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10 Signs your Culture may be struggling....

Last month, National Disability Services released their latest Australian Disability Workforce Report. The report indicates rapid net employment growth in the last financial year of 13.8%, as a result of a significant rise in casual employment.


“The latest data shows that most (48%) disability support workers are still employed on a permanent basis, whether part-time or full-time. However, the proportion continues to fall. Casual employment, alternatively, is rising and in March 2018 accounted for nearly half of the total workforce.”

It appears that casual employment is increasing at an increasing rate. This is particularly true for small to medium sized providers, “with the trend absent in large organisations.”


The impacts of an increasingly casualised workforce on the culture of an organisation can be considerable and smaller providers are at risk.


There is a lot of talk right now in the disability sector about understanding the customer experience, however it may be helpful to look at where that really begins: with understanding the employee’s experience and how it is being influenced by your culture. In a sector where the key competitive differentiator is now the quality of your frontline staff, your culture becomes the game changer.

Culture is about shared values and how these values impact the daily patterns of behaviours behind every employee's interaction with every stakeholder (client, family member, carer, community, partner, LAC, NDIA...).  


There is a direct and causal relationship between a strong brand and strong culture.  Because human values such as trust, integrity and respect underpin every strong brand, your brand acts as a cultural anchor, aligning your staff team. Without these core values, your brand is meaningless and your culture will struggle.


Here are some signs your culture may be struggling or declining:

  1. Inconsistent leadership at every level. Building a strong culture requires visible, face to face leadership from the top down.

  2. A missing origin story. Does every employee know how your organisation began? Can they tell this story? Do they feel it’s their story?

  3. Meetings cancelled without explanation.

  4. Silos of sub-cultures that struggle to communicate effectively with each other.

  5. Increased personal boundary work/life issues as staff struggle to prioritise an ‘unexpected’ avalanche of work.

  6. Poor project management.

  7. Increased staff turnover and sick days

  8. Excessive reliance on email as the primary form of communication with the unfortunate outcome managers being ‘glued’ to their Inbox.

  9. An increase in complaints of all kinds

  10. A faltering retention rate as customers drift away.

Visionary leadership can change all of this. In times of massive change, there’s nothing as effective as first-hand, face to face contact to build trust and restore connection.


Over the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of working with CEOs in the disability sector who are “Change Drivers”. They deliberately ‘walk the talk’, so that they are seen by their staff to be living out their organisational values on a daily basis, communicating frequently in person with customers, families and staff (at all levels.)  It’s hard, time consuming work, but the cultural pay-offs are huge.