1.How did you get into the aged care sector? What attracted you to it?
Ten years ago, while working as a management consultant, I was conducting an organisation review of corporate services for a fairly large, WA-based not-for-profit organisation that had been in the aged care industry for the last century. I had the opportunity to speak to internal and external customers and examine with staff the processes and challenges that occurred in delivering the services they provide.
To cut a long story short, the business restructured and a range of strategic initiatives developed and were implemented over the next number of years. I was invited to participate in some of these initiatives. The critical element of this engagement with the organisation was that even though I was a consultant, a level of trust, respect and honesty pervaded the relationship, enabling me to connect with every level of the organisation without restraint.
2.What do you love about it?
Fundamentally, almost without exception, the people in this industry carry with them a deep sense of caring for others – the rewards for a carer having a happy and cared for client/resident/aged person create a bond and level of commitment that is not well appreciated and often misunderstood. For me, playing a role in enabling an organisation to do this well gives me a great sense of purpose.
3.What unique challenges does it pose, from an HR point of view?
In this industry, it is not unusual for 80% of the business cost to be heavily tied up in the people investment and the contribution they make. This makes for a very difficult and challenging environment in the sense that you are only as good as your team is. It’s not just about people, it’s ALL about people. Building a values-based organisation is a sizable task for any business, but achieving it creates a uniqueness that is hard to match and builds a strong competitive position. I like to use a framework that helps us to understand the role that HR can play within this context.
4.What would you say is the biggest/most important lesson you’ve learned from working in this sector?
Engagement and developing strong employment relationships is vital and amongst the most important roles we can play. The lesson is keep communicating at every level.
A chance encounter with the aged care sector helped St Ives Group executive general manager HR Bruce Ross-Adams to find his niche.