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Employee satisfaction survey: Thriving despite the world’s longest lockdowns

Cancer Council Victoria has overcome the challenges of extensive lockdowns in Melbourne during 2020-2021 to sustain excellent levels of staff engagement, despite the necessity of working remotely.

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“The Voice Project survey gave us brilliant data to help us make those informed, data-driven decisions.”


Cross-divisional cooperation


Staff satisfaction


Overall survey scores

Cancer Council Victoria has overcome the challenges of extensive lockdowns in Melbourne during 2020-2021 to sustain excellent levels of staff engagement, despite the necessity of working remotely.  

The organisation has been recognised with a 2021 Change Champion Award and a 2021 Best Workplace Award. The results of their latest employee engagement survey showed a very high level of staff satisfaction (84%). The organisation’s overall survey scores also showed a significant improvement of 8.65% since their previous engagement survey in 2019. Watch the video and read the case study below to see how they achieved this outstanding result.

Cancer Council Victoria has been working with Voice Project (now Xref Engage) since 2015, and uses employee engagement surveys and onboarding/exit surveys to understand how their staff are faring. 

Learning and Innovation Manager Andrew Nikolaidis said the regular Voice Project (Xref Engage) surveys they used were very helpful in supporting evidence-based decisions on how to best support their staff.

“We were very much taking a needs-based approach and the Voice Project survey has absolutely helped us to do that,” Andrew said.

“The Voice Project survey gave us brilliant data to help us make those informed, data-driven decisions.”

Kindness is key

Enabling Projects Manager Lucy Quarterman says kindness was crucial in supporting staff through the difficulties of pandemic lockdowns - especially for those balancing family and work responsibilities. 

“I think the message that’s come through loud and clear right from the top is that we’ve got to look after ourselves. We’ve got to look after our mental health and wellbeing, and we’ve got to be kind and understanding of each other,” Lucy said.

During the lockdowns, explicit permission was given to staff to reprioritise non-urgent work, and ongoing support was developed via a COVID-19 Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

“We gave that message to leaders as well - that if people aren’t coping, if people need time out, we need to support them and be kind, and to understand that.”

Listening to lead

Lucy said navigating several Melbourne lockdowns and extensive periods of working from home had definitely been a twisty journey - but listening to staff and learning rapidly had been crucial to their success.

“It’s been very difficult for people sitting isolated in their home environment, feeling that they have to prove they are still working and still contributing,” she said. 

Cancer Council Victoria ran regular pulse surveys to gauge how staff engagement and wellbeing was tracking over time. Workload was one area identified as needing improvement, so the leadership team took action to address this.

“The teams came together and were asked to think about: what are some of the things we can put to one side? What are some of the things we can change the time frames for, or put on hold, or cancel entirely for the time being?”

“A subsequent survey showed that people were feeling very grateful that some things have been put in place to address some of those workload issues.”

Learning and adapting

Lucy said the pivot needed to get around 400 staff working from home within a few weeks required intensive learning for everyone.

“We did have some early technological challenges, but our Corporate Services and IT team worked tirelessly to make sure everyone could get connected. We’ve also transitioned to using Microsoft Teams, which has really helped with keeping that connection and collaboration going throughout the period.”

Learning and Innovation Manager Andrew Nikolaidis said supporting collaboration was identified as a strategic imperative very early on, and staff working groups were formed to collect ongoing input.

“The working groups meant that we are able to listen and stay in touch with the needs of our people when they were trying to communicate,” Andrew said.

Even the newly-formed Learning and Innovation team had to rapidly adapt their work at the start of the pandemic. One example is the reimagining of a legal training course run in partnership with Cancer Council Victoria’s McCabe Centre for Law & Cancer, which normally involves international attendees gathering in-person at the office.  

“The course is about developing the capabilities of people across the world to enact legal and policy changes to prevent cancer and other non-communicable diseases,” Andrew said.

By staying focussed on the impact of the course, the team collaborated to successfully transition it to online delivery - and won three 2021 LEARNX awards for their efforts.

The course was recognised with three Gold Awards in the categories of Best Pandemic Response (E-Learning Design), Best Pandemic Response (Shift-it-Online) and Best E-Learning Design (Shift-it-online).

The course has now been offered twice, with 74 people from 39 different countries successfully completing it.

Connected through culture

Lucy said keeping staff connected to the culture and the big picture impact of their work was crucial throughout the lockdowns.

“We also underwent a new strategic planning process during lockdown. Although it was challenging to do that all remotely, it’s also been a good process to keep people connected with what we’re trying to achieve ultimately as an organisation, and keep us motivated to keep working towards those goals.”

Andrew said the process also explored how the strategic goals cascaded throughout organisation, to make sure each staff member could connect to the sense of purpose behind their work.

“I think what’s been highlighted in the pandemic is that people have felt really trusted to deliver their work and to deliver it to a fantastic standard, no matter where they are,” he said.

Lucy said there was a level of excitement amongst staff about the future of work as they move into a post-pandemic phase.

“We know from talking to our people that is going to be different. People aren’t going to rush back and we’re not going to have 400 people back working in the same building again. We’re going have hybrid teams where some people are going to be in and some people are going to be at home.”

“Now we’re doing the work to see how we can take advantage of the opportunities that COVID has presented us with. How can we make those work for us so that we connect and collaborate more effectively into the future?”

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