The three best Kiwi employers of 2013

Telecommunications company Chorus, courier FedEx Express (New Zealand) and soft drinks firm Frucor Beverages have been named as the best companies to work for in New Zealand by management consulting firm Aon Hewitt.

The firm runs the annual Best Employers in Australia and New Zealand survey, which this year included 125 companies. Each one had applied to be ranked in a process that includes anonymous staff engagement surveys, company audits and chief executive interviews by Aon Hewitt staff.

Chorus general manager human resources Sara Broadhurst says the thing about staff engagement is that “you can never cross it off the list.

 “The moment you say ‘we’ve got engagement – tick’, your people will immediately ask about all the initiatives you ran last year that gave them opportunities to grow and make a difference.

 “If you don’t keep things like these running, your engagement will just plummet. It can be quite a challenge to maintain a high staff engagement score.”

Ms Broadhurst says taking part is a “no brainer” for the company, which was also accredited  as a Best Employer last year.

“ There is a lot of research around that shows the relationship between staff engagement and a range of organisational success measures – including total shareholder return. That is a key driver for us.

 “The bottom line is we want to work with people who are having a good time and who are feeling challenged and driven.”

Broadhurst says it’s pretty hard for people to work for an organisation that is getting “beaten up publicly.

“But if you work in a place that is recognised externally as a great place to be, then that really drives people’s connection to it,” she says. “People are pretty smart when they look at a new job and will check out a prospective employer first. People vote with their feet.”

She says Chorus’ bottom line is helped by the high calibre of people applying to work for the firm as a result of its endorsement by Aon Hewitt.

Frucor chief executive Mark Callaghan says while taking part in the survey helps the company measure itself against rivals, it is mainly used to check it is meeting internal benchmarks.

 “We don’t go into the survey trying to win an award, although external recognition is a ‘nice to have’,” he says. “We do it to measure our leadership; what we are doing, how our staff react to that, and how they feel about it.

 “The process of the survey allows us to drill down by country, department, by team, by facility, and manager. We can determine whether our leaders are demonstrating care, taking time with their staff, are communicating well, and how the staff feel about them.

 “All these things come into play, and it takes very little change on an annual basis for those measures to move around. So having that information every year helps us stay on top of these things and make adjustments.”

Mr Callaghan also says survey results mean managers with room for improvement have nowhere to hide.

 “If a manager receives a low score from their staff for communication – for example – then we have a chance to help that manager grow,” he says. “The results really help us with the personal development of our leaders and managers.”

He also says the Best Employers survey data provides Frucor with a competitive advantage over other organisations: “For that reason I wouldn’t recommend other firms do it.

 “But if I were talking to a non-competing firm, I’d say that if you care about your people and believe you get a better discretionary effort out of a happy and engaged workforce, then you’d be crazy not to get yourself benchmarked – to see where you stand on good leadership and an engaged workforce.”

That’s a view shared by courier firm FedEx Express, which has been accredited as a Best Employer six years in a row.

Kim Garner, the firm’s managing director for Australasia, says it takes part in the survey because it supports the company’s people-service-profit philosophy.

“This philosophy is about establishing a culture that is respectful and rewarding for employees who deliver exceptional service to customers,” he says.

“FedEx also has a programme called Survey Feedback Action (SFA) to assess the climate of the workplace, identify areas of concern and solve workgroup problems. Participation in an established research and audit programme such as the Best Employers accreditation helps validate our SFA results and provides employees with an additional feedback channel.”

Mr Garner says the Aon Hewitt survey has allowed it to identify workplace issues. For example, last year it identified a pocket of low engagement in a team that worked at one of the firm’s remote offices.

 “A FedEx team leader visited the location to hold meetings with staff and encourage feedback,” he says. “In the annual SFA results in March this year, engagement for that team was high, which indicated a positive perception by employees on the leadership effectiveness of their manager.”

Mr Garner also says taking part in the accreditation process provides the firm with a chance to benchmark itself against other major companies in Australia and New Zealand, and learn from their best practices.

 “Best Employers recognition has helped build and strengthen the FedEx Express employer brand within the New Zealand market,” he says.

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