UTS Library

The Child Support Agency : A new strategic direction


Child Support Agency

PR Company: 

Child Support Agency

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2008 C7 - 1



Executive Summary: 

Since the Child Support Agency (CSA) was established in 1988, the legislation and our approach to service has remained mostly unchanged. Customer service expectations and separated parenting changed significantly during this period so the Australian Government announced a complete overhaul of the Child Support Scheme and a Building a Better CSA program in February 2006.

At the heart of this organisational change was a radical new strategic direction—vision, mission and five goals for the CSA.

CSA’s Internal Communication Team developed an internal communication campaign to embed the new strategic direction among staff and support the shift from focusing on regulatory debt collection to supporting and serving separated families.

To achieve this major behavioural shift, the campaign needed to raise awareness of the new strategic direction, increase staff understanding of their role in achieving our goals and achieve attitudinal change.

The long-term internal communication campaign resulted in 96% of staff agreeing CSA is ‘moving in the right direction’, significant customer service improvements and employee engagement results higher than the Australian Public Service (APS) average.

Situation Analysis: 

The CSA was established in 1988 and is currently part of the Department of Human Services. While CSA achieved outstanding collection rates (by world comparison), customer complaints were high and reflected significant dissatisfaction with current laws and their efficiency-based administration. In February 2006, the Australian Government announced a complete overhaul of the Child Support Scheme and the way it was administered—the largest and most ambitious change agenda in Australian Government at the time (see ‘Transforming the CSA’ DVD).

Where we were in 2006:

  • Our culture focused on one goal—collecting money for the kids. Often without considering the needs of the entire family.
  • This culture came from our origins within the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) where the mandate was compliance, rules and regulations.
  • Everything we did supported this culture—our strategic direction; vision, mission and single goal; performance measures; key performance indicators; rewards and recognition scheme and individual performance review processes.
  • Most CSA employees were long standing employees of 8 or more years, many employed by the ATO.

Where we needed to be by 2008 and beyond:

  • Living a culture that better reflected the changing needs and expectations of our customers.
  • Providing service and support to separated families.
  • Modelling a strategic direction connected with stakeholders and other agencies.
  • Embracing a new inspirational vision and mission that reflected the CSA of the future.
  • Delivering on five equally important goals that better represented what the CSA needed to deliver to its customers.

- Bridging the gap

CSA needed to shift from focussing on regulation and collection to serving and supporting families through and beyond separation. This required staff to fundamentally shift the way they viewed CSA’s function, their individual roles and the way they served and supported customers.

At the heart of this shift was a radical new strategic direction—vision, mission and five goals.


The CSA reviewed existing research and conducted internal surveys to determine the priorities for communicating the new strategic direction; in particular, what would motivate staff to change embedded behaviour.

Research included:

- Staff Organisational Culture and Effectiveness survey—October 2006

This survey identified the CSA’s current organisational culture and preferred organisational culture.

Two of the top five findings were integral to creating behavioural change:

  • Staff wanted greater employee involvement and influence, allowing staff at all levels to be actively involved in shaping the organisation and helping it to achieve its mission.
  • Staff wanted leaders to be more visible and transparent.

As our new strategic direction required a major behavioural shift for staff, the internal communication campaign needed to provide staff involvement and visible leadership with clear and transparent messages when talking about our new strategic direction.

- GM Direct & ‘Chat with Matt’

The General Manager’s ongoing consultation and interaction with customer service staff identified areas of concern from the front line.

- Roadshow surveys

Staff were surveyed before and after each of the four national roadshows. The first two roadshows (March and June 2006) were used to test staff responsiveness to the new strategic direction; subsequent roadshows (December 2006 and July 2007) tracked progress against the campaign objectives.

Target Policies: 

- 4000+ staff members

  • who interact with CSA’s customers daily

- CSA’s people leaders

  • critical influencers across CSA

- CSA’s national executive

  • responsible for setting the direction

Communication Strategy: 

Several key issues were taken into consideration when developing and implementing the campaign:

  • Approximately half of CSA’s staff were committed to the old culture and may therefore react negatively to a new strategic direction.
  • The behavioural shift required would take time and would not be easy.  
  • The CSA was undergoing a further large technical change program which required considerable communication and training. This communication strategy had to cut-through without distracting staff from other change activities.
  • Research indicated, to achieve behavioural shift, opportunities had to be created for staff involvement and for leadership to listen, engage and deliver clear and transparent messages about our new strategic direction.

With this in mind, we developed an internal communication campaign that supported the following three concepts:

- Why—articulating the new strategic direction

  • Build a case for change and explain how our new vision, mission and five goals would help deliver a culture of support and customer service excellence.

- How—building commitment

  • Ensure staff understood the meaning of our new vision, mission and five goals and not just view them as ‘semantics’. Once staff agreed we needed to change, that the changes were real, and that a new strategic direction would deliver positive outcomes for staff and customers, we were able to complete the picture.

- Making it real—building individual connection to the new direction

  • Demonstrate how individuals contribute to shaping the future of the CSA through our new strategic direction and delivers on our new vision, mission and five goals on a day-to-day basis.

The internal communication campaign also communicated how the new strategic direction was being embedded into the way we did business with new performance measures, key performance indicators, rewards and recognition, and individual performance review processes.


The primary channel chosen to implement the campaign was national roadshows that were attended by all staff. Four roadshows were run between March 2006 and July 2007. For each roadshow, 35 two hour presentations were held in venues across the country within three to five days. Roadshow content was developed by the Internal Communication Team and presented by CSA’s local and national leaders.

Roadshows were chosen as the primary channel to allow two-way communication in a controlled and consistent manner. The interactive nature of this face-to-face communication allowed staff to engage with a national and state leader at each session, raise issues and ask questions about our new strategic direction. Credibility was gained by delivering clear and transparent messages through trusted sources and ensuring local feedback to staff about issues raised during the roadshow exercises.

Having each team receive the same information at the same time, delivered in the same way, enabled managers to continue the strategic direction conversation with their teams during regular meetings.

Attendance at the roadshows was mandatory and staff on leave could view a transcript of each roadshow on our intranet or see a DVD.

As per our research, roadshows were considered the best method for encouraging staff engagement and facilitating behavioural change.

The roadshows were supported by strategic direction collateral material that incorporated all key messages and were distributed to staff at all CSA sites.

- Strategic direction collateral material

  • Posters were displayed in all meeting rooms nationally. See Appendix 1 and 2.
  • Mobiles were hung from ceilings in all CSA offices. See Appendix 3a.
  • 2006-07 & 2007-08 staff desk calendars were distributed to all staff. See Appendix 3b.
  • A mini pocket reference tool was distributed to each staff member. See Appendix 3c.
  • References were added to all other communication highlighting which goal the business activity contributes to. This helped to provide the big picture for staff so they could see how each and every activity the CSA undertook contributed to our new direction. See Appendix 3c.
  • Strategic direction messages provided via our Internal Communication System which comprised:
    • Matt’s Message: General Manager’s regular fortnightly message to staff.
    • DGM Updates: Deputy General Manager’s fortnightly divisional messages. 
    • Team Leader toolkit: equipping Team Leaders for monthly team discussions
    • SnapShot: national monthly electronic newsletter for strategic, business and local news. See Appendix 3c.
    • Intranet headlines: published on CSA’s intranet homepage.
    • Service Delivery News: a weekly email to all Service Delivery staff to help them perform their day to day duties.
    • Intranet banners: located at the top of CSA’s intranet linking directly to the new vision, mission and goals. See Appendix 3c.

Note: Roadshow evaluation of satisfaction with the quality of staff communications. See Appendix 4g.


1. Gain a high level of awareness of the strategic direction among staff 

  • Four mandatory national roadshows ensured a high staff awareness and more than 70% of staff provided positive feedback.
  • The percentage of staff who agreed there was a positive outcome for themselves as a result of the CSA’s new vision and mission increased significantly from 79% after roadshow 3 to 92% after roadshow 4 (with strongly agreed increasing from 25% to 35%). See Appendix 4a and 4b. 

- Rating: Highly successful

2. Increase staff understanding of their individual role in achieving the new strategic direction.

  • At roadshow 4 we asked staff if their morale was high, 75% agreed before the presentation and 81% agreed after the presentation. See Appendix 4c.
  • There was a significant increase in the percentage of staff who strongly agreed they needed to seize opportunities to meet customer and stakeholder needs between roadshow 3 (38%) to roadshow 4 (45%). Total agreement roadshow 4 = 97%. See Appendix 4c.
  • The 2006-07 State of the Service Employee survey found 86% of staff agreed they had a clear understanding of how their work group’s role contributes to the agency’s strategic direction compared to the APS average of 81%. See Appendix 4d.

- Rating: Highly successful

3. Shift staff attitudes from a collection focus to a support and customer excellence focus.

  • The percentage of staff who agreed CSA is heading in the right direction remained at or above 90% at all roadshows (increasing to 96% after Roadshow 4). The percentage of staff who strongly agreed significantly increased after roadshow 4 (from 27% to 41%). See Appendix 4e.  Evaluation shows the roadshow was a key driver in this shift as prior to roadshow 4 the percentage of staff who strongly agreed with this statement increased from 22% before the presentation to 41% after. See Appendix 4e.
  • Following roadshow 4, 94% of staff agreed they had the skills to provide their customers with good service (up from 87% at roadshow 1). Strongly agreed increased from 20% at roadshow 2 to 30% at roadshow 4. See Appendix 4f.
  • The proportion of staff agreeing they had the support they needed from local leaders to provide their customers with good service increased from between 77-79% at early roadshows to 85% at roadshow 4. See Appendix 4f.
  • Compared to all previous roadshows, at roadshow 4 more staff believed they received the support they needed to transform the customers’ experience, with 86% agreeing (25% strongly so). See Appendix 4g.
  • The 2006-07 State of the Service Employee survey found 95% of staff agreed they were committed to providing excellent customer service compared to APS average of 86%. See Appendix 4h.
  • The CSA’s Nov 2007 Employee Engagement Survey measured ‘Employee Engagement’ through interest, satisfaction and commitment. Our scores were significantly higher than APS averages over the last three years. 

- Rating: Highly successful

The internal communication campaign has achieved its objectives, successfully capturing staff attention, providing information they can act upon and leading to changed behaviour and better outcomes for staff and customers.

- Rating: Highly successful


Refer to the 'Results' section above to view the Results/Evaluation.