We need to wrap support around the Health Sector and develop their leaders

Posted on: 30/08/2021

By Sasha Burnham, Head of Research


The WA Health System in a “State of Emergency,” following the results from the annual ‘Your Voice in Health’ survey that were released on Friday. It painted a grim picture of an overstretched workforce who feel unsupported, undervalued, and unsafe.

An alarming 55% did not agree that it is safe to speak up and challenge the way things are done which speaks to the degree (or lack of) of psychological safety within the culture of the health system, and only 47% of workers feel valued and recognised for the work they do.

Despite a strong commitment to delivering high patient care, it is clear the sector is under-resourced, with a third of staff indicating they do not have the tools, resources, and processes to complete their work effectively. We know that increased resources will only go so far and alone won’t help staff feel more valued, or increase those feelings of psychological safety.

Based on our research and our Licensee Veraison’s recent experience working across all WA Metro Health Services, we know that leadership development offers the opportunity to improve the way staff feel at work. But in an under-resourced sector, how can they know what leadership development initiatives will actually make a difference?

Executives that are ‘ahead of the game,’ have used our health-specific, empirical 360-degree assessment to understand where to target their leadership development to get the biggest return on investment.

For example, taking a sample of feedback from 230 health workers across four metro-based hospitals, we separated staff that felt most valued and least valued, based on their interactions with their direct leader.

We found that these leaders varied significantly on four key leadership capabilities;

  • communicating effectively
  • empowering others to find solutions
  • collaborating with others to set goals
  • observing performance to improve service outcomes

Leaders who performed highly in these four areas have staff who feel more valued. 

This information enables a significant opportunity to transform employee engagement which has a direct impact on psychological safety and performance.

Health organisations that develop leaders’ capability across these four areas will have the advantage, but first they need leaders to become aware of these gaps i.e. become aware of their own blind spots.

We know the data enables targeted, effective leadership development in the key areas needed to actually make a difference in one of the lowest performing areas of the ‘Your Voice In Health’ survey; staff feeling more valued by their leaders.

Given health leaders are already time-poor, a targeted approach using valid, reliable data is often welcomed.



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