Peoplecare’s 5 steps to building a high-performance culture

There have been five keys to building a high-performance culture in health insurance fund Peoplecare

There have been five keys to building a high-performance culture which has helped health insurance fund Peoplecare both drive strong commercial outcomes and become recognised as an employer of choice, according to its head of people and culture, Maree Morgan-Monk.

There is a tangible link between its performance culture, high levels of customer service and satisfaction, and being recognised as an Aon Hewitt best employer in Peoplecare, a national not-for-profit health fund which was founded in 1953 and now covers 71,000 people.

Morgan-Monk said there have been five keys to building a high-performance culture that has driven solid outcomes across the organisation:

1. Make culture your top priority, always. “HR practitioners are often torn in so many directions within an organisation,” said Morgan-Monk.

“We are faced with the demands of resourcing, performance management, leadership development and training; however, once you get your organisation culture right, the flow on effect to all of the other demands makes it far easier to manage.”

2. Put it into words and actions. It is important that all people within the organisation know what behaviours and actions support the organisation’s culture – and what behaviours and actions don’t.

Leaders should communicate clearly and constantly the behaviours expected, and recognise how these behaviours make a positive contribution to the organisation, said Morgan-Monk.

“Leaders should also act courageously and swiftly to call out behaviours that erode a great organisational culture.

“Performance plans, KPIs or critical success factors should all have strong behavioural elements that support your organisation’s positive culture and high performance in this area should be recognised.”

3. Senior leadership must live and breathe it. In reality, Morgan-Monk said it’s not the HR team that are responsible for building a great organisational culture, but the senior leadership team.

“Their influence and modelling of the organisational’s culture and values are demonstrated by their decision-making, behaviours and actions every single time,” she said.

“Decisions and actions that do not support the values and culture of the organisation just simply provides others within the organisation to do the same.”

4. Recruit for organisational fit. Once you’ve identified what the preferred values and behaviours of the organisation are, it is important to recruit diligently against these.

“Use psychometric testing and behavioural interview techniques to recruit candidates that naturally fit within the organisation’s culture,” said Morgan-Monk.

“If you’re not able to find a candidate that matches your organisational culture as well as skills and experience needed, then hold off or look for other ways.

“Bringing people into your organisation that do not match your culture is dangerous and has the potential to damage all the efforts gone into building a great culture.”

5. Protect it – always and fiercely. Morgan-Monk said HR leaders are the guardians of a great organisational culture, so acting courageously and passionately about its link to producing positive business outcomes is critical.

“Your organisation’s culture can be protected by ensuring that all people activities, recruitment, training, leadership development, remuneration, talent management, HR policies and employee relations reflect the values and behaviours of all within the organisation,” she explained.

“Leaders should also act courageously and swiftly to call out behaviours that erode a great organisational culture.

Peoplecare has implemented a number of initiatives to help support its culture and become recognised as a best employer, Morgan-Monk added.

In the past five years, for example, 100 per cent of employees (or “Peoplecarers”, as employees are called internally) that have taken parental leave have returned in some form of flexible work arrangement.

There is also a strong focus on leadership development, and in 2014 Peoplecare rolled out a program encouraging employees to expand their knowledge and realise their full potential.

Topics covered include managing performance and behaviour, great communication, increasing productivity, emotional intelligence and making good business decisions.

“Our executive team and managers at Peoplecare do a wonderful job of leading our high energy teams,” said Morgan-Monk.

“To ensure our managers continue to develop, we created the ‘manager hour of power’.

“This is an in-house training program designed to inform managers of best practice in positivity and resilience, handling objections, dealing with poor behaviour, performance appraisal and determining high performance.”

This has all helped Peoplecare improve its employee engagement scores (currently at 74 per cent, against an Australia/New Zealand insurance benchmark of 65 per cent) and become recognised as a best employer in the most recent Aon Hewitt best employers list.

The survey also found that Peoplecare exceeds the top quartile of employers in the areas of work/life balance, effective leadership, a high-performance culture and safety.

“If you’re not able to find a candidate that matches your organisational culture as well as skills and experience needed, then hold off or look for other ways”

Morgan-Monk said another key focus on the WHS front at Peoplecare is mental health and creating a mentally healthy workplace.

The fund has a comprehensive mental health program in place, and since it began two years ago Morgan-Monk said there have not been any mental health incidents.

“Our core approach is to get our managers to treat mental health using the same structure and conscientiousness as physical health issues,” she said.

“We provide support, rehabilitation, and workplace adjustments for physical conditions and we aim to provide this same output for mental health conditions as well.”

Through Peoplecare’s mental health program, managers received coaching from a psychologist on best practice in recognising mental health issues and how to refer team members to treatment if required.

Five Peoplecare staff members are also qualified mental health first aid officers, who provide initial support to employees if needed.

Peoplecare also has an employee assistance program in place (employees have access to four free external counselling services a year for themselves as well as immediate family members) in addition to group income protection, a salary continuance program, and a safe work method statement within the mental health program.

This addresses workplace stress and safety controls to help ensure all employees take appropriate steps to reduce and manage stress (whether it be work-related or personal).

The fund has also established emergency procedures for personal illness or injury (both mental and physical) while employees also receive an additional five personal leave days over and above annual leave, to be used however employees wish.

“We also recognise the important role that positive workplace relationships play in the mental health and wellbeing of our Peoplecarers,” said Morgan-Monk.

Last year the fund launched a number of initiatives under its mental health program designed to build team relationships, such as R U OK? Day’s ‘blind-mates’.

“Since the program was implemented, we’ve had more than a third of Peoplecarers go on ‘blind-mate’ dates and have lifted staff engagement results above what we thought possible,” she said.

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