Julie Wilson, HR Business Partner at Alzheimer’s WA, shares her career story and explains why and how she switched industries from corporate consultancy into not-for-profit.
After a change of ownership and going from a private to publicly listed company, the culture changed at my previous workplace. I was at a point in my career where it was time to reflect on what I wanted to do and how I wanted my life to look, so I opted out and took a redundancy. I recall making a wish list on what my ideal job should encompass such as the right culture, management style, level of staff engagement and dedication, and above all, an organisation with purpose.
To help me figure out my next path, I started short-term contract work to get a better idea of where I wanted to be. That’s when I came across Alzheimer’s WA. I never thought of not-for-profit as an industry I’d work in, but I’m so glad this opportunity was presented to me. As soon as I started my contract at Alzheimer WA, I felt that the work we are doing here has the purpose I was looking for. It felt so refreshing to work in such a positive environment and culture where everyone shares the same passion of improving the life of those living with dementia, and their families.
We recently conducted a staff engagement survey, and staff were asked “does the mission and purpose of Alzheimer’s WA make your job feel important” 100% of our staff responded positively so it definitely shows the level of passion our staff have for the work they do.
The passion of the people at Alzheimer’s WA is infectious. You can’t work here without feeling it.
As the HR Business Partner, I look after the HR function and report to the GM of Corporate Services. I look after all the HR tasks that would normally be performed in any industry such as occupational health & safety and quality & risk, fortunately we have two great coordinators helping with that workload. One area that needs a very different approach is workforce planning. The need to make a tangible impact with limited resources and control over income means that not-for-profits sometimes face greater challenges than corporate environments, as we rely heavily on funding. So when the funding stops it can be difficult to retain talent. Our planning can only go as far as the funding goes hence why efficiency is very important to ensure resources are allocated in the best way possible.
Recruitment is slightly different too, we use volunteer staff for some roles, we have a large number of volunteers, selflessly giving their time to help those living with dementia. The work done here is truly amazing, there isn’t anyone working here that doesn’t have heart and passion for the purpose of our work.
The key area of focus in a corporate world is shareholder returns and profits, in not-for-profit it is the positive impact we are having on the lived experience of those living with dementia, which makes the purpose and approach to my role very different from what it used to be.
The industry transition was challenging initially but valuable. I had no handover from my predecessor when I started at Alzheimer’s WA. Being honest, it was challenging at first, but a positive experience as I had the support of those around me, and it has allowed me to make the role my own. Moving away from corporate consultancy, an industry I was so familiar with has provided growth for me as a professional. It is interesting to see that all the skills I have learnt in my previous roles can easily be applied to this new position. My corporate background has taught me how to recognise efficiencies and cost savings for example, which has been valuable when working for a not-for-profit organisation.
Our aim at Alzheimer’s WA is to help people with dementia and their families by offering an improved life experience through our advocacy, leadership, innovation, education, partnerships, person centred care through risk reduction, treatment and cure for dementia. One of the projects I am currently involved in is to work on improving processes and training to deliver the best in-class services to those on their dementia journey.
Changing industries has been a fulfilling challenge. I now feel like my role has purpose and I can help make a difference in people’s lives.
My top tips are:
As the dementia experts, Alzheimer’s WA works with clients, their families and other organisations to have the greatest impact on the lived experience of those living with dementia.
They get involved where their expertise can be best put to use – where the challenge for families is greatest and where there is a gap in services; where partner organisations need our help; where they can find best practice to bring home and where their voice on behalf of and with those on the dementia journey is best heard. They provide day care services through the creation of home environments across their centres as well as home care services.
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