By: Kerryn Dillon, ​Chief HR & Industrial Relations Officer​, TLC Healthcare

Posted on 30 Mar 2016

We’ve all had the opportunity to come into contact with healthcare professionals at some point in our lives. Sometimes, the experience leaves us with a smile on our face; at other times, it leaves much to be desired. Often, what makes the difference between the two experiences is whether the caregiver provides a personal touch, making you feel as though your health and well-being really matters.

At TLC Healthcare, the largest family-owned residential aged care, primary care and training services provider in Victoria, this personal approach extends to the care the company takes not only with its patients but also with its workforce. The fast-growing organisation uses high-touch approaches to engage with its people, providing supportive face-to-face communications and training in order to ensure high levels of engagement. For Kerryn Dillon, Chief HR and Industrial Relations Officer at TLC, this approach serves as a valuable reminder that everyone must work together in a collaborative manner in order to deliver the best quality integrated healthcare.

Our employees’ engagement has a direct impact on the care we provide for our residents and patients.

“We’re a symbiotic organisation. Our employees’ engagement has a direct impact on the care we provide for our residents and patients. So you can’t sit in an office and just assume a program will work. You need to get out and meet people wherever they are. Every program we have put in place is with the specific goal of making sure people are engaged in what they’re doing,” says Kerryn. “My job is to care for the staff. They care for the residents and patients.”

Support for the company’s collaborative culture comes from the top, where CEO Lou Pascuzzi’s enthusiasm and engagement are “contagious,” according to Kerryn. As she points out, a disengaged leadership team will never result in a successful business so it is essential for company leaders to role-model engaging behaviors, such as rewarding employees who are seeking out and implementing innovative holistic healthcare practices.

Support for the company’s collaborative culture comes from the top.

For TLC, high levels of engagement at the C-level and, in turn, at other levels of the organisation have helped turn the company’s business performance around. In 2014 and early 2015, the company was plagued with issues of low performance and high turnover commensurate with the industry. The implementation of new engagement programs since then has had a real impact on staff performance and retention, and the company’s turnover rate is now significantly lower.

Part of the success is due to the company’s focus on what Kerryn calls the “yin and yang” – figuring out who the top performers are and rewarding them to keep them engaged, while letting go of those staff members who aren’t performing at high levels. To further underscore this philosophy, TLC has initiated an awards program that allows staff members to recognise colleagues who are leading by example and  embodying the company’s values of Respect, Accountability, Excellence, Collaboration, Integrity and Innovation. The program further embeds the organisation’s values structure in an effort to improve engagement and retention. Kerryn notes that TLC strives to implement innovative engagement techniques that entice employees to “stay with the organisation and move up, instead of move up and move on.”

Even the company’s method for gathering feedback on employee programs and training efforts has been engaging and personal. Rather than using a website to survey employees about a new training module, for instance, the company placed questions on the wall and staff members used sticky notes to share their opinions.

If you have high levels of engagement, people are inclined to reflect upon their own performance and practices.

Employee feedback also showed that there was a disconnect between the morning and night shift workers, so TLC is planning a simple fix to incorporate a monthly breakfast among employees to share information and enhance communications. These brief sessions reiterate the company’s emphasis on face-to-face collaboration as a means to further engage employees and drive improved business performance.

“If you have high levels of engagement, people are inclined to reflect upon their own performance and practices. Then, they work in collaboration with their team to find ways to be even better,” Kerryn says.

Less than a year after the implementation of several new programs aimed at increasing engagement, TLC has discovered that the personal approach is paying off. The leadership team continues to hear anecdotal stories about staff who are sharing with their peers that the company is doing exciting things in order to engage with its people.

These successes don’t mean that the company will rest on its laurels. TLC intends to continue to develop innovative programs over the coming year and will undertake a large employee engagement survey to determine where the new programs are succeeding and where they may be falling short. After all, as Kerryn notes, “It’s our job to make sure our people are engaged.”

About The Author

Kerryn Dillon
​Chief HR & Industrial Relations Officer​, TLC Healthcare

As a qualified workplace relations lawyer and having held a number of senior human resources positions across the health and aged care industry, Kerryn has a lengthy history providing practical and effective people solutions. Prior to joining TLC Healthcare, as well as completing a number of years of legal practice, Kerryn was Director of Broad Reach Employee Relations, Group HR Manager of Mercy Health and HR Operations Manager at the St Vincent de Paul Society.

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