People and Performance Manager Paula Holden was recently approached by Workforce Life to discuss compliance, and offer some insight from our end of the line. CPA Group knows that people aren’t a means to an end; they are ends in themselves, and we value our staff like no one else.



Want A Loyal and Effective Workplace? Compassion is the Key.

Paula Holden has one of the most challenging HR gigs around.

Last year, she accepted a role heading up the HR function

of the largest Australian owned private emergency services

company, which delivers critical workforce support to high-risk


Workforce Life (WL): Tell us about your role at CPA Group?

Paula Holden (PH): My role is the People and Performance Manager at Corporate Protection Australia Group (CPA Group). We are a fast-growing, privately owned group of companies with about 380 staff.

The group provides professionally qualified emergency workers, from doctors and nurses to fire-fighters, paramedics, security personnel and rescue experts. It also offers consultancy and training to organisations across Australia, predominantly in the mining, oil, gas and maritime sectors.

WL: How highly does CPA Group value compliance?

PH: Compliance is a core value at CPA Group, we live and breathe this stuff! Our executive values its staff above anything else and beyond our people – which are our core service and our number-one priority – compliance is our business.

We are highly regulated by Queensland Health, we have drug licenses, our security is heavily regulated – so for us, it’s critical to get compliance right, we just cannot do business without it being spot-on.

WL: What measures to you take to ensure the team value compliance?

PH: Compassion is a key value for the company. From an HR perspective, compassion is critical. Putting people first is how you earn their trust.

That then allows us to drive compliance home. I think it’s important for us to get compassion right, to get buy-in on compliance.

WL: What ways do you manage your resources to ensure compliance is a priority?

PH: One way is to ensure that nearly all staff are employees, with a range of employment tenures from full-time to permanent part-time and casual. It’s a common assumption that contractors form the basis of the company’s workforce, but that’s not the case.

Our services are so critical to some of our sites that if our people don’t show up, the whole site closes. If a coalmine does not have a paramedic and an emergency service officer on site, the place can’t operate, so it’s essential that staff with the right qualifications are in place.

That’s why we bring our own workforce with us from contract to contract. Having permanent employees also reinforces a culture in which compliance is front of mind and it is reinforced with ongoing professional development.

As innovators in service delivery, we were first to offer a ‘bundled model’ of staff, such as a nurse who is also trained in mine rescue, so that their roster and service delivery is more flexible and can meet stringent industrial requirements.

WL: What are some challenges you have faced with the diversity of your business?

PH: On-boarding new employees, has been particularly challenging as we have people in Papua New Guinea, in WA, in the Timor Sea – in every corner of Australia and beyond, so one of my first tasks when I started here was to streamline those processes.

Bringing in a new software system that will integrate HR, admin, rostering, and time and attendance processes will help with managing the complexity. What’s compliant on one site regarding fatigue rules or qualifications or mandated policy, is very often different on the next site, and at present we’re relying on manual processes.

Automating these workflows will give us far more efficiency and build in some fail-proofing.

WL: What advice would you offer others in similar positions?

PH: The key to compliance management, are the technical experts who hold senior positions in the company.

Governance is a big thing and it’s driven right down from board level.

Our full-time medical director is a doctor who looks after our clinical governance, and who spends a fair bit of time out in the field supporting our operational managers. We’ve got senior management who are highly qualified fire and rescue professionals, or have strong security and military backgrounds.

Getting field-experienced experts to ensure that policies and procedures are compliant, best practice and up-to-date is critical.

WL: In what way does CPA Group continue to improve their standards?

PH: CPA Group hold ISO:9001 Accreditation and are also preparing for updating to the most recent ISO standards which sees a more stringent approach to Environmental Management. Work is well advanced for delivery later this year.


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