How to go about making the hardest decision to reduce the size of your team

As a number of us breathed a sigh of relief to be moving to Alert Level 2, there are many employers who are having to make the tough, heartbreaking decision to cut costs and make people redundant. Whilst Alert Level 2 means a number of businesses can reopen, this comes with increased operating costs and uncertainty about revenue.  Without a doubt, many businesses face a long slow crawl to get back to pre-Covid revenue levels.

At Humankind we believe that good employers lead with humanity, drawing on all the good things that make us human. This is never more important than when making decisions that could impact people’s jobs. If you are facing difficult decisions, please remember:

1) Be Vulnerable

Now is not the time to be tough or distant.  It’s ok to admit that this situation is awful and that you wish you didn’t have to make these decisions.

2) Lead with empathy

If you were in your employee’s position, what would you like to be told, how would you like to be made to feel, how would you like to be treated?

3) Involve employees early

Seek their views on how your business could run more efficiently before considering redundancies.

4) Act swiftly

Sitting on a decision won’t make it easier or better.  Chances are your employees will know things are bad and will want to know what’s going on.  It’s far better to talk to your employees about what you are considering, than leaving them worrying about it.

5) One size fits one

Consider your employee’s circumstances before consulting them about the proposed changes, right down to whether are they working from home, with family members in the same space as them, or living by themselves with limited support.

6) Engage with your people

As you go through the consultation process, engage in genuine two way dialogue with your employees, taking the time to ensure they understand the reasons for your proposal, that it’s not about them or their performance, and listening to what they have to say.

7) Offer practical support

Beyond offering EAP, how can you prepare employees to look for a new job and enable them to market themselves.  Who in your network or industry is looking for employees?  Are there any benefits that you offer that could make a big difference if the employee retained them, even for a little while, such as keeping their work laptop.

8) Agree on comms with your people

Ask employees how they would like the final decision to be announced to the team, what they need during their notice period and how they can depart with dignity.

9) Communicate, communicate, communicate

Be open and transparent, sharing as much detail as you can about the reasons for the change and the process you are following. 

10) Engage your future workforce – everyone is impacted

Everyone in your team will be impacted by change, even those who have a job may be losing a good work friend or could be worried about their own role and the possibility of further cuts. Make sure you reach out to them, check that they are ok and identify ways to motivate and reinvigorate them.

May 19th, 2020

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Often the most inspiring employee experience programmes are borne out of a very simple, very real human problem. This was the case for Ballance Agri-Nutrients, this year’s winner of the Humankind Employee Experience Initiative of the Year Award for its safety and wellbeing programme, COWS.

With 800 employees and more than 1000 contractors, Ballance Agri-Nutrients is a New Zealand farmer-owned co-operative that helps its customers to farm more productively, profitably and sustainably.

With diverse and expert roles such as nutrient specialists, loader drivers, pilots, forklift operators, manufacturing plant operators, engineers, and scientists, the company’s Kapuni urea plant is home to one of New Zealand’s largest Major Hazard facilities.

Health and safety form a key part of the business so during the 2017/2018 financial year when the Ballance team saw a sharp increase in injury rates, alarms were raised.

Their people were at risk and a company-wide investigation and solution was needed. What followed was an initiative driven by the people, for the people, with remarkable results.

To shed light on the in-house process that turned Ballance’s health, safety and culture around, we sat down with Rochelle Spillane, the company’s Acting General Manager for People & Capability.

“When we looked into the incidents that caused these injuries we soon realised our company culture had a key role to play in keeping our people safe,” said Rochelle.

“We discovered that our current health and safety culture was disconnected and overly policy driven. We had created standards and processes, but not a cultural framework on how and why we did things safely.”

Alongside these investigations, Rochelle said her team were mindful of the prevalence of mental health concerns in the workplace affecting many New Zealanders, including their own employees.

“This informed our view that we had an obligation to create an environment that was conducive to overall wellbeing to help keep our people well and safe across all elements of health and safety.”

The Investigation

Rochelle’s team was given a mandate to create a programme for safety leadership that would reduce the number of people being injured.

“During our investigations, we saw that many other businesses were tackling safety just as we had been, by focusing on process, policies and driving people and leaders to understand and implement these more.”

“We knew we had to do more than just educate people about safety regulations and reporting requirements – we needed to explore the mindsets, beliefs and attitudes which drive our people,” she said.

Inspiration struck when the transformational safety story of Shell’s oil-and-gas platform URSA was discovered. It involved a newly commissioned billion-dollar oil rig within an organisation and an industry that had a concerning safety record. The workers on rigs never showed any vulnerability, making the environment even more perilous because no one asked for help.

The Ballance crew saw similarities in the “show no weakness” attitude in their industry and a reluctance to ask for help among their own people. They learned that to address this, the URSA employees spent a day focused just on connecting with each other, and this programme was credited with helping reduce safety incidents across the company by 84%.

“Just like URSA, we wanted to create an environment where people knew that their wellbeing and safety was important, and where they took ownership of not just their own health, safety and wellbeing but also of those around them because they felt connected as people, not just workers, and truly cared about their teammates.”

This discovery was the catalyst for creating a company-wide employee programme called COWS – the acronym representing key principles of care, ownership, wellbeing and safety.

Homegrown COWS

From previous experiences and feedback, the Ballance team knew that self-design and self-facilitation needed to be a key part of this programme for it to be successful.

“If we could create a programme that could bring the care and connection our people shared at home, and within their communities, into our workplaces, then we might just be able to shift our culture, and as such, keep more of our people safe, more often.”

A two-day programme was developed for the company’s 160 plus leaders and was based on the understanding that with personal connection, care follows.

“We started rolling it out to all of our leaders and very quickly they said we need all of our people to go through this,” she said.

“It was an amazing endorsement from our leadership team because it is a big investment. We had to close the business and bring people in from different parts of the country.”

The company then approached potential facilitators and champions across the business who were influential, credible and willing to help refine, deliver and lead the new programme.

“Across the workshops we iterated and adjusted to ensure we pushed our people out of their comfort zone, and into the stretch zone. Over the week, our facilitators became passionate proponents of the programme and continued contributing to the content online as the organisation-wide rollout took place.

“The workshops were intentionally run with groups from across our different functions and teams, to help generate connections right across the business, increase our understanding of each other and the ‘humanness’ that we bring to work, yet each try to mask,” said Rochelle.

As one participant phrased it, “I came here thinking I’d have nothing in common with anyone, but now I see that we’re all just people, ay”.

What’s involved in the programme?

On the first day of the workshop, participants introduce themselves and talk about their three most important relationships and why they are important to them.

“It’s very much about connection, understanding each other as people and developing a connection, understanding what listening looks like,” said Rochelle.

Day two is focused on health and safety, looking at real life scenarios and developing an understanding of how easy it is for something to go wrong.

 “It’s about real ownership, taking responsibility and caring for each other in the workplace – knowing that they could be the person that could save your life.”

The initial two-day workshop continues to be rolled out as new team members join Ballance, signalling the importance of developing a safety culture.

Quarterly COWS follow, including an agenda covering topics like resilience, driving and fatigue, and slips, trips and falls, where groups can discuss stories that others can learn from.

“We now get managers saying, ‘when’s the next quarterly COWS coming out, I want to run it with my people’,” said Rochelle.

Always Learning

Through the delivery of COWS, Rochelle says the company has learned that by focusing and supporting each other as people first, and workers second, they realised they had more in common.

“This commonality makes it easier to care, to want to take ownership, to support each other’s wellbeing, and in turn, to work together more safely.” 

She says they have a greater appreciation and understanding that the traditional safety view of concentrating on legislation and policy or process first, risks sidelining the fact that humans are involved in the work.

“Those humans all bring with them a myriad of things which makes each situation, day, and task unique from one day to the next. This means that a policy or process, no matter how well designed, will never allow for all scenarios, and that empowerment and ownership have a much greater success of accommodating those variables, and in turn, keeping us safer, more often,” said Rochelle.


Rochelle says COWS has had a huge impact on company culture, just as they had hoped it would.

In a 2018 employee experience survey, COWS was explicitly mentioned by 57 team members, citing the impact this programme has had on how they feel about working at Ballance. For many, it was the one thing, above anything else, that they felt made Ballance a great employer.

In the words of one employee, “The adoption of COWS has been amazing – even in our team this has saved a team member in a time of distress and made us a tighter team.”

With the entire Ballance workforce having completed COWS and many contractors, Rochelle says there has been a cultural change in the approach to safety, including:

  • • An increase in reporting of lead indicators (near hits, safety concerns, at-risk behaviours)
  • • Significant lift in positive behaviours being reported
  • • The Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) usage has increased, with double the number of men accessing the service compared to a year ago
  • • A significant breakdown in silo behaviours and increase in collaboration
  • • People feel supported and there is a real sense of looking after each other, asking if colleagues are ok and making the time to connect.

The Ingredients of Success

The Humankind EX Initiative of the Year Award recognises the work, achievements, and employee-centric approach taken to the development of a single initiative designed to improve employee experience in New Zealand.

This involves having a positive influence on the thoughts, feelings, or interactions that employees have at work, helping them be at their best. 

The panel assessing the submissions for the 2019 award considered both the process and the results of nominated employee experience initiatives, with a focus on how people went about working with others to understand needs and design a programme.

The judging group included Meena Kadri, Strategic Advisor for Springload; Anna Campbell, a leadership coach and strategist; Laurent Sylvestre, Chief People and Culture Officer; and Mike Carden, HR tech entrepreneur who founded Joyous and Sonar 6.

Commenting on the Ballance Agri-Nutrients win, Meena Kadri said, “I loved that COWS dug way beyond policy and processes to explore beliefs, mindsets and attitudes – framing human connection as the foundation that would unlock impact.” 

“I was especially interested in initiatives which were being designed with, not for, employees. I’m a fan of core-out versus top-down approaches, and Ballance did a fab job of this by locating change agents across the business, busting through hierarchies and silos.”

While the panel had many points of convergence, Meena said they also had personal points of divergence, “Which was a great test of Humankind’s EX framework to then align us in confident decision making,” she said.

“I think that many organisations can take inspiration by zooming out from abstract health and safety processes and policies to consider the human connection that actually fuels authentic engagement with workplace wellbeing.”

Reflecting on her team’s win, Rochelle Spillane says she feels an enormous amount of pride in the Ballance Agri-Nutrients team. “They backed this, they supported it, it is our people that are making it endure – this is their award.”

Although the programme is still in its infancy, and with culture change needing sustained and long-term commitment, Rochelle says they have already seen early behavioural changes and expect a continued reduction in people being hurt to follow.

“If we care about each other, we won’t allow each other to get hurt. Our investment in this programme demonstrates how serious we are about looking after our people.”

December 18th, 2019

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Mental Health Awareness week is 23-29 September this year. With so much of our lives affected by what happens at work, we’re excited to share our thoughts about supporting wellbeing in the workplace. In this post we describe how we recently refreshed our own Wellbeing Philosophy using Employee Centred Design.

Why would a fast growth business focus on wellbeing?

Working in professional services, the unavoidable truth is that our team is working in a challenging, fast-paced environment. We’re surrounded by high-performers (we have an amazing team) and we’re constantly focused on supporting our incredible clients to solve problems. There is rarely down time. We tend to thrive on this, but there’s no escaping the fact that it can be exhausting.

Great employee experiences enable and inspire people to perform. We know that supporting each other holistically means that we succeed as a team, and with clearer minds we can better serve our clients.

So how can a growth business find the time to develop a wellbeing philosophy?

The catalysts for the development of our Wellbeing Philosophy were two members of our team, Madi and Charlie. They had been sharing what they had been learning about wellbeing and had noticed a growing interest within the Humankind team to take more action on our own health. Humankind has always supported wellbeing but our ‘Wellbeing Warriors’ were keen to help us formalise this, so they have led the development of our thinking and approach. We wanted to be sure that we were going to come up with an approach that works for our team (not just a list of ‘fad ideas’) so we have used Employee Centred Design to make sure we hit the mark.

Here are some of the key steps we took. We hope that it helps you on your journey as well!

1.    It’s been led by the team

From the outset, we wanted to harness the passion of our team to develop our wellbeing programme, so we asked for a group of volunteers. There are now six of us, and the philosophy has been designed by the team (rather than leadership). Empowering the team to own it means that our wellbeing initiatives reflect what we know would make an impact, not what leadership thinks will help. Having six of us means that people can contribute when they have capacity to do so. They jump in when they have time.

2.    We defined what wellbeing means to us

If you’ve read our article Introducing Employee Centred Design, you’ll know that instead of implementing “best practice”, we believe in working with employees to develop solutions that will truly serve them. There are many great models of workplace wellbeing out there, but our first step was to understand what wellbeing meant to our team. How did we do this?

3.    We used Employee Centred Design


Discover is the first phase in our Employee Centred Design approach – understanding what people’s current thoughts and experiences are on the topic at hand. Information collected during this phase helped us understand and stay focused on the ‘why.’ We had already had a number of team conversations about wellbeing, but we felt that we may not have heard everyone’s voice. We wanted to capture some data.

  • We went out to the team with a three-minute survey designed to ascertain which areas of wellbeing were important to them.
  • We reviewed previous survey data related to wellbeing as well as previous insights from a broader employee experience discovery we had recently completed.
  • From our Discovery work, we identified that there were four key types of wellbeing that were most important to our team. We then took the important (but often overlooked) step of defining what we planned to do next, grounding our intent in what our people want, and giving us clarity on what success will look like.
  • Our Employee Experience (EX) Definition Statement is: “We will design a Wellbeing Philosophy and ongoing programme of initiatives to make a positive impact on our team’s physical, mental, social connectedness, and work wellbeing. Our programme will be flexible; one where people can pick and choose initiatives that work for them.”
  • We went out to the broader team, asking for volunteers for a 30min co-design session. The session was led by three of our Wellbeing Warriors.
  • During the session, they tested our four areas of Wellbeing, brainstorming and prioritising initiatives under each area.
  • Charlie, Ella, Steph, Ali and Louise have pulled it all together into a simple document that outlines our philosophy as well as the benefits, actions and activities we commit to. They’ve each contributed to this when they’ve had pockets of capacity.
  • This step is really easy when the solution has been co-designed with the team. The team has already started implementing new initiatives (led by them) and we are still evolving our approach and ideas.
  • In addition to our Wellbeing benefit, Duvet Day, flexible working and EAP, some of the initiatives we’re adding include:

Lunch and learn sessions related to our four wellbeing areas. Topics include nutrition, resilience, deep work and mental health

Daily tips and reminders shared via Slack

More deliberate time scheduled for our team to connect socially

Co-designing our office etiquette to allow for deep work, productivity and work/life balance

Leaders bringing the topic of wellbeing into one-on-ones

Team events such as hikes, runs and step challenges

  • We also plan to develop a more detailed Wellbeing Guide as the year progresses. It will likely include information on how work can affect your mental health, information on our workplace stressors, what support Humankind offers, and personal stories of how various team members cope with stress or focus on their own wellbeing.

During Mental Health Awareness week, the Wellbeing Warriors have organised training on mental wellbeing in the workplace. The training focuses on awareness as well as equipping our team with reactive and proactive responses. They’ve also coordinated short activities to do each day including a roundtable discussion on workplace stressors; a walk around Mount Vic; connecting over a potluck lunch; and a lunchtime quiz designed to lift awareness and dialogue around mental wellbeing.

It doesn’t take long to start the discussion on mental wellbeing at work, and it is a great topic to design solutions with your team, not just for them. Mental Health Awareness Week is a great platform. What are you doing in your organisation?

September 13th, 2019

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For decades, employers have screened prospective employees with personality tests, aptitude tests and logic skills, trying to find that perfect fit for their team. And we’ve been debating the effectiveness of all these tests for just as long.

In 2018, Google Labs wanted to find the secret recipe for a perfect team to settle the debate once and for all! They called this: “Project Aristotle”.

But Google found that a team’s productivity comes down to more than just the individual personalities. Try as they might (and they tried very hard), they could not find any patterns between their most productive teams.

Teams that looked the same from the outside might perform completely differently from one another. They couldn’t find any patterns in things like personality type mix; gender ratios in a team; democratic teams or teams with a self-appointed leader. Some of their top performing teams were really sociable and loved hanging out with each other outside of work too; other top performers just got together and got the job done without any extra banter.

For all Google’s vast amount of research and data, there just seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it. But when they looked at how team members felt at work, they found something amazing.

From its huge array of workplace data, Google found that “enhanced teams” display 5 key things…

  • Psychological safety
    People feel like they can take risks in their workplace and not be punished for it.
  • Dependability
    There is trust that everyone in the team is delivering a high standard of work, on time.
  • Structure and clarity
    Everyone knows what their specific expectations are. These expectations must be challenging yet attainable.
  • Meaning
    Everyone has a sense of purpose in their work
  • Impact
    Everyone can see the result of their work and how it plays a part in the bigger picture.

Does this sound familiar? This is all employee experience.

When we’re conducting employee engagement surveys, we’re doing exactly what Google did wrong over and over again: we are reducing people to statistics. But of course the way we interact and produce work as teams is so much more complex than that.

To truly understand how our teams are working (or not working) and how we can improve work-life for our people, we need to talk to them about how they feel.

We also need to realise that every organisation is different. A software development team in one organisation might not be as productive as a software development team in the same conditions at another organisation. Why? Because they are simply different people.

The stories your people tell you are crucial. And all it really boils down to is essentially the same as what Google Labs found.

How do they feel at work? Do they feel safe to share their vulnerabilities? Can they express their opinions freely and without fear? What moments matter most to them at work? What is something you could change to make their workplace even better? Can they see the impact of their work? Do they feel purposeful at work? Do they feel like their team is dependable? And so on.

Are you curious about this in your team?

Your organisation’s EX is under your control, you just need to know where your strengths and opportunities lie. Indeed, you may have been actively managing EX for years, and achieved some great results.

The Humankind Employee Experience Awards programme is for organisations who would like to learn about their employee experience, and get recommendations to improve.

Entries for the Humankind Employee Experience Awards close on Friday 30 August.

August 9th, 2019

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Erica Keswin went from discouraged consultant to workplace strategist. Like many of us, she found herself working on projects that weren’t going anywhere. So she threw in the towel, went back to school to do an MBA and focused on organisational behaviour, management and leadership. Her book, ‘Bringing your Human to Work’ talks about why the human side of employee experience is so critical for an organisation’s financial success.

Be real 

Having a human voice within your organisation is critical for strong culture but also for attracting top talent. This means being clear about your values and communicating them with intention so that your team can behave in ways that contribute to your success, without you having to remind them.

Curating deeper connections facilitate better relationships and increased wellbeing

Think about it. Before technology, we finished work at 5pm, went home from the factory and then got to spend our time connecting with our friends, families and with ourselves. Now we are building tech-based micro-connections more than our in-person deep connections. And because of neuroplasticity – the study that has proven our brains continue to develop in the direction of our behaviour and thoughts – we’re finding it difficult to work through the deeper emotional responses required for managing our hyper digital-connectedness.

Think about space as a lever for increasing productivity and perspective. 

Inspired by Game of Thrones, Erica interviewed an organisation that created a ‘Day of Reaping’ where on certain days throughout the year, their employees are required to pick numbers out of a hat and then select a new desk to work from. Switching up physical spaces also switches up perspectives. With open plan offices, organisations forget the distraction this creates for their employees. Remember to design spaces so there are a number of different ‘focused’ options will allow full productivity.

Support your people to grow ‘sideways’

Traditional structures and thinking paved the way for role promotions and pay rises. Now, new flat organisation designs and flexible working environments are giving rise to the part-time and gig economy and therefore need leaders who understand intrinsic motivators and are willing to develop their people laterally. If an employee wants to develop their public speaking skills, support them to attend an improvisation class. A NY Times article attributed a study that showed employees who are developed in this way are applying these skills to their work and are shown to be staying longer.

Looking to take a more “employee-centred design” approach at your organisation?

Your organisation’s EX is under your control, you just need to know where your strengths and opportunities lie. Indeed, you may have been actively managing EX for years, and achieved some great results.

The Humankind Employee Experience Awards programme is for organisations who would like to learn about their employee experience, and get recommendations to improve.

Organisations with a great EX may be celebrated as a finalist or winner of the Workplace Awards.

Applications close 30th August 2019.Learn more about the programme:

August 9th, 2019

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A call to action

There is increasing awareness amongst employers of the importance of employee experience (EX); seeing their organisation through the eyes of the employee. In this guide, we explore how inappropriate behaviours such as bullying and harassment affect employee experience.

For organisations and People & Culture teams, focusing on EX means taking a holistic, employee-centred approach to positively influencing what it’s like to work
in your organisation.

Designing for a great EX involves understanding moments. Moments are subjective, first-person experiences.

Moments that matter are times when we can predict an employee will likely have an experience that will be important to them. An employee’s first day, a performance review, how they are promoted, for example, are moments that matter that can be deliberately planned to ensure a great experience.

Moments of truth are times when an employee has an experience that is important to them. A Moment of Truth reveals to the employee their organisation’s true level of care. Policies and processes can help guide leaders in these moments, but what they actually say and do is what matters most. Moments of Truth disproportionately affect employee experience.

Bullying, harassment and employee experience

The ‘employee experience’ encompasses the combined thoughts, feelings, and interactions that employees have at work. When bullying or harassment at work occurs, it significantly affects the employee experience of all involved, including bystanders. Humankind has identified four different types of experience that need consideration to build an environment that prevents and responds to any instances of bullying or harassment in the workplace:

Purpose experiences

These are experiences related to a sense of meaning/purpose in work. They may be sparked by an employee’s connection to your organisation’s purpose, vision,​ or values, and therefore the actions of your leaders that reinforce or detract from those things really matters. If people do not live your values or behave ethically, it’s more likely that bullying and harassment may be present and tolerated in your organisation. The role of leaders is crucial when it comes to preventing and responding to bullying and harassment – they must have the capabilities and confidence required to role model desired behaviours and address issues sensitively and effectively.

Relationship experiences

These are experiences related to employees’ interactions with others, including their relationships with other individuals, other teams, and leaders.  How people are encouraged to interact and work together, the level of respect shown, and alignment of goals and motivators all affect the likelihood that bullying and harassment may occur. Is there a culture where people feel comfortable to speak up and challenge negative behaviours in a constructive way before they escalate into bullying?

Enabling experiences

These are experiences employees have related to the resources and support they need to do their job. This also includes the physical and digital environments in which employees spend so much of their working day. These environments should be physically, emotionally and psychologically safe, so that it creates a sense of belonging and allows employees to bring their whole selves to work. How employees interact virtually is just as important as how they interact face-to-face.

Performance experiences

These are experiences employees have related to achievement in their role. The way that leaders and peers set expectations and provide feedback can contribute to whether or not people feel valued for their contribution. Many people find it hard to give and receive constructive feedback, and it is not uncommon for employees to raise claims of bullying when they are going through a performance improvement plan. We often find that the concerns relate more to how the process is managed, rather than a dispute about the performance issues themselves.

Above all else, what we say we do, has to be what we actually do.  It is crucial to ensure that when expectations that are set, such as a zero tolerance to bullying and harassment, your organisation follows through in a clear and consistent manner.

Bullying and harassment significantly affects the employee experience of all involved, including bystanders. Leaders need to know how to respond sensitively and effectively.


What can you do to prevent and respond to bullying and harassment?


  • Does your organisation have a strong purpose, mission or vision that people are aligned to?
  • Does your organisation have values that are truly embedded in all levels of your organisation and “lived” every day?
  • What is the culture of your organisation – how things are actually done and what people actually say?
  • Do you have a code of conduct for your workplace?
  • Do you have clear, easy to read, enabling policies that are aligned with your values so employees know what behaviour is okay in your workplace and how they can seek help if they have concerns?
  • Do your policies specify that you have zero tolerance to bullying and harassment, and do the actions of leaders reinforce that zero tolerance?
  • Do your leaders role model appropriate behaviours and promote positive and appropriate workplace behaviours in others or do they act badly or tolerate poor behaviour?
  • Are your leaders fair and consistent, or is there favouritism?
  • Are employees in your organisation willing to speak up about bullying and harassment, regardless of whether they are on the receiving end or are a witness, or do they fear retaliation if they were to
    do so?
  • Does your physical and virtual environment foster a sense of community and allow employees to collaborate and support each other?
  • Do you monitor HR data such as employee absenteeism (particularly sick leave); performance issues; complaints or concerns raised internally and from external sources; exit survey data and employee engagement surveys, which may indicate something is going on in a particular workgroup?


  • Do your leaders know what constitutes bullying and harassment?
  • Are your leaders equipped to identify issues early and respond to them effectively?
  • Do your leaders know how to respond effectively when a complaint is raised?
  • Do your leaders know where they can seek help if they have concerns about any of their employees and are not sure what to do?
  • Do you have a simple mechanism for employees to raise concerns about bullying and harassment in a safe way, or even anonymously?
  • Do you train your leaders and employees to know what bullying and harassment is and what to do if they are present when it occurs?
  • Do you take a consistent approach to instances of bullying and harassment?


  • Do you have systems in place internally to support employees who raise issues or are the subject of a complaint of bullying or harassment?
  • Do employees have access to external, confidential support, such as employee assistance programmes?
  • Are employees aware of where they could seek advice and information, including through unions, Community Law Centres and Citizens Advice Bureaus?


How Humankind can support you to prevent bullying and harassment:

We can undertake a comprehensive independent assessment of the experiences you are creating for your employees, and whether there are factors that may contribute to the occurrence of bullying and harassment in your workplace. We do this through first-hand conversation and discovery, learning the Moments that Matter and the Moments of Truth.

We can work with you to design and test solutions that build a better workplace and develop your desired culture.

We can support you and your employees to co-create and implement:

  • A Code of Conduct and Values
  • A robust anti-harassment policy and processes
  • A Speak Up/internal complaints programme
  • An employee support programme
  • A training programme including leadership training, bullying and harassment awareness and bystander training

We can support you to review your current data and identify how that could be turned into knowledge and insights to monitor and predict employee issues.

© Humankind Ltd 2019

May 17th, 2019

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Redvespa EX Award winner

“Humankind were independent and their process was really rigorous and robust, which really resonated with us.  The feedback from the EX Awards programme was also great in identifying areas we could work on.  I would recommend it to everyone.” 


Redvespa were the winners of the Best EX in the Small – Medium size organisation category at the Humankind Employee Experience Awards in November 2018.  We caught up with Blair Loveday, Chief Culture Officer, on his thoughts about the awards and to gain some insights into how they are approaching their employee experience within their organisation.

Winning this award and being recognised in this space was “awesome” for the team at Redvespa.  They didn’t enter the awards to win, but to gain insights into how they can improve their experiences for their people.  Taking part in the programme and then winning the category was an added bonus!

“We’ve gone through a lot of change throughout the last few years, and the fact that this award came through feedback from our people, was quite humbling,” said Blair.

Unfortunately, Blair was unable to attend the awards night, but this was heart-warmingly justified, as shared by his team on the night in their acceptance speech – he was in Vietnam, building a house for Habitat for Humanity!  Whilst the team received their award on stage, Blair received a text saying they’d won, followed by a photo shortly after of the team looking absolutely thrilled.

Blair said, “the happiness and delight on their face was ‘that moment’. For me, that’s what it’s all about – putting our people first and creating moments that matter.”

CEO Sarah Gibson was also unable to make it on the night as she was off pushing herself to the extremes down at Outward Bound!  Blair credits Sarah for helping the team as individuals – by gaining cultural experiences outside of work, which in turn is great at helping them with diversity and inclusion.  He said that their trips were a reflection of who they are and the type of organisation they are and that doing things that aren’t necessarily work-related, but actually doing something for good is something they’re all very passionate about.

In Blair’s mind, more companies are starting to recognise that culture and employee experience is central to how they’re going to compete for a great workforce in the future, but don’t necessarily understand how to get there – where to start and what to do.  Making changes in an organisation that are necessary and sustainable in order to thrive and succeed can be very challenging. This is often easily said, but not easily done.

Redvespa has always had a strong culture. However, in the last three and a half years, they’ve really focused on the science behind it and positioning it as a strategic pillar.  Rather than having it as a plan and an initiative, it’s an integral part of their DNA.  Their culture and employee experience is visibly there.  Being deliberate and having it as part of their game plan has helped with this.

Although they’re not a large company, they saw the importance of implementing a Chief Culture Officer and a Chief Knowledge Officer, who work very closely together to oversee these elements of the business.

“To implement these fundamentals well, you need to be passionate and deliberate – you can’t just leave it to a working group.  You need people in your organisation that know and love what they’re doing to drive this,” said Blair.

“During the first twelve months of our journey we ran research and gained feedback so we could specifically design an experience that was unique to Redvespa.”

CEO, Sarah Gibson wanted to make sure there was a strong ‘people-first’ focus, so they designed a model around collaboration – the secret sauce of their company is not just one-to-one management, but one-to-many.

Redvespa aims to hire the best they can, the really talented people, and they like them to be able to give back – using their ‘squads’ for the day to day stuff, their ‘guilds’ for growth and development (personal brand, etc), and ‘tribes’ to share that information.

“It takes courage to implement a model like that; to help the team collaborate more and grow relationships.  Our team are rarely in the office, so it was important to create multiple touch points within our company – opening up and being transparent so that everyone feels really comfortable to talk, no matter what level they’re at,” said Blair.

Everyone at Redvespa has a cool induction story – it doesn’t start the day they arrive – it starts when they first sign their contract.  They setup a series of activities throughout the first four weeks, which are all designed to make their new employees feel at ease within the company.  They get their first message from the founder and CEO to recognise who they are, they receive a gift, and have some organised meet-ups before they start.  In addition to this, the interview team listen throughout their interview for something that is special to them, for example their screensaver might be setup to be the Hurricanes, if that is something they are passionate about.

Blair said “what we’ve done really well is focus on developing a deeper layer around wellness within our business.  Whilst we have policies and guidelines, we have really unleashed our empathy lens so that, if an event happens – a moment that matters, we will do what we feel is right for Redvespa and the team member and we are very deliberate about this.”

This was evident in the employee survey that was conducted by Humankind as part of the EX Awards.  Blair said “it’s making sure we get to really understand our people and understand that when a ‘moment’ happens, we can work out what’s the right course of action and do what’s required to pick them up.  As the team gets bigger, that’s our challenge – to scale and not derail!  It’s about really capturing those moments for our people so they feel like an individual, rather than a number.”

The EX Awards were a great way of getting like-minded organisations to come together, sharing their stories and insights, recognising the challenges and different landscapes.

“What I’d like to see moving forward is organisations starting to share their EX.  Humankind are doing a great job of this,” said Blair.

“Whilst we’ve won an award in this space, we’re still super curious to see how we can do better.  Talking to different groups, realising the challenges they’ve had and evaluating that against where we’re at is a good thing.  I’m a big advocate for more sharing and less boundaries.”

Blair said that although Redvespa are not ones to shout about success, they like it when everyone else talks about it and certainly enjoy celebrating it.  He said the feel-good factor from winning this award was great.

Blair said, “A big focus right now is our retention strategy: we’ve got some very clever people and we want them to grow and do amazing things with us. It’s about being able to help give back, help each other, add some skill in the game, and grow individuals.”

“Our goal for 2019 is to continually improve our employee experience – we like to try and stay ahead of the curve in the culture space so we will be looking to keep pushing the boundaries.  We want to talk to more people, create awareness of employee experience, and the importance of looking after your people.  Winning the award has given us the confidence that we’re on the right path.”

Culture is at the heart of everything they do, which came out in the EX programme survey – they care for their people with their hearts and for their business with the mind, meaning they can make tough calls when they need to. Having a good balance between business focus and people care is essential.

“The top result in our survey, which I was very proud of, was that people felt safe. Our consultants are going into different environments with different people all the time, so it’s nice to know they feel we’ve got their backs,” said Blair.

The awards were a great way to get independent feedback.  Blair said, “nothing really beats opening yourself up to an anonymous survey where people can let loose!  We wanted it to be inclusive – warts and all – and so this year we included our sidecar model, which is a contractor base to get some further information and insights.

Redvespa do not enter many awards, but feel with some awards, results can be manipulated if people are prepped.

“Humankind were independent, and their process was really rigorous and robust, which really resonated with us.  The feedback from the EX Awards programme was also great in identifying areas we could work on.  I would recommend it to everyone,” said Blair.

Blair had some tips for anyone looking into starting out their journey on employee experience:

“Starting out on this journey is pretty frightening – it’s not mature yet and people don’t know how to dive deep into it. Being authentic matters and our experience is that you should do what’s really important for the organisation and the team.  Our model is uniquely Redvespa and part of the secret is that we got 70% done with the design, knowing it was sustainable and doable, and then handed it over to the team for their tweaks and input.  It’s about capturing the voice of your people and doing what’s right for them rather than what might be ‘trendy’ or what needs to be done.

In Blair’s view “it’s also about doing the small things really well. There’s a lot of hygiene stuff in employee experience and culture around remuneration, flexible working environments, and learning and development, and you need to be doing these things well. But there’s also lots of other things you can be doing that don’t cost a lot. This is where you need to be curious about your work environment and talking to your team. Because this is often the source for great ideas and ideas that matter to your people.  We’re at a stage with our culture maturity, where it’s not just about me in this role. Our culture and employee experience is a team sport, where everyone owns culture, and everyone owns employee experience.”

Humankind note

As part of our ongoing commitment to providing the best Employee Experiences, helping organisations to help their people love what they do, we will be sharing all six of our winner’s stories from the Humankind Employee Experience Awards 2018!  Watch this space…

February 27th, 2019

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Auror Employee Experience Awards

“Everyone in the team is mission-driven. Our users are part of the journey we go on, so when we win awards like this, they feel like they’ve played their part both internally and externally.”


The team at Auror were super excited to hear that they had won the Best Employee Experience for the Small Organisation Category at Humankind’s Employee Experience Awards.  They had put together a very deliberate people and culture strategy and so to be recognised and invited up onto the stage was “awesome” and showed that their strategy was paying off.

They were thrilled to be recognised in amongst New Zealand’s leading employee experience organisations, obtaining the extra validation that what they had been working on had contributed positively to their employee experience.  Co-founder and Co-CEO at Auror, Phil Thomson, said that the awards were across a broad spectrum of industries and so it was great to be able to compare themselves against a range of different companies.

“We had a fantastic experience with the EX Awards programme. The real value was when we got the interviews and survey results.  They sparked good internal conversations and so we were able to adapt some areas of the company accordingly,” said Thomson.

“A big part of why we entered was to get a good understanding of what else we could be doing to improve our EX, alongside what we’ve already been contributing towards.  Our strategy has been around listening to our team and getting a feel for what they like,” said Kirsti Grant, People and Culture Advisor.

One example of feedback was the challenge of their current office space, now that the team has grown significantly, which can get a little crowded, however they’ve made investments in some areas to assist with this, which can be taken to a new office space in the future.”

As Auror continues to grow, with a new office in Melbourne now too, the challenge is around how they scale their existing EX model.  They have identified that if the strategy around values and EX is done well, it ultimately becomes about the people.  As a smaller organisation, they make incremental changes along their growth journey, for example with recruitment eighteen months ago they had challenges around diversity.  By creating buy in from the team, they then ran job advertisements through Textio to get analysis on how their language was affecting candidates that were applying, spending more time sourcing talent – including at senior levels, which has a flow on effect for the team.  For interviews, they made sure that there was a really diverse panel also.  This then raised awareness of their on-boarding experience as a priority for them.

“Creating a great first impression and a good structure for new team members, especially in the first three to four days, has a massive impact on them.  It’s about getting the basics, the smaller things right,” said Grant.

“It’s making sure they know what time they should be in the office, when their first pay day is, where they should park, and when they do arrive, making sure that they really feel that we have acknowledged them joining the team – from having the hardware ready, to a calendar full of events to help them get to know the business and the people.”

As Auror continues to scale, they try to get better and more deliberate around the on-boarding process each time.  The team has grown significantly in recent times, and so the focus now is on the development of their team members – how they grow their people and provide them with opportunities to further develop.

“The scaling of a company comes to down to the people – we talk about values fit and culture add.  We’ve got a really good set of guiding principles, which the team adhere to and operate with really well, however we want to be careful that we do not create a homogenous group of people.  We want people that will add to our culture.  We understand that throughout each office there will be a difference in culture, but they will all have the same guiding principles, enabling them to work really well together,” said Thomson.

Grant says that employer brand is an important focus – as the team continues to grow, they want to make it easier to recruit, however as their EX continues to strive, so do the team and their customers and the impact they have on their communities.

“The impact we have on our community by having an award-winning team, that has incredible employee experience, translates into the interactions we have with our community of retailers and police.  It has a nice flow on effect. By being focussed on building great EX and translating the impacts of this on our team shows how we can support our customers better.  It helps in our overall vision of empowering a community of crime fighters.”

The benefits of being a part of EX18 was the tangible results Auror received, for example, the report highlighted what the team really likes at Auror and areas they can improve.  The report was able to be used as a tool to collaborate effectively with the team, using the insights as an opportunity to spark further conversations and feedback on how Auror can improve moving forwards.

“Everyone in the team is mission-driven. Our users are part of the journey we go on, so when we win awards like this, they feel like they’ve played their part both internally and externally,” said Thomson.

Crime is a serious topic, but Auror has been clever about how they make this fun for all involved by introducing a superhero theme to make it an enjoyable experience to work at Auror and bring recognition to their users and community that work with them every day.  Making it about superheroes, gives them an interesting and engaging topic to link in with and talk about their values and principles – helping them come to life.

Another tool they have used is 15Five, which helps facilitate more effective one-on-ones between a manager and their team.  Part of this allows you to give a team member a digital high five.

“We’ve been on a journey with the digital high fives!  As the team are so supportive and love celebrating success, there were many high fives being given on a weekly basis and so to help make these more meaningful and considered, as the team has grown, we have asked our team to give just three high fives a week – getting people thinking about why they’re giving their high fives – which are really valued,” said Grant.

Thomson added “the regular weekly check-ins allow you to identify problems before they become an issue.  Writing your feedback down and then having the one-on-ones as follow ups really helps the team to feel valued and listened to.”

Auror is excited about the future and is a great example of how you can overcome employee experience challenges within the workplace.  Using the EX Awards as a base to gain feedback and insights into how their employee experience stacks up is a great way to create conversations that matter in amongst employees.  Using carefully selected tools and a collaborative approach has enabled them to come up with solutions and areas to improve within, based on the teams’ feedback.

“What made the process successful, was the collaboration with the team.  Having someone from Humankind come in to observe the team and how they collaborate was really insightful, which we gained valuable learnings from,” said Grant.

Thomson added “if you’re thinking of entering the EX Awards in 2019, we’d highly recommend it because of the value you get out of it.  The awards evening itself was a great opportunity to meet with other like-minded organisations on the night.  We’ve already organised a meeting with one of the other winners to share and collaborate on our EX ideas.  If organisations are serious about EX, we need to look into sharing ideas and strategies, to create better workplaces throughout the country.”

​Humankind note

As part of our ongoing commitment to providing the best Employee Experiences, helping organisations to help their people love what they do, we will be sharing all six of our winner’s stories from the Humankind Employee Experience Awards 2018!  Watch this space…

February 12th, 2019

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Lightspeed Graphics - EX18 Initiative of the Year Winner

“The benefit of entering the awards is that it’s like a disciplined review – it enables you to pause and reflect on the programme with your team on how it’s all working.”


Lightspeed Graphics’ Operations Director, Steve Martin, said they were ‘over the moon’ when they first heard their name announced as winners of the EX Initiative of the Year at the Humankind Employee Experience Awards, EX18, in November.  Because they are a relatively young company (they’re just about to celebrate their 2nd birthday), and they are in a highly competitive industry, winning an award like this means an awful lot.

“It tells us that some of the things we are doing are on the right track.  It’s great for our employees to be a part of that and for us it’s a great story that we can share moving forwards,” said Steve.

Lightspeed Graphics’ mission is to change how people visualise products in the future.  They’re closing the gap between the virtual and the real world by designing cloud-based visualisation platforms, for example in e-commerce, the buyer will have more control over how they view their products, enabling them to make better buying decisions.

Next year, Lightspeed Graphics plan to have a lot of recruitment activity going on, due to their growth, which they intend to leverage this award to their advantage as an added bonus to employer brand.

Taking out this category meant that their Shanghai-based CEO, who is also the financial backer for the organisation, was re-assured that the practices they’re putting in place, here in New Zealand, are getting recognition on a national scale.

Steve became a part of the team very early on in the business and feels privileged to have been able to apply his experiences and utilise these to put together something really positive for the employees.

He said “in a highly competitive industry, organisations need to do something unique to stand out as an employer.  Lightspeed Graphics has always had a learning and development culture, which has been a big attraction to our organisation.”

A big focus has been on employee wellness and closing the gap between work and home life and being able to integrate this more seamlessly for employees. Looking into how to remunerate and retain employees, Lightspeed Graphics wanted to put together a benefits package that would stand out.  Rather than just coming up with a standardised package that they think people want, they took it one step further and heard directly from their employees what was important to them.  By looking at the uniqueness of their team and the emerging culture they have, they were keen to understand what’s important in their teams’ lives and their working lives.  From this, three key themes came through that were important; learning and development, health and well-being, and to make contributions – giving back to the industry as well as giving back to the team.

They came up with a flexible menu of ideas to suit their employees’ lifestyles. Supporting them with gym memberships, medical insurance, paying off student loans, Kiwisaver – to help prepare for the future, and public transport contribution – giving back to the community by encouraging employees to use public transport.

Steve said, “the flexible options were well received by the team as it gives them a sense of empowerment around choosing their benefit.  They also have standard parts of the package too, including a fortnightly shoulder, neck and back massage!”

In the developer world, which is a predominantly male environment (although improving as they now have 5 women in the team!), young males are renowned for not looking after their health.  Lightspeed Graphics offer a full medical or optical examination annually.  He said as a company, they care about their employees and want to encourage them to look after themselves and their health to get the best out of their life.  They also supply fruit and snacks to help encourage their employees to eat healthily.

They have a fortnightly technical training session, where they do a ‘show and tell’ – enabling the sharing of knowledge between the team and helping them to better understand each other’s roles.  This also encourages positive reinforcement from the team.  They have introduced flexible hours for start and finish times and are now looking at working from home options.

“It’s important to us to understand the team’s personal development goals,” said Steve. “Our organisation has a great reputation for up-skilling and developing our employees.  We’re keen to invest in them continuing to learn and develop.”

A programme of tailored individual training has been introduced, which Lightspeed Graphics will fund.  They are encouraging employees to set aside two hours a week for this.

Steve said that winning the award will help increase their employer brand.  They’ve taken advantage of the Employee Experience Awards Winner branding package showcasing their achievements on their website and email signatures.

“The benefit of entering the awards is that it’s like a disciplined review – it enables you to pause and reflect on the programme with your team on how it’s all working.  It is so easy to get side-tracked with delivery, so entering the awards helped us to refocus on the importance of employee experience,” said Steve.

“I would thoroughly recommend the awards.  It’s a good opportunity to reflect on what you’re doing and gain feedback and insights on some of the initiatives you are doing with your company.  You can learn about what other companies are doing.  This particular set of awards stands out against others, as it is particularly focussing on employee experience, and this is such a positive trend in employment.  It’s well positioned and focussing on something that’s positive for your employees as well.”

He said the first event was a tremendous success.  It was well attended and very well run.

“It had a nice feel to it – it was not overly glitzy, but enough – a nice balance.  I really enjoyed it – it was laid back, yet personal, but still with a sense of occasion.”

Steve said that the awards are unique.  The format allowed people to come together and mingle.  You never know what a first awards is going to be like, but I was pleasantly surprised! It was fantastic!  It will definitely grow in popularity due to the culture of the awards.

“Overall, it’s a positive awards.  Well done to Humankind and Joyous for taking the initiative and focus the industry on an important area.  It’s very much inline with current trends in employment – very timely.   The ongoing benefits for our company is that as the awards grow in stature, as an award winner, the stocks grow more and more.”

Humankind note

As part of our ongoing commitment to providing the best Employee Experiences, helping organisations to help their people love what they do, we will be sharing all six of our winner’s stories from the Humankind Employee Experience Awards 2018!  Watch this space…

January 15th, 2019

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At Humankind, we want to help you to create the best employee experiences, and in doing so you cannot underestimate the importance of getting the basics right, including ensuring your employment agreements, policies and practices are up to date with legislation changes. 

The Government has recently passed two bills which come into force next year. The changes are mostly focussed on enhancing employee and union rights. 

As a result, in 2019 you will need to review your employment agreements, policies and practices to ensure they reflect these changes.  

The Domestic Violence  Victims Protection Act 2018 

The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill was passed and the changes will come into effect on 1 April 2019.  The new law entitles employees affected by domestic violence to up to 10 days of paid domestic violence leave per year in order to deal with the effects of domestic violence. Employees will be able to take this leave as needed – similar to the existing sick leave and bereavement leave provisions. 

The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018 

The Government finally passed the Employment Relations Amendment Bill on 6 December 2018. The Bill largely repeals the National Party’s amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA) over its nine years in Government and restored a number of employee and union rights. Some changes will come into effect the day after Royal Assent on 12 December 2018 and the rest come into effect on 6 May 2019.  

What do the changes mean for employers?  

From 12 December 2018: 

  • Union representatives will be able to enter a workplace without consent if the employees are covered by a collective agreement (or bargaining for one). Representatives must still be respectful of the business’ operation needs and follow health and safety rules. If your workplace does not have a collective agreement, Union representatives still need to seek consent before entering the workplace.  
  • Employers will not be able to make pay deductions for partial strikes.   
  • Employers must enter into bargaining for multi-employer collective agreements (MECA), if asked to join by a union. Employers will not have to settle the MECA if they have a reason/s based on reasonable grounds not to. 
  • The grounds for discrimination against union members is extended. 
  • Reinstatement will be the primary remedy considered by the Employment Relations Authority (if requested by the employee) in cases of unjustified dismissal. 
  • Unions can initiate collective bargaining 20 days ahead of an employer. 
  • New categories of employee may apply to have the protections given to “vulnerable employees” in a restructuring process (currently it is just employees in certain cleaning, catering and laundry roles). The application process set out in the Act will need to be followed.  

 From 1 April 2019: 

  • Employers must give affected employees up to 10 days’ domestic violence leave if required.  
  • Employers must respond within 10 working days to a request from an employee affected by domestic violence for a short-term variation to their working arrangements (up to two months or shorter).  Employers cannot unreasonably refuse a request made under this provision.  
  • Employers must not treat an employee adversely in their employment on the grounds that they are, or are suspected to be, a person affected by domestic violence. 

From 6 May 2019: 

  • Only employers with less than 20 employees will be able to use trial periods (employers with more than 20 employees or more will be able to use probationary periods but employees dismissed under probationary periods would be able to claim for unjustified dismissal). 
  • Employers have to give employees the minimum rest and meal breaks set out in the Act.  This will depend on how long they work, for example, an employee working an eight-hour work day must have two 10-minute paid rest breaks and one 30-minute unpaid meal break, while an employee working four-hours work day must have one paid 10-minute rest break (a limited number of employers offering essential services will be exempt if certain criteria are met). 
  • Employers have to employ new, non-union employees on terms consistent with the collective agreement for their first 30 days of employment (the 30-day rule). Once the 30 days have concluded, the employee and employer can negotiate an individual employment agreement.  
  • Employers must provide information about unions to prospective employees, and a copy of the collective employment agreement. 
  • Collective agreements need to set pay rates and any pay increase over the term of the collective agreement. 
  • Employers need to allow union representatives reasonable time to perform their duties within working hours and must pay employees at the same rate for doing union work as they would ordinarily be paid during their ordinary employment duties. Employer can refuse the request if it will unreasonably disrupt the business or the performance of the employee’s duties. 

We would be delighted to help you ensure your employee experience foundations are strong and up to date.  Contact us today here

December 14th, 2018

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