Not-for-profits need to think differently to attract and retain talent amid skills shortage pressures.
“Activ, like all in the care sector, is proactively trying to fill vacancies and, more importantly, train and attract workers to the sector to account for the expected growth in customer numbers and needs in the coming years,” Mr Heath said.
“The sector needs to take a different tact to be able to fill and future-proof the workforce, knowing that what has always been done to attract workers no longer holds up. We need to think differently to attract and retain quality talent amid such tight employment conditions.”
Similarly, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS WA), a charity that has been providing essential medical services to remote areas for 95 years, has had to keep up with changes to attract talent and stay innovative and forward-thinking.
People and Innovation Director at RFDS WA, Lorelle Trotter, told Business News the organisation experienced a dip of skilled applicants during COVID. While this has started to lift, she notes it is still a challenge to find doctors, nurses, pilots and other skilled staff amid a changing workforce where employees want to work differently.
A new way of working
“People are moving through organisations far quicker than we’ve seen post-COVID. People aren’t staying for the length of time that you would ordinarily stay because they’re moving and the quality of applicants has been very varied,” Ms Trotter explained.
She said it was difficult to recruit during COVID because of international and state border restrictions, but added that even though the quality of applicants has started to improve in some areas since then, people are now looking for more flexibility and choice in their work. “COVID showed that we can do things differently and organisations had to move with that,” Ms Trotter said.
While it is notably difficult to recruit doctors, nurses and engineers, she explained that it is also a challenge to get professionals in marketing, IT, people and culture, and project management. She points to larger corporations which take in a large slice of WA's talent. “We’re all drawing from the same pool,” she said.
RFDS WA has four bases outside of the Perth metro area, including Kalgoorlie, Meekatharra, Port Hedland and Broome, so there is the added challenge of recruiting into regional areas.
However, with a strong reputation built over many decades, RFDS WA is a path many doctors, nurses and pilots want as part of their career. “We’re lucky that RFDS is a bit of a destination to people’s careers,” she said.
Connecting to purpose
Ms Trotter explained that many people like working for a not-for-profit in general because they value connecting with a larger purpose that has a positive impact on the community. “We are an iconic Western Australian organisation and people really connect with the purpose and the impact that they have in remote areas,” she said.
“We have a unique situation where you can work on base even if you’re not a doctor, nurse, pilot or engineer. We see the good work every day so it does spread more broadly than our frontline workers. It’s why everyone turns up every day,” she said.
RFDS WA People and Innovation Director Lorelle Trotter
Cultivating a culture people want to work in requires a proactive approach, she explained. “We’re working really hard to foster a culture we’re really proud of. As a 95-year-old organisation we need to make sure we move with progress."
NFPs need to be able to modernise the way they do business, to innovate and make changes that are sustainable, according to Ms Trotter. “Not-for-profits aren’t as they used to be. There’s been a huge shift. Not-for-profits have had to really catch up in the way they actually do business,” she added.
“That’s part of the culture, the process and the systems … to make sure that any change is sustainable and heading in the right direction.”
Attracting more staff to Activ
Activ has undertaken unique strategies to attract talent, including a staff prize draw which gave the winner the choice of $20,000, a Mazda 2 car, or a holiday to Canada. Staff received one entry for their own employment and more when they referred someone who gained employment with Activ.
“There was a lot of excitement around the initiative, which we were lucky to provide via our partnerships. We had a very deserved winner in one of our young support workers in Geraldton, who has a baby on the way,” Mr Heath said.
Activ also ran a cash incentive to attract workers in the South West. “We saw record numbers of applicants turn up at a special walk-in interview day where people could come for a chat and express interest in working for Activ,” Mr Heath said.
People from a range of roles and areas of Activ also took part in a Hackathon earlier this year, led by Skills of the Modern Age founder Nate Sturke.
“The group unpacked opportunities and blockers to increasing our workforce and the outcomes and ideas from the day are already seeing fruit,” Mr Heath said.
Employment opportunities for migrants
Activ Foundation's registered training organisation (RTO), Activ Pathways, provides an avenue to attract people who can train in-house and have the opportunity to go straight into employment when a job becomes available.
Pathways is helping to fast-track migrant jobseekers into employment opportunities in the disability sector via a pilot program called Pathway to Employment, in partnership with the Multicultural Services Centre (MSC). The program offers training to migrants with entry-level skills for work in the care industry, with the hope it will assist in staffing that is much needed in the disability sector.
Mr Heath says the initiative has had a promising start, with 21 graduates so far. "Pathway to Employment from Activ and the Multicultural Services Centre is delivering benefits to everyone. We are helping migrants to access a promising and purposeful career in Australia while going some way to alleviate the chronic skills shortage pressures facing the disability sector right now.”
The program delivers a two-week course of blended classroom and on-the-job training in partnership with MSC, providing students with educational support and a real-world work placement at an Activ site to get a feel of what employment would be like in the sector.
It's an example of cross-sector collaboration – support and commitment by MSC who are passionate to provide migrants opportunities to set up their lives in Australia and NDS who connect thousands of providers who support people with disability.
“The people this program supports often come to our country during the most vulnerable state of their lives,” Multicultural Services Centre CEO Ramdas Sankaran said. “The Pathways to Employment program in partnership with Activ helps to provide a firm foundation on which to build their new lives and we look forward to ongoing support from Activ to achieve this.”
Pathways has also worked with MSC to add a multicultural awareness training session to the program to assist migrant students with community integration, helping them adapt to work in a new culture and engage with colleagues and clients.
“As one of WA’s largest disability service providers, our workers can get experience in various sections of the industry including accommodation, community, allied health and more,” Mr Heath said.