Now is a good time for both proverbial constants in life, namely taxes and change.   The Agriculture and Employment Services industries experienced a lot of change during COVID and have had to adapt to survive.   During these times, it is important to remember that change can work for you and not against you.   Prospert helps you see this and hopes this article will inspire you to think differently about the New Employment Services Model (NESM) and beyond.

Brace yourselves change is coming…

When NESM was introduced, it was met with mixed reactions, ranging from fear to skepticism. These are natural reactions to volatility and ambiguity (our flight or fight instincts).  Many organisations were wondering whether they should even stay in this industry!

Three key insights about leading change under NESM

Firstly, change is hard on people, especially in an industry already experiencing high turnover.   Secondly, navigating through change is an art.   However, navigating is not ‘crashing through’.   It might surprise you to know that only 1 in 6 people naturally embrace change  This is a worry when we need the majority of our teams to come on the change journey.   Finally, in our experience, practical tools help embed change and are useful for cascading across different organisation levels to ensure a consistent approach.

Keep reading to see three questions leaders need to ask themselves on their teams’ preparedness for change.

NESM is the PACMAN of Employment Services

For those who do not know or remember PACMAN, this 1980s console game is the perfect analogy for what is coming.  NESM will gobble half your jobactive caseloads, then will work on your DMS Disability Employment Services caseloads.   It is a hungry beast and you need skills to survive.

Prospert-employment-services-industry

Who wants change?

Yes, yes, yes… “Make our job easier, make it more efficient, provide a better service”.   Everyone wants change, but who WANTS to change?   Part our resistance is that change brings the possibility of worse – fostering a fear of failure.   Real change forces a shift of reality.   In the old days we could bank on Stream As “keeping the lights on” but, in the new world, we must change this view.   We often only change when an outside force requires us to and, err…NESM is a big force!

Who wants to lead the change?

People are our biggest asset, and that includes current and future leaders.   Yet they often receive little investment in their development.   An irony of this industry, is that site leaders stay for a long time and are as such very experienced relative to their frontline teams whom experience high turnover.  However, where is the learning and development focus?  Frontline or leaders?

The change processes

Do we start making changes or try to cling to the current world and hope the Government’s NESM fails?   During our change journey, we face a key choice: wait for the realized results or abandon the change.   A better attitude is make an informed assessment of change.  At Prospert, we suggest a feasibility study, to debunk the myths, and see the benefits of change.   In our experience, it helps the Board and Executive to think optimistically about the future.   For our clients with a strong appetite for change, they found that embracing the need for change and communicating the benefits with staff, are the best ways to build momentum.   Moreover, generating ideas from frontline staff helps the wider team understand how they may shape change and not be its victim.

Hope is not a strategy

If your strategy is to hang on to your jobactive market share, that mentality needs to change.   We are hearing these quality questions from our clients’ Boards: Is the risk benefit equation in our favour if we bid aggressively for NESM regions?   Are we putting too many eggs in one basket? Should we spread our risk and diversify to different programs and regions?

You cannot stick your head in the sand and hope this will be like jobactive

Different people across the organisation have a role and way to deal with change. For instance: leaders and frontline managers need to have tough conversations about the future but remain optimistic about your vision and how all staff can help.   While, most Boards should understand the bigger picture and implications of change, as well as their role in it.

At Prospert we look for bold and innovative ways to optimise change

Use this time to find ways for more participants to want to experience your service.  Consider these ideas: (I) Trialling blended service model approach (mixture of the best of what the Government can bring and what you can bring); (ii) Growing employer caseload (biggest asset in the future) to offer participants choice; and (iii) Leveraging hidden community assets which can speak for your brand.

Do not become the next Dodo

If we do not change, there is a big chance that we become like the Dodo.   It is a stark reality if you are a DES Provider that is not in NESM, or a small jobactive provider struggling to make ends meet.   For some, the best option might be to exit the market while they can.

However, it is not all gloom and doom

Be alert and curious for opportunities! If you or your team experience change fatigue, here are some ways to combat it:

  1. Inspire and drive your team through the obstacle course (get a coffee with them and assess how they are feeling, and monitor that with staff engagement snapshots);
  2. Make change fun (reinforce opportunities to demonstrate change and its benefits, as well as rewarding and trialling innovative ideas suggested); and
  3. Avoid panicking. Ensure your resources are aligned and ready to start the change journey. A critical element of this new contract are your corporate support areas.  Are they truly engaged and know what operations want, because their proactive support is vital.   Prepare for various outcomes and develop sensible mitigation plans.

NESM will reward providers that respond quickly and many will not have time to catch up.

An example.  We were recently engaged for a Business Transformation project and gathered 10 of our client’s best site managers across the country in one room.   They suggested great ideas that helped deliver a new service model which contributed in turning their business around within 6 months.   Now that’s an example of embracing the need to change and realising the benefits.

Last piece of advice

The most change ready organisations we work with can answer these questions with ease, can you?

  1. Are your leaders capable of taking teams on the change journey?
  2. Are there skill gaps in your frontline and support teams?
  3. Are your processes, properties and systems able to deliver a fantastic stakeholder (jobseekers, employers and community groups) experience?