National Health Funding Body

The National Health Funding Body (NHFB) is an independent advisory body that partners with health organisations across federal, state and territory lines to provide advice and best-practice administration of the National Health Funding Pool.  

Strong stakeholder relationships and clear communications are vital to enable timely information exchange across a complex sector. contentgroup was originally engaged in 2018 to conduct an initial stakeholder assessment with internal and external stakeholders across Australia.

A range of strategic products, including a comprehensive Stakeholder Communication and Engagement Strategy, Content Plan and Measurement and Evaluation Framework were delivered to guide the NHFB through business-as-usual communication. Advice was also provided to assist NHFB preparations for a major software upgrade that would impact stakeholders across all levels of government.

Services

Personnel

The task

To assess progress since 2018, and identify further opportunities for improvement,  the NHFB reached out to contentgroup to prepare and carry out a stakeholder engagement evaluation exercise. The 2020 engagement focused on:

  • Assessing key stakeholder views of NHFB communications – what worked well and where was there room for improvement?
  • Discovering whether and to what extent internal NHFB communication changes had resulted in improved business and relational outcomes for stakeholders.
  • Using interview outputs to assess the impact of work done over the past two years, benchmark progress, and drive further improvements.

Inside the NHFB communication responsibility is devolved to executives and officers in their day-to-day operations. To assess communications, stakeholders who engage with NHFB personnel across a range of roles and responsibility levels were interviewed.

Our approach

contentgroup drew on its D2CCE Communication Framework to structure its approach and clearly identify audience needs for future communication and engagement programs.

1. Initiate

We began by identifying the best methodology to gain the insights the client required. While originally invited to conduct a digital survey, we recommended semi-structured qualitative interviews were more likely to secure substantive responses from time-poor executives. Once this approach was confirmed, contentgroup consulted with the client to understand what recommendations had been implemented, and how the operating environment had changed since our last engagement.

In this meeting, we assessed:

  • How implementation of the communications plan had gone since 2018.
  • Challenges and opportunities during the major software upgrade roll out.
  • Whether the role of the NHFB was easily distinguished by stakeholders from other related federal bodies.
  • To what extent internal stakeholders thought communication and engagement activity had improved against core recommendation themes identified in 2018 assessment.
  • Where communication responsibility sits in the organisation.
  • What level of resourcing is currently available for engagement activity?
  • Whether any sensitivities exist that interviewers need to be mindful of.
  • Whether challenges noted in an earlier benchmarking exercise (such as timely data provision) were still occurring.
  • What the definition of success was for the benchmarking activity.

2. Plan

We drew on our D2CCE framework and evidence collected in 2018 to prepare questions. Evidence was sought around the following themes:

  • Is content provided in formats, channels and timeframes that suit stakeholders?
  • Does messaging and information reflect audience needs and contexts?
  • To what extent are positive views of communication and engagement process validated by external stakeholders?
  • Define the full scope of communication and engagement activity each stakeholder was exposed to.
  • Understand which communication opportunities each stakeholder was exposed to, and whether this influenced overall satisfaction.
  • Identify whether any additional communication or engagement activities were required.
  • Assess the effectiveness of rationale provided for key data or funding adjustments.

3. Source, develop and test

Semi-structured interviews were conducted via phone or videoconference, with interviewers taking a flexible approach to ensure time-poor executives impacted by the Australian Government’s COVID-19 response were able to give meaningful feedback in timeframes that suited them.  

4. Evaluate and 5. Implement

A detailed report was prepared based on the above findings, and additional strategic recommendations presented. Key findings included:

  • Internal impressions of progress were validated, with strong improvements in stakeholder satisfaction with the transparency, frequency and content of communications noted.
  • While many stakeholders found the rationale for data or funding changes were clear, differences in understanding levels of core NHFB concepts were identified across the stakeholder landscape. Recommendations were provided for support staff to adjust their support levels accordingly.
  • Key formal engagement mechanisms were assessed in detail, and new opportunities to increase their ability to generate discussion and engagement with key issues uncovered.
  • Tensions with consultation timeframes were discovered, with NHFB requests overlapping with other agencies. This impacted the depth of contribution stakeholders had time to make – setting timeframes with an awareness of other timelines across the sector will increase their ability to gather considered feedback.

contentgroup also recommended a range of new activities, including:

  • Creating fixed onboarding routines for new stakeholders to ensure the remit and responsibilities of NHFB personnel are clear.
  • Identifying a range of virtual relationship-building activities to support collaboration and knowledge transfer across the sector despite travel restrictions incurred by COVID-19.
  • Establishing feedback loops were recommended to encourage and reinforce the NHFB’s corporate identity as a customer-service driven organisation, recognising and reinforcing the strong improvements in communication.
  • Extending notice of consultation periods as part of a commitment to reflect stakeholder needs at the core of communication activities.

Outcomes

Through the stakeholder engagement process, contentgroup enabled NHFB to achieve their goal of validating communication and engagement progress and identify future communication activities to strengthen business as usual operations.

'contentgroup were engaged to develop a strategic communication and engagement framework and content plan for the NHFB. The plan established a best practice approach to strategic communication and stakeholder engagement, taking a user-centred approach and focussing on developing consistent messaging across the Agency’s business. In developing the framework, contentgroup undertook a number of detailed qualitative surveys with NHFB’s stakeholders, including key individual executives from health departments across federal, state and territory governments. These surveys delivered rich insights that supported the development of the content plan as well as a tailored and tiered approach to stakeholder engagement. We undertook stakeholder interviews (through contentgroup) to benchmark our progress on implementing improvements to our stakeholder engagement and communication activities in 2019-20. We did not notice any impact or change in the delivery of work from contentgroup owing to challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We are really happy with the package of work, final report and engagement from contentgroup’s team. Insights gained from the stakeholder interviews will be really useful to NHFB’s program of activity in 2020-21.'
Beci Imbriano
Director – Policy, Planning and Performance, National Health Funding Body
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