If you could work anywhere at all

07 March 2012

Newsletter: from answers to action

If I could work anywhere at all

By James Garriock, Executive Director Insync Surveys

It's hard to weigh up the perks of somewhere like Google with the power you might get from working at the centre of government to the profile of somewhere like the Australian Football League. Sure, they'd all be amazing places to work, but I didn't hesitate before I answered the question: "knowing what you know about all different workplaces, if you could work anywhere at all, regardless of your skills, interests, salary etc, where would it be?"

After researching hundreds of different workplaces over twenty years there's only one place I'd want to be other than Insync Surveys; and that's Wintringham. It provides "a home until stumps" for the homeless elderly. The perks, power and profile are all pretty ordinary, but our research suggests there's no better place to work in Australia.

Wintringham's 400 staff manage over 650 accommodation units and provide street based support to about 1200 homeless or at risk elderly in Victoria each night. The organisation has an annual turnover of $26.5 million.

Insync Surveys' project manager Jessica Smith was privileged to conduct Wintringham's staff survey. "Wintringham is the highest performing Australian organisation in our Employee Opinion Survey database. Employee satisfaction at Wintringham rated 5.9 out of 7 and the weighted performance index (WPI) of all survey items was 80.2%. These results are a 10 year high," she says.

Previously our highest rank for WPI overall performance was 77%.

Late last year Wintringham went on to be awarded UN Habitat's "Scroll of Honour" for work with Victoria's elderly. This was the first time the award had been won by an Australian organisation.

The employee survey area in which Wintringham outperformed other organisations to the highest degree was the "people" factor. This covers things such as recognition and reward, teamwork, pride and job satisfaction. The average for both corporate organisations and not-for-profits in this area is 4.5 out of 7 but Wintringham scored 5.3.

Wintringham's impressive results show that employee attitudes and an organisation's culture can have a major impact on key performance areas such as employee engagement and client satisfaction. To see such a positive mind-set among Wintringham's staff in a challenging work environment is testament to its leaders and their ability to infect staff with the same enthusiasm.

Wintringham had done internal staff survey projects before but never anything comprehensive or benchmarked. They decided to use Insync Surveys as they were interested in being aligned with the business excellence framework and being compared to other organisations via our benchmarking capability.

Jessica Smith says: "Not-for-profit staff have low wages compared to corporates and the work is challenging and exhausting. We could have expected pay and conditions to come up as issues, but although nobody thought they were well paid, pay was not identified in the biggest improvement areas.

"The other standout and unusual thing was that 'pride' was the single most important thing for employees. Not only that, but it was the highest performing area as well. I'd never seen that before. Usually employees care more about their own personal job satisfaction, whereas at Wintringham pride related to working for the organisation and helping the clients."

Bryan Lipmann, Wintringham CEO says: "I believe in our staff, I value them and I go out of my way to let them know. Our positive culture is based on open communication and recognising everyone's talent. The pay-off from having an engaged workforce is huge. It's not just the efficiency gains and commitment to solving human issues but the passion that people bring to their roles. That's what gets me out of bed in the morning."

Bryan Lipmann likes to test the not-for-profit HR mindset.

"Innovative salary packing and professional development opportunities are often referenced as key drivers in the not-for-profit sector to retain quality staff. I challenge this, Wintringham has proven the main ingredient is simply putting people first. Having staff support as the first addition to the Wintringham budget and it being the last to be removed, shows commitment and also demonstrates that budget restraints don't have to impact poorly on staff morale," he says.

While the overall results were outstanding, the staff survey did reveal some opportunities. The biggest improvement areas were about staff wanting to be more involved in plans for their work area, i.e. how they work with clients. They identified that clients need consistency and suggested that improved communication and collaboration regarding individual client plans may help. Wintringham has taken this on board.

Staff comments revealed that things such as effective processes, training and achieving positive client outcomes "against the odds" also contributed to making Wintringham a great place to work.

"As a result of the survey, I regularly join staff for road trips to gain a deeper understanding of the everyday pressures and issues they face. This approach encourages our team to be confident and honest in communicating their grievances. The survey was another step in showing that we listen to staff and act on issues, we have a policy of never sweeping issues under the carpet," concluded Lipmann.

Right arrow View video about Wintringham - employee engagement

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