AIB Blog

Not-For-Profit HR Insights from Carlie Gross of The Royal Flying Doctor Service

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The Royal Flying Doctor Service: it’s an iconic Australian organisation that has provided its life-saving services to rural and regional Australians since 1928. Last year, the fleet of 71 aircraft flew over 26 million kilometres, visiting and helping Australians in every corner of the country.

With more than 1500 staff across 23 bases, the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s people strategy is an important element to its operational success. This is driven by Carlie Gross, the company’s General Manager of People and Culture for its south-east operations - our latest Industry Guest Lecturer.

Keen to give back and share her wealth of career experience in the industry, Carlie, who is also an MBA graduate, will guest lecture in Strategic Human Resource Management, AIB’s primary HR subject, as well as the specialist HR subject Performance and Compensation Management.

Reflecting on the beginning of her career in HR, Carlie admits that the journey wasn’t entirely planned. “I kind of fell into HR,” she says. “I was always quite a solid administrator and found that HR was really something that I enjoyed. I stepped into my first role as a HR administrator with Multiplex, and I knew that was the beginning of my long-term career.”

Carlie stayed at multinational company Multiplex for almost thirteen years, working her way up the ladder with a lot of hard work to reach her final position with the company of Head of HR and Vice President of People and Culture. But her move to the Royal Flying Doctor Service was motivated by a desire to attain more than the next rung. “I made a conscious decision to move into the not-for-profit space and work for a business where I can really connect to purpose,” she says. In particular, the smaller size of the service means that her role has expanded.

“I came from a massive global organisation where I was part of a leadership team that reported to a C Suite which reported to a Board that reported to another country. There was such a huge benefit in terms of experience and exposure to different elements, which was phenomenal. But I think there is more of an opportunity to have a greater impact and influence in the role at the Royal Flying Doctors.  I have the ear of the CEO, who actively seeks input and advice from HR, and direct access to the organisational board, who also look for guidance and input of HR because it’s seen as something that adds value to not just business operations but strategic direction,” explains Carlie.

Learn how the MBA Open Doors to the Not-For-Profit Sector

There are a number of other differences to working for a not-for-profit, especially around rewarding and compensating staff.

As the Royal Flying Doctor Service is a non-profit organisation, it offers a unique set of challenges around compensating its staff. “Being a not-for-profit, one of our ongoing challenges is always around the ability to afford rewards,” Carlie admits. “In most environments, rewards draw on something that costs organisations money. Here, we run a very tight ship financially. We’re limited as to what we can afford, and we work within the boundaries of what we have available.”

But that doesn’t mean that the Royal Flying Doctor Service doesn’t reward its excellent and hardworking staff. We have a real focus on recognition. In terms of intrinsic rewards, we have an opportunity to provide people with a unique experience just by working for us. People are connected to who we are and what we do, so the reward they get from that in itself is something that we’re quite proud of.”

The service makes sure that people doing a good job are openly acknowledged, and their contributions highlighted within the organisation. “It’s amazing when you don’t have to spend a lot of money to reward people.” says Carlie. “Saying thank you is sometimes just enough.”

Also read: The Trends and Challenges That Are Affecting HR Today

Recruitment, too, holds unique challenges. While the Royal Flying Doctor Service enjoys a sterling reputation, it also requires that its staff work in remote areas. “We’ve now been around for over 90 years, so we have a very strong and reputable brand. People want to work for us. Conversely, we’ve got a challenge in terms of rural and regional employment. To entice people to come and work for us in somewhere like Broken Hill is a challenge, and it’s not just a challenge for us; it’s a challenge for health providers in the network as well,” Carlie explains. “Accordingly, we review how we look to attract that talent, what our recruitment strategies are, and balance that with where we source our talent from. Also, we look at our operating models to make it more feasible for people to live and work in a rural and regional community for us.”

With the advent of new technology, the Royal Flying Doctor Service is hoping to expand its services.

“Some of the services that we provide in terms of general practice and primary care are Bush Clinics,” explains Carlie. “We have clinics out in the network where we will book appointments with the local community and then fly a team out so that a doctor and our nurse can go and see patients. We’re hoping to expand that service, including the hours and capability, by setting up a telehealth facility via satellite with instruments there ready to go and a local nurse that’s able to administer them.”

Having found the qualification so valuable to her own career, Carlie is keen to contribute to the MBA experiences of current and future AIB students. We’re delighted to have her experience and expertise on board, and extend a warm welcome.

Learn from the best in business with AIB's Industry Guest Lecturers. Meet the full team here.