A pathway to opportunity with the club that grew

Rooty Hill RSL has blossomed, along with the careers of those who work there.

Rooty Hill RSL has blossomed, along with the careers of those who work there.

The RHR Group represents the efforts of the near 50-year-old Rooty Hill RSL in western Sydney to deliver a range of diversified services to a growing community.

The club is not only the biggest RSL in Australia, it's also transformed into a larger organisation encompassing an events company, a fitness and aquatics facility, the 165-room Novotel hotel and the new Sydney Gymnastics and Aquatic Centre (SGAC), which features a 4000-square-metre Olympic-standard gymnastics facility, two 25-metre pools and a sports medicine and rehabilitation centre.

The business employs more than 500 people (nearly two-thirds women) in more than 70 job roles, ranging from personal trainers, baristas and chefs, to storemen, events coordinators, gymnastic coaches, lifeguards and swimming instructors.

The group takes pride in playing a significant role in the community, and works closely with local schools, colleges and universities, offering work placements, internships and graduate programs.

"We provide a range of school-based traineeships in hospitality, so young people can have a career pathway into the industry, and with our diversity it often provides a stepping stone to a range of employment opportunities," says Paula Coates, the RHR group's senior human resources manager.

"At the same time, once you are employed with us, we have a talent management program with individuals earmarked for succession planning and further opportunities."

Employees are encouraged to discuss their career ambitions, which can extend beyond the area in which they are currently employed. They can be hired in the club, for example, and then later move into the hotel or the gym if they choose. "They have very diverse career options working with us," says Judith Peake, the group's human resources general manager.

One of the group's strategies is to offer a flexible working environment, with options for full-time, part-time and casual work, as well as various types of leave.

"We like everyone to feel that they are a valued member of our workforce. As a result, our staff engagement is very high and our turnover is very low," Ms Coates says. "Our oldest worker is in their 80s and the youngest is 16 years old."

The club has been a pillar in Judy French's life since she began working there as a waitress. Now, 33 years later, she's the head of membership services. "I've done every job in the place, except for cleaning," she says. "They've been so good to me. I dread the day I have to leave."

With such a high percentage of female employees, being flexible with parental leave is critical in retaining the best staff. Ms French took a total of two years off to have her two children and then returned to work in a permanent part-time role. When her oldest child was 11, she returned to full-time work.

Another employee, Violla Lamey, is about to take a year off from her full-time role as team leader for gaming, to have her first child in February. "We have a great HR team and they really understand your needs," Ms Lamey says, adding that the club is close to her home, so she envisages that working and becoming a new parent will not be difficult.

Ms Peake says that the group's employees get extra benefits, such as discounted access to many of the group's services and, importantly, the opportunity to develop a career and train for the future.

"The group also offers a very safe and secure work environment," she adds. "We have an onsite medical centre, an employee assistance program and ongoing programs for health, fitness and work safety."

The group has won a host of awards in recent years, including a commendation for service excellence at the 2011 Australian Business Awards. In the 2012 and 2013 awards, it was recommended as an employer of choice. In 2012, the RHR group was also a finalist in the WorkCover SafeWork Awards.

The RHR Group represents a suite of businesses. It has revenues in excess of $70 million annually and contributes more than $25 million to the community through employment and donations alone.

Related Articles