There has been an incredible culture shift toward remote and flexible work arrangements in the last two years. For the disability support sector, this could be seen as another blow driving talent away from the industry — but our new customer research tells a different story.
Since 2020, many support organisations have offered online services to minimise the risk of COVID-19. GoodHuman’s 2022 Customer Trends and Values Report found that more than half (56%) of NDIS participants accessed online services in 2021. Born out of necessity, these services have proved to be a big hit with customers, with 78% of NDIS participants stating they would like to keep accessing some or all of their services online. This shows that online programs aren’t just set to grow in popularity, but that demand already exists here and now.
This is not to suggest that online programs will or should replace face-to-face support services. What they can do is widen the talent pool by creating new, flexible opportunities within the sector. Download the full report here to find out what your customers think about online services, or read on to learn how to use this opportunity to address shortages in the support workforce.
Workforce shortages are hitting crisis-point
Workforce shortages in the disability support sector have been making national headlines again in 2022, with a parliamentary enquiry estimating that the “NDIS workforce will need to grow by an additional 83,000 full time equivalent staff to support NDIS participants at the scheme’s projected peak.” Of course, as leaders within the industry well know, hiring more staff has its own challenges. In the latest NDS State of the Disability Sector Report, 70% of NDIS providers reported problems recruiting support workers. This is an increase from the already-troubling figure of 59% in 2020. Even if you are succeeding in recruitment, there is the threat of workforce churn, with a recent union survey suggesting that a third of disability support workers are planning to leave the sector.
The disability services industry has many hard-working and dedicated people, but there simply aren’t enough of them to go around — and definitely not enough to start losing them in droves. As Clare Malcolm (Regional Coordinator, Boosting the Local Care Workforce) pointed out in the GoodHuman Support Workforce Guide, recruiting within the existing talent pool doesn’t support the much-needed growth within the industry, because it requires poaching staff from other NDIS providers. A big part of the solution to the workforce crisis is finding new talent outside of existing employees within the sector.
How online programs can create new employment opportunities for NDIS providers
Traditionally, disability support services are provided either in-home or in the community. While there will always be a need for this type of service delivery, it can present challenges for many people in the support workforce. This causes them to either leave the industry or never consider it in the first place. By creating new roles to manage and deliver online services, you can expand your applicant pool to include those who need more flexibility and couldn’t otherwise attend face-to-face appointments.
Take for example, people with a lived experience of a disability. When GoodHuman ran a survey for frontline support workers, almost half (49%) said they got into the industry because they had personal experience with disability. This motivation often results in excellent and knowledgeable support workers, but in the current climate people with this experience could feel that they are putting themselves or loved ones at risk by doing home visits. If they could run online programs from home or in a single office environment, it could be the difference between staying or going.
Simply put, running virtual programs is an attractive career choice for many talented individuals who have either left — or never considered — the disability sector because of a need for flexibility or desire to work from home.
Removing boundaries has benefits for both workforce and participants
It’s not just your recruitment efforts that can receive a boost from running online programs. The physical location where services take place can create many access barriers for both delivering and receiving disability support services. Online programs remove physical barriers, creating a host of benefits for both support organisations and NDIS participants, including:
- Expanded reach: Online services are readily available to people that would otherwise miss out due to a shortage of services in their local area. Even for metro areas that are well-serviced, high demand in certain areas often sees people missing out due to lengthy waitlists. By offering online programs, your workforce can reach people who reside outside of your usual location boundaries.
- Reduced staff travel time: The less time your team members spend on the road, the more services they can deliver in a shift.
- Expanded candidate pool: It doesn’t matter where your organisation is, you could hire talent from anywhere in the country to run online programs — one step in addressing the current workforce shortage.
- Less need to commute: Maintaining a car is not always an option for all team members or NDIS participants. From being physically unable to drive a car to not being able to maintain the rising costs of servicing a car, driving long distances to attend appointments is not an option for many Australians.
- Improved social distancing: Sessions that take place virtually don’t put staff or participants at risk of exposure to COVID-19, catering to those who are isolating by requirement or choice.
How NDIS providers can succeed in 2022
Setting your organisation up to deliver virtual services is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to tackling the issues faced by disability support organisations in 2022.
As demand rises, it’s important for leaders within the sector to look at operational efficiencies that can enhance the customer experience and service quality. GoodHuman’s second annual Customer Trends and Values Report examines what customers value the most and where the future of support services is heading, to deliver clearer pathways and practical solutions to help organisations succeed in 2022 and beyond.