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Warehouse Parenting Programme For Staff Takes Top Work-life Award

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Warehouse Parenting Programme For Staff Takes Top Work-life Award

Parenting programmes for The Warehouse distribution staff which led to better team cohesion and performance have won the Big Red Sheds the Supreme Award in the EEO Trust Work & Life Awards 2010. More than 200 employees in the company's South Auckland distribution centres took part in the programmes, run by the Ministry of Social Development-backed parenting programme SKIP (Strategies for Kids, Information for Parents).

"The Warehouse saw a golden opportunity to boost communication and understanding in its multi-cultural workforce through the common experience of parenthood," says Dr Philippa Reed, EEO Trust chief executive and one of six Awards judges. The parenting courses, which took place during work time in 2008 and 2009, drew out participants' feelings and beliefs about what being a good parent meant and explored how to help each other be better parents, stressing communication and non-physical discipline. Staff become closer; engagement and productivity rose and absenteeism decreased.

"The Warehouse was open to creative thinking and opportunity," says Dr Reed. "As a result, parents have developed practical life skills and team cohesion has increased. Everyone has a heightened appreciation that there is always more to unite us than divide us." The Awards, now in their 13th year, celebrate organisations that actively invest in their businesses by investing in their workforce, whatever the economic weather. The Awards attracted more than 40 entries this year, and were celebrated by 400 people tonight at an Auckland War Memorial Museum dinner. Hon. Tariana Turia, Māori Party co-leader and Minister, presented the Awards.

"Good diversity management is about unleashing the opportunity that exists in every person, and all of this year's entrants and winners show the many paths to achieving this," says Dr Reed.

The Supreme Award is chosen by the six judges from the winners of each category. The Warehouse also won the Work & Life/Diversity Initiative Award, which celebrates initiatives that target opportunities for greater engagement and productivity.

Highly Commended in the Work & Life/Diversity Initiative category is law firm Chapman Tripp for its Women@CT programme, which aims to recruit and retain talented employees with flexibility provisions and career boosters such as networking events and training.

The Walk the Talk Award, which celebrates people who exemplify excellence in their management of a diverse workforce, went to Henare Clarke, Downer's Auckland Area Manager. Henare, who started with the company as an 18-year-old labourer, was described by colleagues as having the leadership skills to pull together people with very different backgrounds, talents, experiences and interests, encouraging them to step up to responsibility. Henare believes that anyone with determination can progress, and supports employees to make the most of themselves.

The Tomorrow's Workforce Award, which recognises innovative responses to New Zealand's workforce challenges, went to the remarkably successful mentoring programme run by OMEGA (Opportunities for Migrant Employment in Greater Auckland). The programme, which enjoys wide corporate support, pairs recently-arrived skilled migrants with a local mentor, who passes on the social capital and local knowledge critical to landing a job.

The Skills Highway Award, which is supported by the Department of Labour, celebrates employers who can show how they have helped improve their employees' reading, maths and communication skills and therefore business outcomes. The winner was West Coast engineering company Liddell Contracting for a successful initiative that is boosting productivity and profit.

Highly commended in this category were Canterbury Spinners, the New Zealand Army and Millennium Hotels and Resorts.

ANZ New Zealand won the Workplace Work & Life Award for a comprehensive suite of policies called My Flexibility, introduced in 2008 and available to all 9000 employees whether they work full-time or part-time. The policy seeks to shift mindsets from seeing flexibility as special treatment to the bank's standard way of working. The company says flexibility is an imperative in an environment where the attraction and retention of key talent is critical.

Microsoft New Zealand, part of the global software giant, was highly commended in this category for investing time, energy and thought leadership into creating a local culture that will attract and retain the best employees, with flexibility at its heart.

Winners' stories in more detail

Winner of the Supreme Award and the Work & Life/Diversity Initiative Award, The Warehouse. The Supreme Award recognises all-round impact and innovation, and is chosen from the winners in each category. The Work & Life/Diversity Initiative Award celebrates initiatives that target opportunities for greater engagement and productivity. At The Warehouse's South Auckland distribution centre, there's quite literally a family feel; mums, dads, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws (and out-laws) all work together; they're a social bunch.

But a couple of years back, despite good performance in the centre, managers felt that something was missing; an understanding between (largely Pākehā) managers and the multicultural distribution centre staff, and between the cultures in the workforce.

Human Resources Manager Kirsty Wooding says the company wanted to build a stronger sense of community. "We needed to know what made each other tick, understand where we came from and how to further support and grow our people and our operation."

When the Ministry of Social Development offered the Big Red Sheds the opportunity to pilot its parenting programme SKIP (Strategies for Kids, Information for Parents), the company saw a golden opportunity to boost communication and understanding through the common experience of parenthood. Pilot schemes were run for men and women, whether they were parents or not, and were enthusiastically received.

Bringing team members and managers together to share their experiences was a critical element of the workshops. As one participant says, "It's nice to know that I can speak to my supervisor about my daughter we're all experiencing the same things."

The Warehouse saw engagement and productivity rise and absenteeism decrease amongst distribution centre staff; the understanding gap has narrowed and staff at all levels communicate with each other more easily.

Highly Commended in the Work & Life/Diversity Initiative category is law firm Chapman Tripp for its Women @CT programme, which aims to recruit and retain talented employees with a suite of flexibility initiatives and career boosters such as networking events and training.

With increasing numbers of women graduating in law, Chapman Tripp recognised that it and other firms could do better in retaining and advancing them. Just over half of the firm's lawyers are female, and all staff can take advantage of flexible working hours to suit their lifestyles. Part-time work is supported by discouraging the attitude that to be successful means working long hours, and in 2009, 14 % of the firm's staff worked part-time.

Walk the Talk Award: Henare Clarke, Auckland Area Manager, Downer NZ. This award celebrates people who exemplify excellence in their management of a diverse workforce. Henare, of Ngāti Porou descent, has been with the company for 33 years, starting at the age of 18 as a labourer in the company's Hamilton asphalt plant. While studying part-time to gain his New Zealand Certificate in Engineering (Civil), Henare worked his way through various roles and in 1996 became Auckland's Area Manager.

Henare is responsible for the leadership, direction and financial performance of Downer's largest branch in New Zealand, which has 275 full-time employees from a diverse range of backgrounds. He is respected for his belief - demonstrated in his own life story - that anyone with commitment and determination can succeed. Henare is, says Cos Bruyn, Downer's New Zealand Region Chief Executive Officer, "a leader who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way".

Tomorrow's Workforce Award: OMEGA (Opportunities for Migrant Employment in Greater Auckland). This award recognises innovative responses to New Zealand's workforce challenges. OMEGA brings together recently-arrived skilled migrants and pairs them with local mentors who provide one-on-one support, advice and local knowledge to help channel them into jobs. As former mentee Jonathan 'Woody' Ramirez puts it, "Getting a visa in the Philippines is not landing a job in New Zealand."

The payback for the mentors is the chance to extend their leadership and coaching skills, as well as make a contribution to the local community and economy. Mentors and mentees meet one-on-one for 16 hours over 16 weeks, working through a loosely structured but strongly supported programme.

OMEGA has enjoyed strong corporate support. More than 292 volunteer mentors from more than 100 Auckland organisations have provided more than 6000 mentoring hours, among them employees of Auckland City Council, Unitec, IAG, BNZ, Genesis Energy, Gen-i, ANZ and Vodafone.

And the results are impressive: 188 mentoring programmes have been completed and about 80 per cent of mentees who complete find appropriate work. They have ended up in an array of roles, including project manager, IT manager, HR manager, lecturer, engineer, health and safety officer and social worker.

The Skill Highway Award: Liddell Contracting. This award celebrates employers who invest in their staff to ensure their full potential is tapped. Liddell Contracting, on the South Island's West Coast, was established in 1992 with just two employees but started to grow in 2007, stretching the capacity of staff to handle the paperwork. Administration staff were spending many hours following up poorly-written timesheets and profit was being affected.

To address literacy, language and numeracy problems, Liddell Contracting and a training partner developed Building Bridges, which was backed by the Tertiary Education Commission and started in October 2007. During its first year, 13 staff, a third of the total number, were given one or two hours of help a week, using real workplace documentation, to get on top of literacy and numeracy issues.

As some of Liddell Contracting's staff speak English as a second language, their learning needs were addressed separately with one-to-one teaching across a range of workplace activities such as emailing, phone conversations and speaking with clients. Paperwork errors decreased dramatically and the company has seen profits rise.

Liddell Contracting now subsidises LLN support for its apprentices. HR Adviser Tania Washer says that employee development is "a major factor in the long-term profitability of the business. If we hire and keep good employees, it's good policy to invest in developing their skills so they can increase their productivity."

Highly commended: Canterbury Spinners. Canterbury Spinners' LEAP (Learn, Experience and Progress) programme, covering literacy, language and numeracy, and basic computing skills, was launched in 2007 and has been oversubscribed since. It runs two hours a week for 20 weeks with some learners moving on to complete another 20-week block. A total of 76 of the company's staff have completed the programme, and are now well-placed to rise in the company at a time when a number of senior and long-term staffers are preparing to retire. HR Manager Karen Treloar says LEAP has been linked to a lift in morale, a reduction in staff turnover and a decline in absenteeism.

Highly commended: New Zealand Army. The NZ Army's 4900 employees reflect the literacy and numeracy problems of the New Zealand population where it is estimated that more than 40 per cent of people do not have the literacy and numeracy skills to understand many written workplace documents. In 2008, scenario-based language, literacy, numeracy and communication training was developed. The mode of training reflected the fact that three-quarters of soldiers are kinaesthetic learners - they learn by doing. Lt Col Richard Taylor, the Commanding Officer of the Military Studies Institute (MSI), says that in the past 18 months, 380 staff have attended courses, with a further 30 students receiving individual tutoring to help them with specific issues.

According to Private Katie Kuru, a member of the 21st Supply Company at Linton Camp, the content of her communication course "was 100% work-related, and helps soldiers like myself to understand what is expected at the next rank bracket. On a personal level, it has also expanded my knowledge and given me a spark for learning."

Highly commended: Millennium Hotels and Resorts. The company's initiative Business Basics is backed by Government funding and helps staff at all levels understand how their work contributes to business success. Since mid-2009, three full-time coaches have run Business Basics in Auckland, Rotorua and Christchurch. At any one time they are coaching at least 100 learners over 16 weeks. The modules are varied, from selling skills to health and safety to supervision and leadership. Learning takes place in one-on-one coaching and small groups with literacy and numeracy training embedded in it.

Participation in Business Basics is voluntary but "peer pressure from other hotel sites creates positive tension," says National Learning and Development Manager Elizabeth England-Teauraki. "Once employees hear what their colleagues are doing, they ask to join in."

Workplace Work & Life Award: ANZ New Zealand. The company's My Flexibility programme, launched in May 2008, offers a range of flexibility options and advice to employers and employees on how to make flexibility work for everyone. The policy applies to all 9000 of ANZ New Zealand's employees, "irrespective of how long they've worked for us and not just those with caring responsibilities," says HR Consultant Anna McCready.

The bank, 67 per cent of whose staff work in branches and contact centres, sees flexibility as a business imperative in an environment where attracting and retaining key talent is critical. The policy, says Anna, also seeks to shift mindsets from seeing flexibility as special treatment to seeing it as the bank's standard way of working.

The bank's policies have allowed Contact Centre Services and Sales Representative and mother of two Kerri Teramura-Clayton to adjust her hours as she raises her family. After returning early from maternity leave after her second child was born, Kerri worked one day a week on a casual basis. "Our children are now 15 and 9 so working part-time during the day continues to work very well for my family and me," she says.

ANZ New Zealand says that flexibility has contributed to reductions in sick leave, absenteeism and turnover; the average length of staff service is now eight years. It has seen 83% of employees who return from parental leave stay for more than 12 months, well above the bank's target of 50%. The percentage of part-time workers has increased from 14% to 24%.

Highly commended: Microsoft New Zealand. Flexibility, whether that's part-time work, job-sharing, or working from home, is a core part of the distinctly New Zealand culture at the local arm of global software giant Microsoft.

Judge Philippa Reed says that on her visit to the company staff offered a wide range of examples of how flexibility helps them do their best in work and at home. "Microsoft obviously has access to technology that enables flexibility but even more critically, its workplace culture and attitude actually support and promote flexibility."

Microsoft is conscious that women are under-represented in IT generally - its workforce is nearly a quarter female - and is ensuring it eliminates any barriers. This includes pay parity, a mother's room and "thinking creatively about where our talent might come from," says HR Director Sally Doherty. It also supports staff career development and says that the majority of people who leave transfer to overseas roles with the company.

About the EEO Trust: www.eeotrust.org.nz

The Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) Trust is a not-for-profit organisation tasked with providing EEO information and tools to employers and raising awareness of diversity issues in New Zealand workplaces. The EEO Trust assists employers in introducing and managing proven EEO thinking and practices, encourages diversity by promoting the recruitment and development of people on the basis of merit, and generates awareness of the business benefits and rewards of an inclusive workplace.

The EEO Trust, which is based in Auckland, works with employers around New Zealand providing the latest resources, ideas and information to support workplaces to achieve success through effectively managing diversity. The EEO Trust is resourced by fees from member organisations and Government contributions. It is governed by a Board of Trustees.

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