Building a great place to work

 

Melbourne-based clinic NeuroRehab Allied Health Network was recently ranked 20th in the 2021 Australia’s Best Workplaces list. A conversation with Steve Woollard and Angela Mucic about why company culture is the key to its success.

Earlier this year, Melbourne-based NeuroRehab Allied Health Network decided to take a closer look at its company culture by completing a certification through global workplace consulting firm Great Place to Work (GPTW).

From its beginnings as a one-person mobile physiotherapy clinic in 2005, NeuroRehab has grown into a multidisciplinary network comprising 180 team members, offering physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, exercise physiology, music therapy, dietetics, neuropsychology and related services.

‘Our team culture is something we’ve always been passionate about and I see that as the key to running a successful business.

'Having a team aligned with the same core values means they put 100 per cent in,’ says NeuroRehab’s founder and director Steve Woollard, APAM.

‘The Great Place to Work survey gave us an opportunity to gain a more objective measure.

'We’d always done our annual staff surveys and they always had great results.

'But going to an external agency meant benchmarking ourselves against everything else out there.’

Angela Mucic, APAM, NeuroRehab’s Head of People and Business Development, agrees, saying that while culture has always been important to the company, this gave them a chance to measure its impact and importance in a quantifiable way.

‘Physios love to have a way of knowing whether something has been successful,’ she says.

As part of its certification process, GPTW surveys staff with a comprehensive questionnaire about all aspects of company culture and follows up with a ‘culture audit’ of the business.

A NeuroRehab team member works with a client.

If the company meets the requirements, they are certified as a ‘Great Place to Work’ and ranked against other certified workplaces.

This year, says Steve, GPTW ranked NeuroRehab 20th in Australia among medium-sized businesses (100–1000 employees) in the 2021 Australia’s Best Workplaces list.

‘We were competing alongside those much bigger businesses with up to 1000 team members and there’s a lot of big IT and pharmaceutical companies in there.

'When I look at the list of who else is in there, it makes me proud that we’re competing with these quite large, potentially multinational organisations with much, much bigger budgets than we have,’ he says.

Steve says 96 per cent of NeuroRehab’s team agreed that the company was a great place to work.

It scored very highly against the benchmarks in a number of areas, such as fairness, professional development and flexibility.

The next step will be to address concerns raised during the GPTW surveys, including the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns.

‘It’s about managing their workload so they’re not getting to the point of burnout, because they will always want to do more for their clients.

'I guess that’s the physiotherapy way; we’re always trying to do as much as we can for people,’ he says.

One of the things NeuroRehab scores highly in is creating a supportive environment for its staff, says Angela.

Regular communication is part of this, she says, whether at staff meetings, team meetings or one on one, and the communication goes both ways, with management open to staff feedback.

Providing career development opportunities is also important, says Steve.

All images supplied by NeuroRehab. Photography by Rom Anthonis.

The company has recently updated its career pathways to reflect the needs of team members by tailoring individual career development plans and has also started working with universities to offer student placements.

‘We have a management pathway through our senior ranks; we have an education pathway and a passion pathway that is more about being a champion in a particular area.

'There are multiple different choices staff can take with us and we’re happy to support them,’ he says.

A large professional development program offers many in-house training courses and brings in instructors as well as providing generous funding for relevant external courses.

‘We’ve always been generous with that; it was something I didn’t get any support for through the earlier years of my career when I was working for other people,’ Steve says.

‘We provide education for the whole team—it’s a lot more powerful than sending one person to a course as they can ask each other questions and work together to try to get some of those concepts into practice.’

The company values team bonding highly, from regular team and company meetings to attending professional development together and monthly social activities, which have continued on a virtual level during the COVID-19 restrictions.

‘We have a regular routine of opportunities to enable people to connect and make friends.

'It’s not just having colleagues, but trying to foster some friendships within the workplace.

'I think it definitely adds more to a great culture if you’re friends with your co-workers,’ Steve says.

Given its success in reaching the top 20 of Australia’s Best Places to Work, it’s clear that NeuroRehab is focusing on the right things for both its team members and its clients.

‘We’re a place with a positive, innovative ‘can-do’ kind of energy. We’re always happy to give things a go,’ says Angela.

 

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