brought together in a regular forum
  • reviewing the HR/OD function to achieve the capability and capacity required to deliver the desired culture and OD Strategy
  • preparing initiatives to embed the ‘CORE + 4’ values, behaviours and desired ways of working across the Institute
  • undertaking the administration, analysis and communication of quarterly pulse checks to track progress.

The strategy is achieving measurable improvements

Since the strategy was launched, the Institute has achieved significant improvements in employee engagement, leadership capability and ways of working. The People Matter Employee Survey found that in 2019 the Institute was one of the top-performing NSW health (and public sector) organisations. The PMES results showed that for 2019, compared to a year earlier, before the Strategy was launched:

  • a seven percentage point uplift in employee engagement and a 14 percentage point uplift in workplace culture
  • a 14 percentage point increase in perceptions of and trust in senior managers
  • a 23 percentage point increase in the uptake of flexible working practices (such as flexible start and finish times or working from home), with satisfaction in flexible working lifting by 14 percentage points
  • a 19 percentage point improvement in confidence in recruitment decisions and HR practices
  • a 13 percentage point increase in confidence in the way the organisation resolves grievances.
  • an 8 percentage point decrease in reported incidents of witnessing misconduct at work, but a 43 percentage point increase in reporting misconduct when witnessed.

In addition, the OD Strategy has significantly strengthened the capability and confidence of leaders, individually and as a cohesive leadership team. This will enable the Institute to continue to actively solve challenges and deliver on current and emerging priorities.

What you can learn from the Cancer Institute NSW

Commitment and courage allowed the organisation to achieve dramatic improvements. While culture is hard to shift, the Institute substantially lifted engagement and aligned culture through collective commitment, personal accountability and courage of leaders to tackle key issues.

An inclusive approach, which gave all staff a voice, created shared ownership. Each person can shape the desired culture, so the OD Strategy drew heavily from the insights, capabilities and potential of all people.

Regular, transparent communication was critical to building trust and therefore lifting engagement. Strategies included monthly all-staff stand-ups, providing more context regarding decisions, executives moving out of their offices, and opportunities to voice concerns through quarterly pulse checks.