Remove state filters
Global Menu
Main Menu

Latest Events

QLeave: Portable Long Service Leave Scheme – what do you need to know?

Event start date: 16/04/2024
From 1 January 2021, QLeave commenced providing a long service leave scheme for workers in Queensland's Community Services Industry.

McCusker Centre for Citizenship Internships Webinar - Community Sector

Event start date: 16/04/2024
Find out about opportunities to host and gain the support of a UWA student intern through the McCusker Centre for Citizenship

Developing a Risk Management Approach

Event start date: 17/04/2024
This workshop is a part of the NDS Risk, Incidents and Complaints Management (RICM) Skilling the Sector project supporting individual, small and medium disability service providers.

Related events

Victorian Health and Safety Representatives Network

Event start date: 17/04/2024
In partnership with WorkSafe Victoria, NDS is running a series of network meetings for Health and Safety Representatives at disability service organisations.

NDS OHS Advisory Group

Event start date: 24/04/2024
NDS OHS Advisory Group meetings are open to NDS members and associates interested in occupational health and safety issues and solutions in the disability sector.

Overview of legislative changes: Information session one

Event start date: 1/05/2024
Learn about important new legislative changes that impact Victorian disability service providers.

Disability Sector Workforce Retention

Two men sit outside. One man is using a wheelchair and smiling. The other man smiles and gives the camera a thumbs up.

Key benefits

  • Increased knowledge of the key determinants that influence whether workers stay in or leave jobs in the disability sector
  • Increased knowledge of effective retention practices and strategies
  • Increased engagement and knowledge-sharing across the disability service sector of what works
  • Increased quality of workforce management leading to increased retention of disability workers

Who is this for?

HR Managers, People and Culture Leads, Senior Managers and CEOs in Disability Services, and Leaders in Registered Training Organisations.

About these resources

Workers are drawn to the disability sector for many reasons. Roles in the disability sector are promoted as opportunities within which workers can make a difference and undertake meaningful work that, whilst challenging, offers variety, job security and opportunities for career progression.

However, although these are commonly features of the work, we know that retaining staff is a big challenge for many disability service providers.

In 2021, the Government estimated that 213,000 workers will be required to replace people that leave the sector over the five years to 2025.

Recent research projects undertaken by the Workforce Innovation and Development Institute and by the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government reinforce this. WIDI’s findings indicate that around one in four disability workers leave their job in any given year, which amounts to a ‘churn’ rate that is roughly three times higher than the overall Australian workforce. BETA’s findings indicate that the NDIS’ workforce turnover per annum falls between 14 and 25 per cent, which means at least 45,900 workers leave the NDIS workforce each year.

So, why are workers leaving the sector? The 2021 National Disability Services State of the Sector Report highlighted that some of the key drivers that lead to staff turnover include a lack of permanent positions, availability of better working conditions in other sectors, and staff burnout. In this sense, we are aware that there is a gap in visibility regarding career pathways for frontline staff and that current NDIS settings pose additional challenges for adequate supervision.

In alignment with this, BETA’s findings indicate that a high workload is the main driver behind low workforce retention, with 43% of workers feeling burnt out at least half the time in their jobs. WIDI’s findings indicate that working conditions (including heavy workloads) are the main drivers behind low workforce retention in the disability sector, but so is low pay, casualisation, and unclear pathways.

Retaining workers is more cost-effective and better for participants and providers than hiring new workers as it provides continuity of service and reduces onboarding and training costs. NDS has observed that some providers are retaining sufficient workers and have others seeking to join their organisations even in tight labour markets. 

Do you know what your workforce retention is? In the case study below, Angela Johnston from Achieve talks about how they use data to identify workforce challenges in their organisation and address them with targeted solutions.

Phase one of the NDS Workforce Retention Project found that there are four key areas that affect workforce retention in the disability sector, namely:

  • Organisational culture
  • Supervision
  • Workload
  • Job security and opportunities for career progression

In line with this, we have included below useful resources for disability service providers that address the key areas highlighted above.

For more information, check our Understanding key factors that impact Disability Support Worker Retention research paper.

Organisational culture

Organisational culture is defined as the combination of values, expectations, and practices that an organisation has in place to guide and inform the actions of workers. When there is a lack of clarity or misalignment with values, expectations, and practices, this increases worker stress and potential for abandonment of employment. The following resources touch on important aspects to consider in these key areas.

Values:

In this video above, Angelique Smit, General Manager of People, Learning, and Culture at OCConnections talks about how values-based recruitment practices can ensure they hire the right workers.

Expectations:

To support participants, the NDIS Workforce Capability Framework has released a new participant resources page, including Easy Read resources, animation videos and other handy tips and templates. The participant resources include tools for hiring workers, supervising, providing feedback, workforce planning and management, career planning and training opportunities. You can visit the participant resources page.

Practices:

Diversity

  • Australia’s disability workforce is constantly changing to prepare for and respond to our sector’s future needs and goals. Due to the current workforce shortages that the sector is facing, disability service employers are increasingly needing to diversify their workforce and take advantage of untapped markets. In this sense, having a multicultural staff ensures the right people are in the right positions to support clients as best as possible. However, multiculturalism in staff relationships involves planning. In the case study below, AGAPI Care’s CEO Mary Gakopoulos talks about how multiculturalism can improve workforce retention.

In addition to multicultural populations, people with disability bring a range of skills, talents, and abilities to the workplace. So how can you employ more individuals with a lived experience of disability in your workforce? Learn more about employing people with a disability: diversifying the workforce for retention

The session ‘How Diversity Aids Retention’ was held on Tuesday, 22 November 2022. The session served as an evidence-based discussion on what diversity and inclusion is and the value add for organisations is actively diversifying their workforce. Provider HumDrum spoke to how they are diversifying their workforce, specifically in championing choice and control for participants, and increasing people with lived experience of disability as support workers.

Supervision

Supervision is an essential element to support for worker wellbeing and retention. Whilst recognising existing challenges, providing regular constructive feedback gives workers clarity about their role and acknowledgement that their work is being valued; key elements that are positively correlated with worker retention. The following resources touch on important aspects to consider around supervision:

 Induction and mentoring:

In the case study below, Jayne Gillespie, Executive Manager People, Culture, and Safety at focus Individualised Support Services, talks about the importance induction and onboarding for workforce retention and shares some good practices around these.

Good supervision:

In the case study above, Andrea McQueen from Scope shares her insights on how COVID shifted Scope's supervision models and the positive results they saw from the changes they implemented. Watch the video to learn more about the value of informal supervision. If you’d like to get in touch with Andrea, we are happy to make the relevant introductions. Please contact us  submit enquiry/feedback


This one hour webinar explored key principles and readily available resources to support supervision practice in the disability services provision:

Performance Management:

In this video, Taimi Clinch, CEO of Abacus Learning Centre, shares the key elements of a leadership program that’s had a positive impact in their staff retention.

Workload

Research in associated industries has found that a sense of ‘making a difference’ in conjunction with having variety and job autonomy were positive influences on managing workload.

Conversely, stress at an organisational level and in the external environment, cumbersome administrative requirements, and unsupportive colleagues were identified as negative influences on workload management. The following resources touch on important aspects to consider regarding workload:

In the above video, Stacy Thomas, Manager for Direct Support Services at EACH, talks about how EACH changed their organisational structure to better supervise and support a remote workforce through Self-Administering Team Leads and a dedicated rostering team

Good rostering:

Managing stress:

In the case study above, Angela Schepis from Better Health Network talks about how their wellbeing program ‘Mornings with Purpose’ reduced staff absenteeism, improved client satisfaction and, ultimately, made a significant difference in staff-client relationships.

Watch the video to learn more about their program and feel free to use the resource below to apply this approach at your organisation. If you’d like to get in touch with Angela, we are happy to make the relevant introductions. Please contact us submit enquiry/feedback

Employee-engagement:

Job security and opportunities for career progression

Whilst there is widespread workforce shortages and a need to recruit new workers to the sector, many early entrants into the sector, particularly those employed on casual contracts, perceive their employment to be tenuous.

A survey by HESTA found the top three reasons community sector workers left the industry were that there were not enough opportunities for career progression, low rates of pay, and dissatisfaction with the employing organisation. The lack of visible career paths has also been identified by other sources.

Therefore, finding ways to build and communicate clear career pathways to workers is key to increase worker retention. The following resources touch on important aspects regarding these areas:

How to build internal pathways for staff:

For employees - Different roles available within the sector:

Professional development and career progression:

These resources can be used to support workers interested in a career in the disability sector:

In the case study below, Crosslinks CEO Dawn McAleenan talks about the Fast Tracking a Skilled Workforce initiative that gives employees an opportunity to apply for selected Certificate III, IV, or Diploma courses in a relevant field.

Related Resources

Page last updated 13 November 2023

Contact information

For any enquiries, please contact Lourdes Zamanillo, Senior Policy and Project Officer, submit enquiry/feedback, show phone number