abc charter

Even before the ABC was bungling its so-called cabinet files and throwing chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici under a bus, morale among staff at the public broadcaster had dropped even lower than two years ago, when the last staff engagement survey was taken.

According to a summary of results from the most recent survey — conducted in November last year — obtained but redacted under freedom of information, staff engagement has dropped from 52% in 2015 to 46% in 2017. Almost 2900 staff responded to the survey, conducted by Aon for the ABC. One of the worst performing criteria was whether action taken as a result of the previous survey had made the ABC a greater place to work — only 17% of respondents thought this was the case.

The concerns of staff were broadly similar to those raised in the 2015 survey — how valued they feel, management performance and communication from management and between teams at the ABC.

Of the 10 statements that respondents were least satisfied on, six mentioned the “leadership team”. Only 18% of staff thought the leadership team inspired them about the future of the ABC (of course, they hadn’t yet seen editorial policies director Alan Sunderland’s video from last week telling them that everything is fine). Seventeen per cent of respondents thought the leadership team treated employees as the ABC’s most valued asset, 18% agreed that the leadership team “creates excitement about changes required for the ABC’s success”, and just 20% agreed that the “leadership team is open and honest in communication”.

The item respondents were most satisfied on was that “I am accountable for modelling the ABC values to my people”, with an 87% favourable response. Other items among the top 10 most favourable responses included being proud to be part of the ABC, recommending its content and services to family and friends, and its reputation in the community.

Executives from different departments have written to their teams about the results, and managing director Michelle Guthrie has written to all staff about the “disappointing” results. “Your feedback tells us we haven’t been doing a good job at listening to you and making you feel valued,” she wrote. In response, Guthrie  said she and the directors would run focus groups, and suggested staff watch a video of the first Annual Public Meeting, which the ABC used as a PR exercise to push its popularity and trust among the public.

In an email to staff in the technology division seen by Crikey, chief digital and information officer Helen Clifton said her team posted an overall engagement score of just 37%. “Personally, there is no shying away from how disappointing this result is,” she wrote. “However, we are part of a new team and that provides us a starting point to address concerns, improve our approach and allows each of us to take ownership of the progress that is needed. I want to assure you that myself and the Technology Executive Team are committed to improving our ABC, and hope you are also.”

In the radio division, the engagement score dropped from 61% in 2015 to 50%.

The survey came after another difficult year at the ABC, with a number of restructures, program cuts and continuing low morale.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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