Home' HR Monthly : March 2017 Contents 12
AMANDA WOODARD: I imagine
people think that working in a zoo, you’re
surrounded by animals all the time. But
your job is really people-focussed isn’t it?
STEVE WILLIAMS: Yes. When your office
includes elephants, giraffes and koalas, it
definitely adds to the appeal of the workplace!
But the biggest satisfaction is working with a
group of very passionate and talented people
who do great things – that is what I really enjoy.
AW: What attracted you to Taronga, and
specifically, to the job you’re doing now?
SW: I studied commerce and tourism
management at university and originally started
in the hotel industry, which has a really strong
customer service culture. I guess it was the
people element of the industry that attracted me
to hotels and I worked at some of Australia’s
best, including Park Hyatt Melbourne and
Hyatt Hotel Canberra.
Then a role came up at Sea Life Sydney
Aquarium as guest experience manager. The
appeal of positively contributing to society
through the education and the conservation
work that the acquarium was doing drew me to
make the move up to Sydney.
Then, when the position came up at the zoo, I
was super excited about the work that Taronga
was doing, especially as the zoo’s centenary was
approaching. I wanted to be a part of that.
AW: What have been some of the key
similarities and differences with the aquarium?
SW: The zoo’s much larger, compared to the
aquarium. A nd a key difference is that the zoo
has a really strong volunteer base that provides
critical support to our staff. Without our
volunteers, the zoo simply wouldn’t be as great
as it is.
It’s also been interesting seeing the
differences in how a state government runs
a facility compared to private enterprise.
It’s really great to work with a very diverse
workforce and I find there’s so much to learn
from your colleagues, who have their own skills
AW: What are the main challenges of
working with a large volunteer workforce?
SW: To put it in perspective, we have around
200 guest experience volunteers at Taronga
Zoo and we have around 170 staff on our
team. Our volunteers are just as passionate
as our staff with many coming from long
careers in a broad range of industries, including
Added to that are people who are using the
volunteer opportunity to develop their skills to
prepare for employment, whether that’s here
at Taronga or at other related customer service
On average they work once or twice a
fortnight, compared to an average of three days
per week for a permanent staff member.
I would say one of the key challenges
is keeping everyone up to speed with new
information and changes. Communication is
critical and there are a few different ways that
we do that:
We use email and we also have a weekly
newsletter, which has key topics that the
volunteers need to know. We also have our
guest experience coordinators who provide
leadership to the volunteer team on a daily
basis. Each morning, they conduct a daily brief
to let people know what’s happening that day
at the zoo.
AW: From an H R perspective, is the approach
for volunteers different to that taken with paid
SW: No. We treat them just as we do staff. So
all the policies, procedures and HR practices
cover both volunteers and staff. A nd we have
a dedicated HR advisor who oversees all the
recruitment and the administration side of
managing the volunteers.
AW: What about health and safety? That must
be a fairly critical part of training.
SW: Yeah, absolutely. All the workplace health
and safety policies apply to both staff and
volunteers and we have very clear procedures
that are shared with volunteers during induction,
which is a face-to-face training session.
We also have e-learning modules, which we
have certainly made more use of in the past
few years. Each month we also have a “stop
for safety” topic, focussing on a particular area
for that month. It could be around fire safety,
personal wellbeing or animal handling and
we ask the volunteers to read it and sign off to
acknowledge that they’re aware of it. »
WORDS AMANDA WOODARD
Steve Williams, guest
experience officer at
Taronga Zoo in Sydney,
has a job that many would
envy, surrounded by cute
and cuddly animals. But
it’s humans who occupy
most of his time, as he
oversees a large workforce
of volunteers alongside the
17/02/2017 4:27 PM
Links Archive February 2017 April 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page