As featured on The Growth Faculty Blog
BY BRIDIE WALSH – THE GROWTH FACULTY
Staff turnover was at 30 percent per year, four years ago at KINNECT, a Queensland-based healthcare service provider. The business was growing, clients were happy, but staff were not.
Allied Health is an industry well known for its high turnover of staff. Nevertheless, the cost and disruption associated with losing staff and recruiting and training new ones prompted the company’s leadership to search for answers.
KINNECT’s founder and director, Kevin Conlon, says his highly-trained occupational therapists, exercise physiologists, physiotherapists, rehabilitation counsellors and nurses sustain his business, which caters to a range of industries in mining, transport, logistics, finance and retail.
Yet many were staying just six to 12 months at a time.
“The real trigger for me was the realisation that service industries like ours talk about people being important,” says Conlon. “But when you start measuring people’s engagement, if that doesn’t show the corresponding perceptions that you expect, then you need to make a change.” In other words, walk the talk.
Conlon sat his executives down to map out a path to create a team of ‘rock-stars’ – energised, talented staff who would stay for the long-term and be a part of their sustainable growth and success.
Conlon started with changing himself and his team first. He searched for training and support. “We’ve been attending The Growth Faculty for five years and I’m also involved in EO (Entrepreneurs Organisation) and attending the Entrepreneurial Master’s Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.”
Conlon has big growth plans. KINNECT currently has five directors and 80-plus staff based in seven offices in Queensland and one in Perth, Western Australia. Conlon wants to grow to 150 staff in 15 offices across Australia by 2018.
“We’re now very focussed on getting the right people in the business who are the right cultural fit to get us to move toward our larger goals.”
Applying the NET Promotor Score
Conlon applies techniques from Verne Harnish’s Mastering the RockerFeller Habits, Fred Reichheld’s NET Promoter Score and MIT who introduced him to the hiring techniques in the book Who: A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street.
“One of our core values is ‘happy’ and we know that the happier staff are, the more productive they are,” says Conlon. “Although we were busy, and receiving lots of work – we weren’t expanding sustainably.
The NET Promoter Score is usually used to measure customer satisfaction, measuring on a scale from -100 to +100 how likely the respondent is to recommend the company to a friend.
But KINNECT turned it inwards to measure employee satisfaction.
“We use Survey Monkey and asked 3 simple questions:
- How likely would you recommend KINNECT to a friend as a place to work?
- How appreciated do you feel within KINNECT?
- How driven do you feel to make a difference within KINNECT?
The power of listening
“To be honest with you, when we first did the survey, it was pitiful, with our average score of 20-plus.”
Staff had to overcome their initial fears that the information would come back to bite them, he says.
But confidentiality was assured and kept; the survey anonymous.
When staff watched their leaders take action on the responses: “They saw we were serious and now we get some open and honest feedback,” he says.
Listening and responding was KINNECT’s ‘silver bullet’ to shift culture: “The only way to change is get blunt honest feedback.”
On the last week of each month, like clockwork, KINNECT continues to send the survey to staff, and this is one of Conlon’s key performance indicators.
The last week of each month is getting much easier for Conlon. “When someone gives us an answer, we ask: how we can improve this? What can we do as a company to make you more driven? Or to make you want to provide?”
Conlon says, “Our most recent NET promoter score of 84 is phenomenal.”
Values make decision makers
Establishing core values that drive behaviour has also been the crucial step for KINNECT.
“We recognised that to create a team environment, we needed:
1. Clinicians that are highly skilled and happy
2. People who create sustainable value
“Every decision our business makes, from purchasing of equipment for the office all the way through to the way we engage and manage a relationship with a customer or employer is based on those two core values,” says Conlon. “Our people know if they have ticked the box on both those questions they can simply make the decision.”
Previously KINNECT’s directors made all the decisions.
‘Scoring’ helps staff know where they stand
Perceived inequality in pay and opportunities for career progression affect people’s happiness. Getting this right is crucial to retaining staff for the long-term, Conlon says.
KINNECT uses the concept of score-carding job positions to create a fair and level playing field. “In our early stages [of business operation] we would recruit based on need and offer different remuneration.”
It could mean a physiotherapist with equal qualifications and experience could be on different salaries. Unintentionally, it created an unequal playing field. “And people talk,” Conlon says.
“The ‘Who method’ [of hiring] describes score carding,” he says. “We took a look at every role, and every level someone could achieve in that role, and developed a score card for every position. People are assigned a level, but they have access to every level above them, so they know what they need to do to achieve that higher level: the mission, competencies and outcomes they need, and the culture outcomes they need.
“The best thing about the score card, everyone knows where they stand. They know what they can do and what they need to get there.”
The rewards are higher pay, higher benefits, and higher responsibility if staff can demonstrate the skill and intention.
People are assets, not expenses
“We sell services provided by professional people. The only way to provide a sustainable business model was to invest in our people. As soon as we started thinking of our people as investments and not expenses the game changed.”
Staff development and incentives are instrumental in supporting people to get to where they want to go in their career.
This year KINNECT will fly their teams from Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Emerald and Perth to Brisbane for a three-day cruise.
“It will also be to celebrate not only our rapid growth, and fantastic culture, but our 18th Birthday, so we might even have a drink.”
Fostering a sense of team and providing incentives happens on a smaller scale too. “We encourage staff to go and have lunch as a group once a month. They participate in a sports team we pay for outside of hours.” Events together and group training have contributed to the culture shift KINNECT set out to achieve when they mapped their path to rock-stardom.
KINNECT’s business aims are simple – to make people at work healthy, safe and productive – but not easy.
Conlon has changed his focus. “Across many industries in the past, the focus was on creating efficient operations to ensure productivity and a healthy bottom line,” he says. “Now, the focus is on people. Ironically, this focus still achieves what we strived for in the past but also makes it sustainable as we rapidly grow into the future.”
“Health is paramount,” Conlon says. “Companies realise that by promoting the health and safety in an organisation their productivity improves as well. It keeps coming back to people and it also helps with their culture.”
“The people are the most important asset. Start with the people and then worry about the business.”