President's Message

A Helicopter View of Workplace Culture

Our September luncheon saw just about a full house with members and guests being treated to what could be described as an entertaining and informative presentation.

We were joined by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter’s Richard Jones OAM and Fiona Williams who provided an overview of the Community’s Own rescue helicopter and its successful history of continual growth and change.

Richard is the CEO of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service and has been at the helm for some 24 years and with his warm personality and an engaging sense of humour, he kicked off the afternoon by acknowledging how great is it to live in a region with such a strong not for profit sector. Turning to some statistics about the helicopter service we heard about the amazing growth of the service and its people since its launch in 1975. To keep the helicopter in the air and the service running to the standard that is required, there are a lot of busy, committed people. “We fly with paramedics and health professionals and we need to bring those people into our team. Our crew resource management is critical to our operations including our regulatory compliance. Fatigue is also a factor and managing our people’s fatigue and supporting them is a priority over meeting our KPI’s, which are just numbers on a page in the context of caring for our people”.

We then watched a short video that included actual footage of a rescue. It was an amazing insight into the commitment and the value of the Service.

The Cultural Journey

Richard then introduced Fiona to us who shared more on the cultural journey of the service. Fiona Williams has been the Human Resources Manager for the Service for the past 3 years and has over 20 years’ experience in People Strategy leadership roles including roles with Aurizon, Insurance Australia Group and United Group Limited.

Fiona connected well with the room and we heard more about the cultural journey –how she led implementing a plan that would take the service to a more commercial operating base without losing its heart. The strategic plan had mission and values at its foundation – and this continues to live on in the organisation. This includes sharing stories and thank you messages from those whose lives have been touched and saved by the service.

Employee surveys have been a part of the service for several years using an internal framework but this year we used an external provider so that the results can be benchmarked against other businesses. “There’s no destination for workplace culture, it’s a continual journey where we are listening to our people, changing course as we need to, and only good things can come from that”.

Mental Health and Well-being

“Our people are regularly in very stressful situations including seeing death and trauma on a daily basis. We created a mental health action group and did an assessment, using resources from organisations such as Beyond Blue to determine where our gaps were.

We scored well in the following:

  • A very supportive culture
  • Post mission debriefs (able to understand if further check-ins are required)
  • EAP (provided by Westpac)
  • Active work environment (physical activity such as bike challenges and fun runs)

We will look to improve on:

  • Formalising and maturing some of our programs,
  • Education through monthly wellness topics including exercise and finance.
  • Upskilling the leadership on mental health so they can identify issues or potential issues early and identifying peer support at the below leadership level
  • Breaking down the stigma around mental health”

Diversity Inclusion and Flexibility

“Bringing yourself to work – everyone is different and that’s ok! We want our people to feel safe to speak up, safe to receive feedback, safe to make mistakes.

Flexibility is a non-negotiable. Work/Life balance is important to us and we want to empower our people to let us know what works for them. Flexibility doesn’t mean consistency because we all need different things…compressed working, field leave, additional leave, part time and remote work – where possible.”

There were so many great take-aways from this amazing presentation and we are so grateful to Richard and Fiona for sharing their time, enthusiasm and passion with us.

Next Luncheon – 15th October

This luncheon will be sponsored by CatholicCare.

October is Mental Health Month and our guest speaker will be the passionate and charismatic speaker, John Brogden – the youngest person to lead the Opposition in NSW. John will share honestly and openly on the highs and lows of his professional and personal life. John is an outstanding advocate for mental illness. I encourage you secure your ticket early to avoid missing out on what promises to be an amazing luncheon.

Craig Wellings | 2019 President