How HR consulting experience could help you hone high-level skills


As an HR consultant, Jonathon Woolfrey FCPHR is making significant inroads to ensure HR is well placed to respond to current and future workplace challenges.

For the first 20 years of Medicare’s existence, it was primarily a face-to-face service that fell under the orbit of the Health Insurance Commission. But by the mid-2000s, the national healthcare scheme was ready for a digital transformation.

Jonathon Woolfrey FCPHR, then Medicare’s Manager for HR in Western Australia, before becoming the department’s National Project Manager, played a major role in this transition.

“It was the early days of radically redesigning the way Medicare would be accessed in the future,” says Woolfrey.

“We were looking at how Medicare could operate with less in-person contact, and putting in place people capability strategies to transition to what we experience today, which is very much an online interface.” 

Woolfrey describes it as a “fascinating role” which provided him with significant experience in HR management, while also enabling him to work on big national projects in the early part of his career. 

From HRD to HR consultant

Fast-forward 13 years – which included working as the Director of HR for the Attorney-General’s Department in WA and the Chief HR Officer for Catholic Education – and Woolfrey continues to help organisations with major transformation projects, but in a different capacity.

As the founder and Managing Partner of talenting., an HR solutions company, Woolfrey delivers organisational transformation strategies for government departments, private enterprises, small businesses and not-for-profit organisations.

“I’m always learning and seeing what’s happening on the ground in a whole range of industries and organisations,” says Woolfrey, who is also AHRI’s West Australian State President, a member of the advisory board for the Centre of Work and Wellbeing at Edith Cowan University, and a Commissioner for the Catholic Education Commission of WA.

He says these opportunities have given him a fresh perspective that he didn’t have when he was leading HR in a single organisation.

“I was very focused on that organisation in and of itself. Nowadays, I get insight into really good practice across companies, as well as what’s not working well.

“It has been fantastic to uplift the way that HR works by connecting with others and sharing ideas across different organisations.”

A team effort to future-proof HR

In 2020, Woolfrey began leading a project to redesign the HR function for a large government department in WA.

The department sought to enhance how HR was driving organisational outcomes from a people capability perspective, and to future-proof HR as it responded to current and future work challenges.

“Often our clients begin the conversation with, ‘What structure do I need?’, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the right place to start.

“We always take that question back to ‘Why does the HR department exist? What are the current and future capabilities required to achieve those objectives?’ And, ‘How should HR be designed to deliver those outcomes?’”

To answer these fundamental questions, Woolfrey conducted a thorough consultation with various stakeholders to understand what was needed from HR for the business to achieve its objectives.

“I gained insights from the external stakeholders to HR – the employees who rely upon HR for their people-related challenges. 

I also spoke with the HR professionals themselves. It was clear that there was a great deal of knowledge, insight, innovation and understanding about the way they should go about their work, but often that isn’t able to come to the fore.”

“It has been fantastic to uplift the way that HR works by connecting with others and sharing ideas across different organisations.” – Jonathon Woolfrey FCPHR

He also placed great emphasis on industry research and best-practice models, including AHRI’s Model of Excellence, now known as the Australian HR Capability Framework, to inform his approach. 

“I like the breadth and depth of the AHRI framework,” says Woolfrey. “It causes you to think about HR from a range of perspectives, including the interpersonal skills required to execute successfully on HR outcomes.

“Organisations sometimes miss that part. You can look at HR’s outcomes, but what skills are required to deliver those outcomes? The real connector and the key to driving those outcomes is the more interpersonal element, including engaging with stakeholders and being a credible practitioner in the organisation.”

Aligning HR strategy with industry trends

After amalgamating insights from a range of sources, Woolfrey formed a clear picture of how HR was operating in the department.

“We were able to say, ‘These are the needs of the HR function, and these are the future needs that we need to start planning for so we’ve got that capability moving forward.”

Externally, research from consultancies including PwC and Gartner indicated that meeting the complexities of the future of work would require a digital uplift. Within the department, employees were expressing that they needed responsive and innovative solutions to complex organisational problems. 

“When I thought about how I could help the department deliver on those, everything externally was telling me that technology plays a major role.”

Since the onset of COVID-19, digital enablement has become increasingly critical as a means of collaborating, connecting and engaging with employees. Digital enablement isn’t always about integrating cutting-edge new technologies, but could encompass taking greater advantage of existing ones.

“Some technologies provide an integration of different ways of collaborating, connecting to people and delivering HR services across a dispersed workforce, particularly in WA where many organisations have offices, work sites and employees spread across the state.”

As data protection has become a major concern across dispersed workforces, HR plays an important role in communicating the importance of having secure IT systems with employees.

“Many role descriptions now show that HR has an important interface with technology – that it’s not just the responsibility of the IT department, but HR actually needs to lead, and on occasion instruct, IT as to what technological solutions it requires. HR needs to understand technology to the degree that they can address and account for these risks from a people perspective,” says Woolfrey.

Woolfrey is eager to share his HR experience with others, in large part because he sees the value that HR can bring to public discourse around people-related workplace issues.

“HR needs to be out there as a voice in our community. We need to recognise our own capabilities and credibility as leaders in an organisation,” he says.

While there’s the oft-quoted line about HR getting a seat at the boardroom table, Woolfrey also encourages HR leaders to take up opportunities for wider exposure.

“It’s great for our profession. We have a really unique perspective in regards to how we see our organisations and its operations. I see a growing demand for HR leaders and their opinions in organisations, at the board level, but also in the press. I think we really need to embrace that.”


Want to elevate the up-and-coming leaders in your organisation? Signing them up to AHRI’s short course in Leadership and Management Essentials is a great first step.


A longer version of this article first appeared in the Dec/Jan 2023 edition of HRM Magazine.

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Ann Murdoch-Brown
Ann Murdoch-Brown
1 year ago

Great insight! Thank you for sharing your experiences and perspectives.

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How HR consulting experience could help you hone high-level skills


As an HR consultant, Jonathon Woolfrey FCPHR is making significant inroads to ensure HR is well placed to respond to current and future workplace challenges.

For the first 20 years of Medicare’s existence, it was primarily a face-to-face service that fell under the orbit of the Health Insurance Commission. But by the mid-2000s, the national healthcare scheme was ready for a digital transformation.

Jonathon Woolfrey FCPHR, then Medicare’s Manager for HR in Western Australia, before becoming the department’s National Project Manager, played a major role in this transition.

“It was the early days of radically redesigning the way Medicare would be accessed in the future,” says Woolfrey.

“We were looking at how Medicare could operate with less in-person contact, and putting in place people capability strategies to transition to what we experience today, which is very much an online interface.” 

Woolfrey describes it as a “fascinating role” which provided him with significant experience in HR management, while also enabling him to work on big national projects in the early part of his career. 

From HRD to HR consultant

Fast-forward 13 years – which included working as the Director of HR for the Attorney-General’s Department in WA and the Chief HR Officer for Catholic Education – and Woolfrey continues to help organisations with major transformation projects, but in a different capacity.

As the founder and Managing Partner of talenting., an HR solutions company, Woolfrey delivers organisational transformation strategies for government departments, private enterprises, small businesses and not-for-profit organisations.

“I’m always learning and seeing what’s happening on the ground in a whole range of industries and organisations,” says Woolfrey, who is also AHRI’s West Australian State President, a member of the advisory board for the Centre of Work and Wellbeing at Edith Cowan University, and a Commissioner for the Catholic Education Commission of WA.

He says these opportunities have given him a fresh perspective that he didn’t have when he was leading HR in a single organisation.

“I was very focused on that organisation in and of itself. Nowadays, I get insight into really good practice across companies, as well as what’s not working well.

“It has been fantastic to uplift the way that HR works by connecting with others and sharing ideas across different organisations.”

A team effort to future-proof HR

In 2020, Woolfrey began leading a project to redesign the HR function for a large government department in WA.

The department sought to enhance how HR was driving organisational outcomes from a people capability perspective, and to future-proof HR as it responded to current and future work challenges.

“Often our clients begin the conversation with, ‘What structure do I need?’, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the right place to start.

“We always take that question back to ‘Why does the HR department exist? What are the current and future capabilities required to achieve those objectives?’ And, ‘How should HR be designed to deliver those outcomes?’”

To answer these fundamental questions, Woolfrey conducted a thorough consultation with various stakeholders to understand what was needed from HR for the business to achieve its objectives.

“I gained insights from the external stakeholders to HR – the employees who rely upon HR for their people-related challenges. 

I also spoke with the HR professionals themselves. It was clear that there was a great deal of knowledge, insight, innovation and understanding about the way they should go about their work, but often that isn’t able to come to the fore.”

“It has been fantastic to uplift the way that HR works by connecting with others and sharing ideas across different organisations.” – Jonathon Woolfrey FCPHR

He also placed great emphasis on industry research and best-practice models, including AHRI’s Model of Excellence, now known as the Australian HR Capability Framework, to inform his approach. 

“I like the breadth and depth of the AHRI framework,” says Woolfrey. “It causes you to think about HR from a range of perspectives, including the interpersonal skills required to execute successfully on HR outcomes.

“Organisations sometimes miss that part. You can look at HR’s outcomes, but what skills are required to deliver those outcomes? The real connector and the key to driving those outcomes is the more interpersonal element, including engaging with stakeholders and being a credible practitioner in the organisation.”

Aligning HR strategy with industry trends

After amalgamating insights from a range of sources, Woolfrey formed a clear picture of how HR was operating in the department.

“We were able to say, ‘These are the needs of the HR function, and these are the future needs that we need to start planning for so we’ve got that capability moving forward.”

Externally, research from consultancies including PwC and Gartner indicated that meeting the complexities of the future of work would require a digital uplift. Within the department, employees were expressing that they needed responsive and innovative solutions to complex organisational problems. 

“When I thought about how I could help the department deliver on those, everything externally was telling me that technology plays a major role.”

Since the onset of COVID-19, digital enablement has become increasingly critical as a means of collaborating, connecting and engaging with employees. Digital enablement isn’t always about integrating cutting-edge new technologies, but could encompass taking greater advantage of existing ones.

“Some technologies provide an integration of different ways of collaborating, connecting to people and delivering HR services across a dispersed workforce, particularly in WA where many organisations have offices, work sites and employees spread across the state.”

As data protection has become a major concern across dispersed workforces, HR plays an important role in communicating the importance of having secure IT systems with employees.

“Many role descriptions now show that HR has an important interface with technology – that it’s not just the responsibility of the IT department, but HR actually needs to lead, and on occasion instruct, IT as to what technological solutions it requires. HR needs to understand technology to the degree that they can address and account for these risks from a people perspective,” says Woolfrey.

Woolfrey is eager to share his HR experience with others, in large part because he sees the value that HR can bring to public discourse around people-related workplace issues.

“HR needs to be out there as a voice in our community. We need to recognise our own capabilities and credibility as leaders in an organisation,” he says.

While there’s the oft-quoted line about HR getting a seat at the boardroom table, Woolfrey also encourages HR leaders to take up opportunities for wider exposure.

“It’s great for our profession. We have a really unique perspective in regards to how we see our organisations and its operations. I see a growing demand for HR leaders and their opinions in organisations, at the board level, but also in the press. I think we really need to embrace that.”


Want to elevate the up-and-coming leaders in your organisation? Signing them up to AHRI’s short course in Leadership and Management Essentials is a great first step.


A longer version of this article first appeared in the Dec/Jan 2023 edition of HRM Magazine.

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1 Comment
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Ann Murdoch-Brown
Ann Murdoch-Brown
1 year ago

Great insight! Thank you for sharing your experiences and perspectives.

Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.
More on HRM