Our August webinar was co-presented with The Xfactor Collective. We looked at research and work from The Xfactor Collective focusing on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on charities and their people.
The webinar brought together specialist knowledge to help charities understand these impacts and provided practical and meaningful ways for charity leaders to support the wellbeing of the people involved in their charity.
Chris Riches: Hello everyone, welcome to today’s webinar, a webinar that might be a little bit different from our usual sessions, but one that we’re really looking forward to presenting. My name’s Chris Riches. I’m from the ACNC’s Education team. Today we’re going to be looking at the pandemic’s impact on the charity sector but more specifically on the sector’s people, and more importantly we’re going to be discussing some useful and practical ways that charities can help their people and meet the challenges that they might face. So, it’s going to be people orientated today, and that’s a good thing. And even better, we’ve got some great people joining us today to share their expertise, their viewpoints and their knowledge to help charities and charity people. Today’s webinar is a joint effort between the ACNC and the Xfactor Collective and joining us today are, and I’ll give a little bit of a run through for each of our presenters today, Leanne Hart, who’s got a bit of experience, a lot of experience in people leadership, in learning and development, and workplace wellbeing, and is also involved in the sector as a volunteer board chair at a not for profit. Hi Leanne, how are you?
Leanne: Hi Chris, thanks for having me along.
Chris: Thank you Leanne. Jo Smyth is our other, or our second presenter who works with organisations to deliver business strategy through organisational culture, people experience, fostering good leadership. Jo is also an experienced board professional on a not for profit. Hi Jo, how are you?
Jo: Hi Chris, great to be here.
Chris: Thank you. And our third speaker, our third co-presenter today is Adam Blanch. Adam is a psychologist and he educates organisations and therapists in preventing and resolving both trauma and vicarious trauma. Adam, how are you, thank you? Hold on, Adam’s around, might just be on mute, but that’s OK, we’ll onwards roll.
Adam: I’m great thanks Chris, thanks for having me along, got to remember mute.
Chris: That’s alright Adam, no problems, so thank you to all our panellists for joining us today. Thank you for everyone’s registered who’s joining us today too. Now, super quickly, before we launch into a couple of things, Leanne, some of us, or some of our people with us today may know of the Xfactor Collective and its work, are you able to provide just a very quick little I guess introduction or idea of who the collective is?
Leanne: Yeah, sure Chris. The Xfactor Collective was founded, we just had our third birthday a couple of weeks ago actually, and it’s a group of specialist consultants and experts that support the for purpose and social purpose sector, providing guidance and support and advice, and that could be anything from strategy to IT, to fundraising, governance, people, we cover something like 40 specialty areas, if not more. And the collective are there to support the social purpose sector with any needs that they have. We also have a foundation arm, the Xfactor Collective Foundation which has a really strong focus on providing equitable access to charities, for charities to information and improving the wellbeing of people that work in the sector. And to address some of the system issues that have been ongoing in the for purpose sector for a long time.
Chris: No worries, thank you Leanne, thanks for that. Now, before we launch in proper, as always we’ve got a couple of quick housekeeping points which I’ll run through in a relatively rapid manner. First up, if you’ve got any troubles with your audio for the webinar, you can try listening through your phone. If that’s the case, you wish to do that, call the number that was listed in the email that will you have received upon sign up, and put in an access code and listen to the webinar that way. We are also doing questions a little bit differently today as well. Our colleagues Matt and Bree are going to be onboard and they’re answering questions about ACNC related topics.
In addition hopefully there’ll be time near the end of the webinar today where we can discuss maybe one or two questions relating to some of the content that we’ll cover today. However, for any detailed questions about some of the material that you’ll hear about today about wellbeing, about charity people, the Xfactor Collective has set up a dedicated email address. You can see the address for that email address on your screen right now. Those of you today, or with us today are encouraged to ask questions or seek out information most relevant to your particular charity or particular charity issue. Those questions will be followed up and responded to after this webinar. So feel free, there’s the email address for you. We’re recording this webinar as always. The recording will be available to watch later on the ACNC site. The presentation slides from the webinar will be published on the site as well, and we will send out an email with website links featured in this webinar so you don’t have to write down all the website references as we go along. Finally, we value feedback. If you’ve got any suggestions for ways we can improve our webinars, please let us know in the short survey at the end of proceedings today.
Now, today’s agenda. It’s going to be split into three sections. First up, we’re going to quickly review some of the findings from the latest ACNC Charities Report, as well as look at the ACNC’s governance standards and some of the important links that some of these things have to the wellbeing of people in the charity sector. We are going to look at the reset research that the Xfactor Collective Foundation undertook last year to measures some of the impacts the pandemic was having on charities and not for profits, most particularly the challenges that the sector’s people were facing. The impacts of COVID were particularly in focus as part of this research. It provides plenty of information about how people are faring and their welfare.
Our last and largest section is going to examine in detail how charities and their leaders can address these issues, the tools and attitudes they can perhaps have to help these efforts and to improve resilience, and to help their people. The sector needs to ensure that those people in it are in a good space, they feel supported and they can continue to contribute positively to their charities, and through them to the community. There are so many things that can be done, and our co-panellists here today are going to share their knowledge and their experiences.
First up, a little bit of context and a little bit of information on the charity sector, its people and the importance of governance. And that comes through the Charities Report and the ACNC Governance Standards. Now, the ACNC recently released the latest edition of the Australian Charities Report, which draws on the information gathered in charities’ annual information statements. It provides context and information on the size of the sector and the scope of the sector, particularly in regards to charity people and their involvement in charities and impact on them. The latest edition provides an insight into the state of the sector prior to both the 2019/20 bushfires, and also the COVID pandemic. Prior to the bushfires and pandemic, the sector was in robust health.
Some of the key financial figures you can see here on the screen. There was very healthy revenue growth in the sector, growth in charity assets, up to $354 billion and a $1.3 billion increase in donations to bring the total in that reporting period, that year, to $11.8 billion. Most importantly and most relevant to our session today, the report also detailed the people side of the charity sector here in Australia. Charities employ 1.38 million people. Volunteer numbers were at 3.6 million, which in fact was a little bit of a drop from the previous 12 months. Smaller charities, as is probably I guess makes sense to a lot of us, more reliant on volunteers than larger ones. Larger ones drew on more paid staff than small charities. Extra small charities, which the ACNC defines as those with annual revenue less than $50,000 averaged 26 volunteers for every staff member.
So the baseline is, this is where the sector stood particularly prior to the pandemic. It was in robust health and it, as always, played a big role in the Australian economy. Just as importantly, it again showed that charities involve so many people and make a positive difference to so many people. The sector is huge, and varied and diverse, and its reach is wide ranging and its work is impactful. Now, charities impact is underscored by good governance, and charities registered in Australia must meet the ACNC’s governance standards. There are a set of six core minimum standards that deal with how a charity is run, that includes its processes, its activities, its relationships, overall its governance.
There’s a quick summary of the governance standards on the screen here. As you can see, there’s six of them, they cover a wide range of things. For more detail, visit ACNC.gov.au/governancestandards. Now, these standards are really the basics that form that important foundation for good charity governance and there are many features of governance that flow on from this foundation that can help charity leaders manage wellbeing.
The key part of good governance is good policy and good procedure, and these include “good” as we call them, and I’ll put the little air quotes around them, people policies and procedures. Policies covering the conduct and expectations of people as well as say clear HR processes. Good governance that helps people’s wellbeing, even stretches into things like well run meetings with clear agendas and procedures, clear position descriptions for people, great induction processes for new starters. These can provide clarity and guidance and confidence and direction for charity people.
Example of good governance and when it comes to good governance, the example has to be set from the top though. It has to be set from leaders. Good governance policy and even attitudes are driven by charity leaders, and because of this, wellbeing in many ways is driven by charity leaders as well. This is a theme that we will pick up in greater detail in a second. Before we do so though, we’re going to look quickly at the findings of the Xfactor Collective Foundation’s 2020 research for a little bit of context on the impacts of COVID on charities, and most particularly the wellbeing of their people. Now, I’m going to throw to Leanne here, who was going to guide us through the information in this section. Leanne, I’ll let you go for it, thank you.
Leanne: Thank, Chris. If you could just bring up the next slide, that would be great.
Chris: There we go.
Leanne: So, the Reset 2020 research project was a collaborative and collective effort. It was initiated and led by the Xfactor Collective but supported and funded by Equity Trustees. And the research was conducted with the social purpose sector to understand the initial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on organisations that provide support and assistance to their communities of interest. We know that the mental health and wellbeing of those who affect social change is critical to successful outcomes, so this survey served to better understand the wellbeing of those who work in the sector. The first survey took place in May 2020, with the second survey being run at the end of September 2020 and into early October. That was to look at the ongoing and emerging effects on the sector that was already facing significant challenges. So today I will be sharing a snapshot of the research findings with you and we will be including a link to the full research report at the end of the webinar, and I’d really encourage you to go and have a look at that. there’s some really useful information that you could take back and use within your own organisations and get a broader sense of what’s going on across the full social purpose sector. Thanks, Chris.
So the key findings, if you’re looking at this slide thinking, this sounds like us, be assured that you’re not alone. The key findings that came through really clearly from the respondents in the survey was that this pandemic that we’re all still in, continues to affect our service delivery. It remains an issue for a large majority of organisations, and I’m probably not telling you anything that you don’t already know with that. Revenue has been affected and almost half of the respondents have needed to access reserve in order to continue their operations. We’re seeing an increase in demand from their communities of interest and that’s making it harder to provide the levels of support required, and the levels of support that organisations pride themselves on delivering.
The second key finding that we saw was an increase in demand for the services, that’s led to staff needing longer hours, higher workloads, continuing uncertainty around the pandemic are really having an impact on the mental health and wellbeing of staff and volunteers, leaving them less effective and prone to stress and anxiety.
And worryingly, respondents reporting burnout and fatigue. Those signs of workplace burnout have increased exponentially amongst respondents since the start of the pandemic. This really is of concern, given how much the social sector contributes to the economy.
And the fourth key finding was that organisations need help to diversify their revenue streams and support their staff and volunteer wellbeing. While advocacy to government about their activities remains a really valuable support mechanism, many respondents indicated they would like and value some help to find new, or diversify their existing forms of revenue and help to support their people. So the issue of wellbeing came up as a recurring theme in the research, as did the need for strategies and ideas to keep the workforces healthy and safe. Thanks, Chris.
So the September 2020 interval of the research study found the following when it came to wellbeing impacts. 40 to 45% of the sector are now often or always in high levels of stress, exhaustion or overwhelm and not taking care of themselves. That in itself is quite a worrying number, particularly when you compare it to pre-pandemic wellbeing indicators that show nearly 1 in 5 were not taking good care of themselves, 16% felt their workload was unachievable and 1 in 10 were overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed. So we’re already coming from a base of concern. The research also found that 69% of organisations rate the overall impact of the pandemic on their leadership team as negative, and 48% rating that on their board as negative as well. So you can see that the impacts are far reaching.
So with burnout and fatigue increasing among employees and volunteers in the social service sector, the research also uncovered a strong message about pre-existing, systemic impacts on the sector’s mental health and wellbeing. An outstanding 80% of respondents stated that the existing or pre-pandemic ways of working are partly to blame with existing sector constraints exacerbating those impacts on staff and volunteers. And overall, the research painted a picture of a workforce finishing 2020 working longer hours, 38% of them in fact, up from17% in May, with 23% losing volunteers to illness or caring responsibilities, and less income. 58% had had a decline in revenue, even between the period of June and September.
And as Chris showed us before, the number of volunteers that we have in charities in Australia is over double those of paid staff, so it’s a significant impact on our volunteers as well, and with a sector that’s got close to 50% of charities having no paid staff, the impact on our volunteers has been significant with 75% reporting impacts on volunteer mental health and wellbeing, as extremely or somewhat negative, with 46% reducing volunteer hours. So in summary, the study found that there are no significant differences in the impacts of the workforce based on the organisation’s purpose, income or location, which suggests concerns about mental health in staff and volunteers is prevalent across the sector, regardless of the size. The research concluded that the most valuable forms of assistance that could be provided to the sector are continued advocacy and help to manage the mental health and wellbeing of staff and volunteers. And that’s something that we’re going to address a little bit further today.
Leanne: So let’s take a look at some of the practical things we can be doing to support the wonderful people who give so much to the sector. Chris mentioned earlier that wellbeing is a leadership responsibility and it really is. Leaders have a responsibility for the sustainability and wellbeing of their organisation and its people so it can continue to serve the communities of interest. And with that comes putting strong foundations in place. So I’m a bit of a visual person and I like to think of wellbeing as a bit like a house. So I’m going to share this image with you today. It starts with the foundations on the bottom and a roof on the top, like all good houses. If you’ve got foundations that are well constructed, they’ll be able to take the weight of the load bearing pillars that hold up our people. And if the pillars and our people are supported and aligned, then leaders are in a much better position to ensure that the roof stays on and that then allows them and the organisation to weather the storms and uncertainty that come along in situations including global pandemics.
But regardless of how big or small the organisation is, and I know we’ve got people from a real range of size organisations listening today, if the foundations are weak, then it does increase the risk that one or more of those vital three pillars could collapse. And that, as we’ve seen from the research, has pretty major impacts on our people and the beneficiaries. And I would… sorry Chris.
Chris: Sorry, I was going to just ask, with those three pillars there, these are things that perhaps leaders should be looking at, as ways of, or as a guide point I guess to influence in a positive way the wellbeing of their people, aren’t they?
Leanne: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a lot of factors that contribute to the physical health, mental wellness and connection of the team. But we know that the work environment, whether that’s paid or volunteering is a really major one. So while leaders can’t directly influence every factor, they can influence the experience that somebody has while at work. And they can do that through creating the foundations, and I’ll talk a little bit more to that, but they can also do that through role modelling, positive promotion and creating cultures of belonging, inclusion and equal access.
Chris: …I was going to say again sorry, we mentioned policy and procedure and those sorts of things a few minutes ago. How is their, or where is their importance in this as well?
Leanne: Well, employers have a legal responsibility and a duty of care to ensure that a workplace is physically and psychologically safe for everyone. And focusing on wellbeing is not only a risk mitigation strategy, it’s, we have that legal responsibility, but it’s also an opportunity to shift it towards a place of shared humanity and responsibility. So in addition to having the policies in place that are required by law, we should keep the conversation going beyond that and also consider proactive policies and practices that can support people in the way that they need most. That might include things like looking at how you manage flexible working or support for remote workers and volunteers. And Julia Keady, who’s the founder and CEO of the Xfactor Collective used a term recently that I just love, and it’s called wellbeing governance. I think it’s a really nice way of thinking about everything that we do, and put in place that is good governance to protect our people and the organisation.
Chris: With the focus on, I guess of leaders on perhaps the wellbeing of their people, is there a bit of an issue, or is there a bit of a risk that leaders themselves can put themselves in a place where they might not be looking after themselves?
Leanne: There is and we certainly see that a lot, and we saw that in the research, the Reset 2020 research that 40 to 45% of respondents said they were not taking care of themselves. And if that’s our leaders, that really presents a significant risk for the sector, but also for the organisations, if leaders are not focusing on their own self care, it makes it more challenging to be able to sustain what the organisation is delivering and support people as well. Leaders in our sector are faced with constant tasks of trying to do more with less, they’ve got funding uncertainty, there’s a fatigue that comes with making all the decisions, scarcity of resources and supporting teams, big or small, so it’s looking after yourself as a leader, it’s not a luxury, it’s a real necessity, as is recognising signs in ourselves as leaders that things are not OK. There’s certainly a point of recognising when it’s time to create a healthy boundary between what you can control and what you can’t.
Chris: Yeah, and with that, and we might link here to Adam and some of the wisdom here that he’s going to share. What are some of these signs, Adam, that maybe things aren’t quite right, they’re not quite as they should be. What should people be looking for in this context?
Adam: So you’re really looking for any significant change in your people in terms of their mood, their motivation, their sense of humour, their sense of joy, what are their attendance at work, their productivity. So any really significant change. The problem with that, Chris, is that most people are trying not to display how they’re being affected. The kind of the requirement or the obligation on the leader really is to be very active in looking for this, because most people will soldier on, and continue trying to do their job at their own expense. So, if we go down a couple of slides…
Chris: There we go.
Adam: No, one more below that.
Chris: There we go, how’s that?
Adam: The little acronym that I use for this is what you’re looking for is sad, mad, bad and glad. Sad is obvious, people are depressed, they’re in low mood, they’re not bright. Mad is people getting irritable and angry and cranky and snapping at each other, and just generally not pleasant to be around. Bad is, in the extreme bad can be people becoming corrupt, but mostly it’s people becoming cynical. Cynical and detached, this sense of why bother now, it’s just too much, so my way of dealing with that is to detach, become cynical, become disengaged. And the one that is probably the less recognised is glad. And as you can see from the photo, glad is this sense of I’m so happy I’m about to kill someone with an axe, kind of. Very brittle, overly happy, overly positive presentation that’s a pretty good indication that something’s not right under the surface. So all of these are actually people’s ways of coping. They’re a way of minimising the impact on them, and what everybody is trying to get away from in this situation is this wonderful emotion that we have that nobody likes particularly much called despair. Now, despair as I said is not popular, but it’s a very useful emotion. It’s our emotional red light. It’s this emotion that says, you know what, it’s time to stop. If something you’re doing is impacting you negatively, and the emotional system says well I’m just going to take away your joy, I’m going to take away your motivation, I’m going to make you sit down, reflect, redirect, change course, change what you’re doing. But, people resist it, they fight against it. And these are the ways they fight against it. Does that answer the question?
Chris: It does indeed. With these, as they’re here, the signs of trouble, you mentioned some, I guess some quick ways that people can recognise that maybe some team members, or even themselves might be having some issues. But how then can leaders in particular look to support those who they recognise might be having an issue or two?
Adam: OK, so can we jump back up one slide?
Chris: We can indeed, yes. There we go.
Adam: It’s very important that we distinguish, there are two, they all end up the same, all rivers end up at the sea, but there is two kind of pathways here. There’s a very big difference between what we call burnout, which is just I’m exhausted, I’m overwhelmed, I can’t possibly meet the demands on me and maintain health and wellbeing and a positive attitude, its just too much. Empathy fatigue and compassion fatigue are similar to that, in that there’s an overwhelm of resources. So compassion fatigue is, there’s only so much I can care about. There’s only so much I can think about at one time, there’s only so much attention and mental space I have for what’s going on around me, so sort of it’s an overwhelm of the cognitive system of the mind. Empathy fatigue is overwhelming the emotional system, because most people who work in this sector are naturally empathic.
When somebody tells us their story of pain and suffering and difficulty, we resonate with them emotionally, so we have an actual embodied experience of their, or our own internalisation of their feelings. And that can only be sustained to a certain extent. If we’re doing too much of that, and too much of that, unpleasant feelings, difficult feelings, and we’re not balancing that with joy and pleasant feelings and laughter and that, then we’re just going to burn out emotionally. This is different from trauma. So trauma is a disorder of self evaluation. If I come through a bad event and I feel like say Bruce Willis at the end of Die Hard, I’m not traumatised by that, I’m empowered by that. Trauma is when I come through an event and I’m feeling like I’m defeated or I’m telling a negative story, I was worthless, I was useless, I was wrong, I was ineffective. And the way this particularly affects helpers is because we are helpers. And we don’t like it when we fail to help. So when you get too much demand and too little resources people very quickly get to this point where they’re feeling like they’re not being effective. And for some people, that impacts on their identity. They start thinking that they’re failing rather than the system is failing or the situation is just untenable. They start thinking that they’re failing, so that’s what we call vicarious trauma. So it’s not a resource problem, it’s a psychological problem. It’s important to be able to distinguish between those two, but in the end, they look the same. The person’s behaviour in the end is that sad, mad, bad or glad.
Chris: With these, I guess things that you’ve shared with us in these couple of slides, what do you think are maybe a couple of key things that the sector can do overall to respond? What, I guess responsibility do those in the sector have to maybe be up front and recognise that there are times that they might not be just, might not be feeling right, or they might need to recognise that they’re not 100% right? What responsibility do people in the sector have, and what do you think the sector overall can do to respond, Adam?
Adam: I think you named it Chris, when you said it’s got to be up front. Once the signs are there, it’s too late. Certainly recovery can happen, but it’s getting to it before it happens, so that’s not having a kind of reactive stand of well if this happens, I’ll deal with it. It’s having a creative position of not if this happens, but when this happens, and is this happening, because as we’ve seen from the research, this is happening. This is sector-wide. It’s probably happening in your organisation right now.
So, when it happens and to, as we’ll talk about when we go to Jo, creating this culture that actually normalises this and destigmatises it, and says this is not your failure that you’re feeling this way. This is simply a mathematical equation of demand is overriding resources. And so it’s this thing going, well this is going to happen, let’s have a conversation about it, let’s put it into the conversation, let’s make it part of our every day way of functioning. I used to work in the construction industry, and you stepped onto the job every morning, you had a tool box meeting. You sat down, you went, what’s happening today? What are the risks we need to be aware of today, how is everybody going today, what does everybody need to know, and here’s your job. So it’s really putting it up front. Don’t start the day without checking in with people, without actually getting in there and saying, if you are experiencing any of this, you need to come and talk. We need to have a conversation about that. It’s not OK, you don’t have to bury it, you don’t have to hide it, you don’t have to bear this burden alone. So it’s very much being on the front foot, have it part of the culture.
Chris: With this, and what we might do now, we’ll perhaps bring Jo in on the conversation as well. We mentioned, or mention is made of the term a culture of wellbeing. Up front, a bit of honesty, destigmatising. How can, Jo, a team create a culture of wellbeing? How can they perhaps do that?
Jo: Thanks, Chris, and I think it’s been a really insightful conversation listening to Adam and Leanne talk about this. I think in terms of culture and how we can approach culture, I think a really good starting point is trying to understand what matters most to the people in our organisation, and that’s whether that person or the people we’re talking about are employees, or volunteers, or whether they’re leaders or perhaps even whether they’re a board member. And if we think about the number of people we have in the sector, some 5 million people from the earliest slides that you presented, that’s a lot to understand when we think about how do we better understand culture and how do we better create that culture of wellbeing?
And I know Adam touched on it before around having that conversation, that up front strategy, but it’s really about making the time to have that important conversation about how our teams are working together, about how our people are working together, what we value, how we engage. And if we think about this through the lens of wellbeing, we need to take a really deliberate approach to developing our culture around that. Leanne showed us the data, that data is telling us overwhelmingly that our people feel burnout, they’ve got high levels of anxiety, they’re overwhelmed, they’re fatigued. We’ve heard from Adam those signs to look for. And so that really brings us to this place around wellbeing, putting our people at the centre of the culture that we want to nurture within our organisations, and we can really start to see then how wellbeing can be that boundary for cultural change and that boundary for creating culture within our respective organisations.
Chris: Alright, what I’ll do is I’ll flip to the next slide for you Jo. There we go. What, I guess are you presenting here with these three points? What are your key messages here, I guess.
Jo: Yeah, so our culture in any organisation or any team, any group that we are part of, culture just doesn’t happen by itself. We don’t just turn up and here’s our culture, and it’s something that we talk about a lot, and we see it across the sector. We often talk about culture, we acknowledge culture as being really important. Creating a culture of wellbeing, but often we leave it to develop organically. And what can happen there is we have a risk of creating an unintended culture. Now, that can be good or bad, I guess, depending on what that culture turns out to be. But what we don’t want, Leanne mentioned before about the sector finishing last year with this extreme sense of burnout. We don’t want how we describe culture to be burnout in the sector. We want culture to be about wellbeing, and about sustainable organisations. And that takes a really deliberate approach. You can’t build the foundation of that without taking that deliberate approach and it’s something that really needs to be nurtured, particularly in times of change.
And I often call that the unheroic work, because we get really busy, right, and when it’s… all of our organisations are busy, and we’re busier at the moment, given the environment that we’re in. Whether an organisation is growing or consolidating or trying to figure out our way through this crisis that we’re in, we often forget to nurture the culture of the organisation that we have, and it becomes that much more important when we’re busy, and our people need a lot from us, and our stakeholders and our constituents, they need a lot from us as well. It really is that role that we have to pay attention and to nurture that. And recognising that we’re in this ongoing environment of constant readjustment, constant change, things are always going to be different, whether that is because of a pandemic or because of increased need on our sector, or because of consolidation. And that means that we need to pay really close attention to culture. And it’s asking those questions. It’s finding out, what does matter most to the people within our organisation, regardless of what their role is, and really looking for how we can nurture that and grow that and develop that, so that we are really clear about what matters most for our people.
Chris: Now, it’s probably pretty clear here that culture isn’t something that say happens by accident. As your first point sort of says, sometimes, often times it can be left to develop organically, but culture doesn’t happen by accident, does it? it needs a deliberate approach.
Jo: It does need a deliberate approach, and we have to bring it together. So culture in an organisation can’t be a top down, the board or the leadership team says, you know, dear organisation, here’s your culture, we’re going to gift it to the organisation. But equally we don’t want to build it entirely bottom up, because that doesn’t always get us the right outcome either. So by understanding what matters most to the people within our organisations, asking that question, being curious about what are the things that we share as people and teams, and what is the purpose that we’re here to deliver, and kind of meeting in the middle, almost is how we will really nurture that culture. We can’t just leave it, we can’t just wake up one day and go, something happened to our culture, our culture is not good anymore, our culture is burnout. We have to actually take the time to do that.
And recognising that we have organisational constraints, and in our sector we have a lot of constraints that are there and present, and we kind of almost have to stop doing one thing so we can just make that time and make that space to have that conversation, because if we don’t, we’ll find ourselves down a path where we have an unintended culture which makes it much more difficult to try and change and get back on track later on. It really is doing that good work, like Adam said, it’s doing that work up front. As Leanne said, it’s really putting those foundations in place so that every step forward becomes a positive step to really nurturing the culture and taking a really deliberate focus on that.
Chris: I know that, and there’s a couple of slides here which I might just progress through, that you have Jo, that mention a couple of these things. There’s one there, some feedback that we’ve highlighted here.
Jo: Absolutely, and we have these conversations in teams a lot, and this really stuck out to me. This person said this to me recently, it’s so easy to forget the value of a simple team conversation. Because we get busy, and that’s a constraint that we have, we get busy. But even just taking that 10 minutes or 15 minutes, it’s a Zoom cup of tea, or whatever it is, to actually just sit and hear an experience of another person, really helps bring to life what’s valued about culture.
Chris: And I’ll go to the next slide also that you provided for us Jo, just as an additional one as well.
Jo: And so true, right, culture is what keeps us together when everything is going OK. But the key bit here is, it’s the bit that hold us together when stuff gets a little bit tough. And so we can’t expect that to hold us together when things get tough if we haven’t put the work in before hand to really truly nurture and understand what it is that matters most in our organisations.
Chris: And be the guardian of your culture, I do like that, I have to say.
Jo: I love that.
Chris: Now we, and I’ll put this to all of you here, we have received a question through, and thanks to Matt and to Bree for sending this one through to us, just as a discussion before we wrap things up. We’ve talked about a number of aspects in this area, and we’ve had a question come through, and I’ll read it, paraphrase it for you all. How do you manage all of this when you are perhaps the person in charge, and perhaps responsible for managing and looking after the wellbeing of staff when you are the one who might be struggling the most or might be having issues? Is there some or all of you who would like to discuss that one?
Adam: I’d love to jump in on that one.
Chris: Go for it.
Adam: I think that leadership is this fine line between being the person who is the container for the group, but also being vulnerable enough that we can allow the group to support us. And I think sometimes leaders are afraid that if they show their vulnerability then the group is going to lose faith in them, or the group is going to lose confidence or lose trust. I would say it’s exactly the opposite. It’s our ability as leaders to be vulnerable, to expose our own belly and say you know what, I’m actually struggling right now. And there’s an opportunity for other members of the group to join in and say yeah, well that’s my experience too, which is what Jo and Leanne have been talking about. But also, as a way to get the support they need from other members of the group.
Chris: Alright. Jo or Leanne, do you have anything further on that one?
Jo: I was just going to, wildly nodding my head here, that nobody can see, to Adam’s comment because managing it all, the leadership role in any organisation is a hard gig, and in our sector it can often be a lonely gig as well. And when we think about culture, culture is a collective team effort. One person doesn’t create the culture, it’s all of us together, and so I wholeheartedly agree with what Adam said. It’s how do we do this together, how do we navigate through this together as a team, as a culture, to take that forward.
Chris: Yeah, we do have another one. And thank you to all three of you for being willing to share your knowledge on these ones that are coming through. We often, in all walks of life here about employee assistance program support, EAP, those sorts of things, telling staff about this type of support, if they need to talk, that sort of thing. Question is, is this, do you believe, sufficient and sustainable in looking after our people?
Leanne: I’m happy to jump in on this one, Chris.
Chris: Go for it Leanne.
Leanne: I think EAP is part of the solution, it’s not always the whole solution. People have very different experiences with people that they talk to in EAP lines, and when I think about how to best support people, I think it’s the sum of all the parts. The EAP is one of those resources that is amazing to have available for people to tap into, but it’s also having a culture where they might be able to share things with their peers, talk about it openly, having policies and practices in place that might support the need for a mental health day or recognising that juggling kids, juggling multiple demands might mean I need to work different hours that day, or need to work the same hours, but over split times of the day. So looking at how to support people in multiple ways, taking a multiple prong approach to their wellbeing will always be a better outcome and a longer, more sustainable outcome than just relying on one resource in itself.
Chris: No problem.
Adam: I’d like to jump in and reinforce what Leanne is saying, in that unfortunately we know that only 2 to 4% of employees ever use the EAP service. There are some barriers to using the service that we don’t have time to go into, but what we know from the research is that most of this will occur through peer debriefing. And peer support. Most of these issues will be dealt with, within the group. So the best way to handle that is to resource the group properly for that to occur, is what I would suggest.
Chris: No problems, and thank you to all of you for your input on those two questions, that’s wonderful. We have, as you can see on our screen, we’re going to work through some tips that each of our co-presenters today have sent our way. Leanne, we’ll maybe start with, I think you had three tips that you were going to speak to, and I’ll work through some of these slides, and if you want to speak to them, go for it.
Leanne: Thanks Chris, and it talks to the first question that we just addressed a few minutes ago, that it really is important for leaders to prioritise their own wellbeing, so that analogy of fitting your own oxygen mask so that you can support others, has never been more vital than it is right now. And that could be asking for help, it could be asking for support, it might just be letting your team know, loudly and proudly that you are taking the next half hour off to go for a walk outside. So you’re looking after your own wellbeing, and you’re role modelling that for your team. The second one is building those strong foundations that support the wellbeing of all of your people and it’s a little bit of what I just talked to in that second question, around EAP is not the sole solution. So look at everything that makes up the foundations of your culture, your policies, your practices, your communication, everything that contributes to those pillars, to give a better outcome. I think I had one more on the next slide as well, thanks Chris.
Chris: You did indeed Leanne, yes.
Leanne: The third one was creating healthy boundaries between what you can control and what you can’t. As leaders of the organisation there are a lot of things that will be out of your control, and you don’t have to be the keeper of everything.
Chris: Now Adam, I know that you had a couple of takeaways too. One of them we’ve got a bit of a preview for right here with the number four next to it. Did you want to just take us through the couple of things that you wanted to mention?
Adam: Yes, I mean I’m probably just repeating myself. It’s not if, but when, this is going to happen and it probably already is happening. So just be alert to it, don’t wait until it has to hit you over the head with a baseball bat, to get your attention. And do what you can to limit exposure to stress. I know that the demands on services right now are huge, but we don’t actually, if we sacrifice ourself to meet those demands, we don’t actually help people. We end up losing staff and we end up losing productivity, so it’s really got to be about limiting people’s exposure to stress and to counter that also, building fun. Make the workplace fun, make the workplace celebratory, make the workplace something that is really, people want to turn up for.
Chris: And Jo, you had three things that you wish to highlight, and again one of them we’re getting a bit of a preview here in point six. What are the three things you want to highlight?
Jo: I think that one fits quite well with Adam’s point above it, doesn’t it, creating that positive culture, but to do that, you’ve got to make the space for that, so I always suggest we stop doing one thing to make that space, so that we can actually create that culture and ask those questions. It’s also about having the conversation as well, so being curious, asking your people what matters most to us, how do we work together, and really creating that shared understanding of not just each other, but of the culture of the organisation as well.
Chris: Yeah. Now we, and I’m wary of the time here, we’ve got about five or six minutes here. We’ve broached a couple of questions, thank you to those who’ve sent them through, and as I wrap up in a second, I’ll also repeat some of the other options that you’ve got to further the conversation. But we did have one more question come through that we’ll share here, and it’s probably something that many people are feeling, not just within the sector, but perhaps overall, and it’s this issue of loss of contact, maybe family contact, and perhaps workplace contact, due to lockdowns that are occurring right now. It can lead a little bit to that feeling of despondency and those sorts of things. How, as leaders, can perhaps those in the sector address this, or at least broach it as an issue?
Jo: I’m happy to jump in there a bit, Chris. I think we’ve spoken a little bit around it before around this shared responsibility, because a lot falls to leaders, and the leader can feel responsible for keeping everybody connected, and we get busy and when we’re all working in isolation it’s hard to tell if the person that normally sits next to me in the office is flat out busy or I can actually, can I pick up the phone and call them, or can I drop a Zoom coffee into their diary, and I think it’s that… for me, it’s part of this deliberateness that I spoke about earlier. It’s really making those deliberate steps to keep people connected. This is not an easy thing to do. We’re all human beings and we need to be with other human beings, through the course of our working and our lives. But in this weirdness, making that deliberate step to have that morning tea Monday or it’s Thursday afternoon coffee, or if it’s an end of week BYO drink, I went to a fancy hat thing recently, some of that stuff feels a little bit kitschy and a little bit sort of strange and weird, but it’s the thing that’s going to hold us together at the moment, because if we can’t be physically connected to people, we have to find another way of doing that.
Chris: Yeah, yeah. What we might do now, and again I’ll say thank you to all three of you for broaching these questions and providing some responses, and thanks to those who have sent some of these questions through. We’re near the end of our allotted hour, I suppose, and near the end of our formal presentation. Again, just a reminder that a recording of this webinar and the slides are going to be available on the ACNC website in the coming days, and we will be sending a follow up email out to everyone who registered for this webinar with some links and some bits and pieces for you to have. Again, for more detailed questions or assistance for charities in relation to some of the things that have been mentioned in this webinar, the Xfactor Collective has an email address, again that’s email@example.com feel free to send a question or a query through, and they will be followed up and responded to.
Leanne: Chris, would you mind just sharing the slide with the details?
Chris: I can, it’s going to be right back at the start… actually hold on, what I might do is I might go forward. There we go, there’s the email there. That’s the email right there, so if you feel the need to get in touch, please do so. The other thing I was going to mention, and we will share this link through the follow up email that we are going to be sending out to everyone after this webinar, is that the Xfactor Collective have also set up times during August and September where anyone who’s attended, registered for today’s webinar, can book into what they have called their Concierge Service. And that’s aimed at helping organisations who want to find resources or support, or speak with them about their needs in a confidential way. Now, we won’t share that web address here, to those who’ve registered for this webinar, that will be coming out in our follow up email. So you’ll have that in place, and if you wish to access that service, or if you wish to find out a little bit more, feel free to do so. Beyond that, these are some of our links, both to the ACNC and to the Xfactor Collective. Again, there’s a link to the Reset 2020 research as well, to websites and all of that sort of stuff. We’ve pretty much reached the end of our hour, so thank you to everyone who has attended today. Thank you hugely to Leanne and to Jo and to Adam. Thank you all for sharing your insights and your wisdom. Thank you.
Adam: Thank you, Chris.
Leanne: Most welcome.
Chris: And thank you also to Matt and to Bree, who have been busily handling everything behind the scenes and communicating some of your questions through. It’s hugely appreciated, so thank you for that. And lastly, thank you to everyone who’s turned up and attended and tuned in today. We hope that what has been covered will offer some assistance to your organisation, to your leaders and to your people. So, we look forward to catching up with you all again in the near future. Until we do, have a great day, stay safe, and thank you very much. Good bye.