CHC established an employee co-operative to address the challenges facing the sector, such as:
- Engaging worker members in operational decision making such as rosters, budgets and designing client care programs providing an autonomous working environment where worker members have more control over their work;
- Providing a supportive work environment through localised teams (called Care Crews) which enable worker members to work locally in their communities and receive the support of their fellow members reducing unnecessary and expensive travel time; and
- Providing high quality and consistent care to build trusted relationships with clients through empowered and engaged worker members.
The comparative advantage of a co-operative approach
There are three key aspects of employee owned co-operatives that set them apart from not-for-profit or for-profit organisations and enables them to deliver benefits for employees, members and clients:
1. Member engagement: A key co-operative principle is member engagement achieved through member ownership and involvement in decision making. This results in high levels of engagement and satisfaction and is demonstrated through the continued membership of all of the original CHC members.
2. Reinvested profit: CHC is owned by its members for their benefit. This means that profits are reinvested into the business to improve services, enhance conditions for members, improve systems, technology and training opportunities.
3. The Co-operative Principles: underpin CHC’s operation and ensure member participation, education and training and democratic member control. These are robust foundations for operating CHC in line with its purpose.
These mechanisms create competitive advantages for CHC and deliver a range of significant benefits for members and clients (Figure 1).
Figure 1: The comparative advantage of CHC
Empowerment and self-determination
The employee owned co-operative model provides CHC worker members with the opportunity to have greater control over their working environment. At CHC, worker members work in self-managed local teams known as Care Crews9. The Care Crews structure enables employees to make operational decisions on a day-to-day basis and also on long term planning such as budgets, pay and conditions.
“We believe in our people so we trust them… they can make their own mistakes and success stories and learn from them.”
Working conditions, training & support
CHC was founded on the belief that quality home care is the result of a quality working environment. By reinvesting profits into the business, CHC is able to improve the working conditions of worker members by providing above award wages for casual and permanent part time worker members and pay equality for management, administrative staff and carers.
Staff travel long distances between clients with the majority of CHC’s competitors, contributing to the difficulties carers face in their roles. The Care Crew model is a distinct departure from this approach. CHC offers its employees the opportunity to work where they live. Hiring is done locally and teams are built locally.
As a not-for-profit employee owned co-operative, CHC returns all profits directly back into funding operations. This financial sustainability is one of the comparative advantages of the CHC as an employee owned co-operative. CHC is in an enviable position with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme where block funding will be replaced by payment in arrears for work completed. While this impacts the cash flow for many NFPs who are reliant on government block funding, the changes will have little impact on CHC, which has become skilled in financial management and self-funded growth.
Individualised, affordable & quality care
CHC is committed to providing people-centred care and ensuring that the care they provide improves clients’ quality of life.
“We are here for our clients. We take the time to get to know them, what their likes and dislikes are. They are the most important person when we are with them… My position as a carer is to make my clients comfortable, happy, being a part of their community, enjoying themselves and to feel safe, this is an extension of my everyday life.”
The aim of CHC is provide a supportive and autonomous work environment through which they can attract and retain quality worker members. This is a significant competitive advantage over other care providers where employee turnover is as high as 25 per cent8. Employee turnover is a significant operating cost, detrimental to operating efficiency and negatively impacts quality of care via the loss of continuity of care staff.