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Employee engagement: Windgap is acknowledged by its employees as an exceptional workplace

Established 70 years ago, Windgap is a Sydney-based, for-purpose organisation that supports over 200 people with intellectual disabilities and their families. 

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“Our retention rates have increased and as an organisation we have been able to grow stronger in our culture as well as our staff numbers”


Performance feedback


Career planning and progression


Cross-unit communication and collaboration

Established 70 years ago, Windgap is a Sydney-based, for-purpose organisation that supports over 200 people with intellectual disabilities and their families.  

Windgap has been recognised with a 2022 Best Workplace Award and a 2022 Change Champion Award. These awards reflect the positive changes Windgap has made to enhance employee engagement and satisfaction, and demonstrate their sustained effort to listen to its employees for the betterment of the organisation. Windgap has been partnering with Voice Project (now Xref Engage) since 2009 to conduct regular employee engagement surveys, and received their first Best Workplace Award in 2021. The results of their survey in 2022 showed an outstanding level of employee satisfaction again (an average favourable score of 86% across all survey questions) and a significant improvement of 6.4% on their already strong 2021 survey results. The changes have had a tangible impact on the turnover of staff at Windgap.  

“Our retention rates have increased and as an organisation we have been able to grow stronger in our culture as well as our staff numbers,” Human Resources Manager Erika Hewitt said.  

Watch the video and read the case study below to see what Windgap has done to maintain a positive workplace environment that values and supports its employees. 

Creating opportunities

CEO Andrew Anderson describes Windgap’s organisational culture as creating opportunities for both participants and staff.  

“Providing best practice and person-centred service delivery to our participants are first and foremost to everything we do, and our culture is no different,” Andrew said. 

To sustain a positive culture, Windgap ensures its staff feel heard and appreciated.  

“Only with a workforce that feels secure, trained and engaged can we continue to provide the best services to our participants and help to create opportunities that enable them to live their best lives,” Erika said.  

Engaging with employees

Windgap won the Best Workplace Award twice in a row due to their emphasis on engagement and communication with its employees.

“Ensure you have great, two-way communication, at all levels within the organisation,” Andrew said.  

To ensure staff feel valued and included, the Senior Management Team, including Andrew, regularly undertake frontline shifts to understand team contributions. Windgap also ensures that all new staff members are contacted and welcomed by a senior manager within the first two weeks of starting with Windgap. 

A quarterly staff newsletter has been introduced to ensure regular communication with staff around key initiatives being undertaken in response to their feedback received from the engagement survey. 

“In the newsletter we remind staff of the feedback they had provided, the initiatives implemented that have had a positive impact, and what initiatives are still in development,” Andrew said.  

Erika highlighted the challenge of communicating with a workforce that works across multiple sites and different shifts with some staff members only working for a few hours a fortnight with their supervisor. 

“We ensure that information is provided multiple times and in various formats, so that staff have more opportunity to be aware of the different initiatives,” Erika said.  

The staff newsletter, along with pre-recorded update videos, regular team meetings, and other traditional communication methods like emails, ensures multiple touchpoints for transparent communication about updates and changes across the organisation.  

“With staff working a 24/7 roster, providing information in a format that could be viewed at a convenient time is important to ensure all staff receive the same level of information,” Andrew said.  

“Our pre-recorded update videos have received very positive feedback and increased our consultation around the initiatives to ensure they meet the needs of our staff.”  

Key organisational improvements

Following the 2021 engagement survey, Windgap identified six focus areas for improvement, and developed and implemented initiatives around each of these areas. These initiatives resulted in a noticeable uplift in their 2022 survey results, with some of the key improvements being: 

  • Performance feedback (+21%)
  • Career planning and progression opportunities (+14%)
  • Awareness of the organisation’s strategic plan (+19%) 
  • Involvement of staff in decision-making and planning for the organisation (+11%) 
  • Cross-unit communication and collaboration (+12%) 

Improving performance feedback to drive career development

“It was clear from our 2021 survey results that staff wanted a more formal performance feedback system,” Andrew said.  

To address this, Windgap has revamped their existing performance appraisal system. The updated Performance Feedback and Development Session (PFDS) not only reviews employees’ previous 12-month performance, but also focuses on discussing employees’ development needs and career goals for the next 12 months and identifying any additional training employees would like to undertake to achieve their goals.  

The new PFDS was piloted across different areas of the organisation, with training being provided with all supervisors on how to develop SMART goals with staff to increase the likelihood of their goal achievement. 

The career goals and training needs identified during the PFDS were then fed into the Employee Development Program (EDP). The EDP aims to provide financial support for learning and development to help staff progress with their career goals. The information from the PFDS also assists in developing relevant, job-related training and allows HR to proactively approach staff when the relevant training opportunities arise. All permanent staff are encouraged to apply for the EDP, and internal job vacancies are actively promoted, enabling staff to further their career at Windgap. 

“With the introduction of programs like the EDP we are becoming a more qualified workforce in addition to the range of training we already provide,” Erika said.  

Increasing transparency and collaboration

Following the engagement survey in 2021, Windgap established seven working groups across all areas of their business from Direct Services, through to Partnerships and Fundraising, Employee Engagement and Delivering Sustainability.  

“These working groups brought together multi-discipline staff and have resulted in more informed decisions being made as well as different areas of the business having a better understanding of the activities, challenges, and decisions that impact us all,” Andrew said. 

One of the working groups involves 30 leaders from across the organisation. To date, this working group has developed Windgap’s value descriptors and the 2022-2024 Strategic Goals.  

“By bringing in around 30 staff from across the organisation this has meant well-rounded development of our strategic goals. As we implement them over the coming years, we have no doubt that this input will result in better outcomes for our participants, staff, and the organisation as a whole,” Andrew said. 

The introduction of the working groups and increased communication through various modalities have significantly improved the level of transparency, awareness of the overall strategy, and a sense of involvement and collaboration among the staff within Windgap. 

Commitment to using employee feedback for ongoing improvement 

The initiatives implemented in response to the staff feedback from the 2021 engagement survey were actively promoted by the Senior Management Team and well supported by the wider organisation, from staff through to the Board of Directors. Additionally, sufficient funds were provided to ensure programs such as the EDP would be successful. 

“Staff have been appreciative of the new initiatives and the CEO’s transparent communication style, as well as knowing that they can speak with any member of the Senior Management Team and will be listened to,” Erika said. 

Windgap is committed to incorporating employee feedback into ongoing organisation development. They have recently expanded their employee feedback mechanisms to include onboarding and exit surveys. These employee lifecycle surveys, along with the annual engagement survey, provide Windgap with better insights into employees’ experience at various stage of their employment journey with the organisation, and help Windgap to make data-driven decisions to continue improving their retention, engagement and overall workplace culture. 

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