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Heartbeats, not headcounts: Here are all the winners of the 2019 Humankind Awards

The winners of the 2019 Humankind Employee Experience (EX) Workplace and Inspiration Awards were announced last week, which celebrate the companies that are creating the best possible experience for their employees. Top honours went to Xero, Overland Footwear, Lysaght Consulting, Cake Commercial and Balance Agri-Nutrients. As well as this, the director of people experience at Auror Kirsti Grant was named the EX Designer of the Year.

The EX Awards are in their second year of commencement and celebrate New Zealand businesses that are designing top employee experiences. Organisations that take part in the awards must go through a stringent assessment process that includes a survey and randomised employee interviews.

Associate director of employee experience at Humankind, Leighton Abbot, said that this robust process means that the Humankind team have great belief in the finalists and award winners.

The EX Awards categories were divided by company size based on number of people. Accounting software firm Xero was named winner of the Large Workplace (500+ staff) category. Xero has grown to a staff of over 1000 in New Zealand, and that’s not including its employees overseas.

But what made it a winner is Humankind found that its values have hardly changed from the outset, and they are still a huge part of working at Xero.

“In these days of automation and machine learning – which Xero is also totally into, by the way – it is cool to hear how their most important value is simply to be ‘human’,” Abbot says.

“This means looking after each other, bringing your whole self to work, and seeing work as one part of the bigger picture of life.”


The Xero team

General manager of global people programs at Xero Ryan Ghisi said that the win was great validation for Xero, as it’s being recognised for all the good work it’s doing internally. At the company, there are wellbeing, performance and recognition programmes in place. Technology is used to check in with all staff every second week along with in-person follow throughs.

“We take a collaborative approach,” Ghisi says. “So the initiatives and solutions we implement are actually what employees have asked for and want, not just what we think is best for them.”

Overland Footwear was crowned the winner of the Medium to Large Workplace (151 to 500 staff) category. It as an old hand at the Humankind EX Awards, having won the previous year, as well as picking up a few IBM Best Workplaces awards, too.

Humankind’s Abbot said Overland won because retail is a challenging environment these days, but the company is doing more of what they know leads to results – enabling, rewarding and inspiring their people.

The majority of roles at Overland (78 percent) are filled internally, with part-timers given the tools and resources to progress continually, should they wish to.


The Overland team

Overland people and culture director Erin O’Brien said the company was chuffed to be recognised.

“The results are effectively driven by all the people. It’s always an honour to be recognised for the work we do,” O’Brien said.

“The business has a heart. It is not just a commercial business, we look after the whole person and no matter how long they are with us we want them to have a wonderful experience.”

Industrial protection services company Cake Commercial Services took out the Small to Medium (51 to 150 staff) Workplace category.

Humankind’s Abbot said it was the company’s investment in training that made it a winner.

“Keeping industrial and infrastructure assets across New Zealand protected from the elements is their core business, but it is how Cake Commercial care for their people and invest in training that made them really stand out to us,” said Abbot.

“With a job that can at times scale some heights, knowing you are safe, well trained, and that your crew is there for you is what matters.” 

Cake Commercial Services offers insurance cover, personal development, financial lectures and more to its staff.


The Cake team 

 “We give a lot and we expect a lot in return. We really do care about the guys and we want them to have a career with us,” Cake CEO Clive McKay said.

“It’s exciting for the whole team to be a part of the awards. We are really pleased with what we’ve achieved, and that it was based on feedback for improvement from the team.”

Lysaght Consultants, which is based in Tauranga, won the Small Workplace (20 to 50 staff) category.

The Lysaght team specialises in land surveying, civil engineering, and land development but during lunch breaks you’re likely to see them out surfing, swimming, paddle boarding, running – they have a very active crew,” Humankind’s Abbot says.

Lysaght encourages their staff to do something that raises their heart rate every day, and offer a 30 minute extension to lunch breaks twice a week to encourage people to exercise during work hours. 


The Lysaght team 

The company’s director of culture Fiona Lysaght said, “I know we have a really great culture, I feel it and sense it every day. In the people and in the way they are with each other, the way that they work.”

“Humankind have validated what we have been doing, confirming that feeling that we have around the office,” Lysaght says.

The winner of Humankind Employee Experience Initiative of the Year is Balance Agri-Nutrients, which has a safety and wellbeing programme called Care, Ownership, Wellbeing and Safety (COWS) that’s been described as a profound success. Team members had been showing vulnerability in the workplace and talking more openly about challenges surrounding mental health.


The Balance Agri-Nutrients team

Meanwhile, director of people experience at Auror Kirsti Grant took out the Employee Experience Designer of the Year award. She leads by example and takes an employee-centric approach, which has been focused on measurement from the beginning.


Kirsti Grant

Some of Grant’s initiatives that have received great feedback and made a big impact include parental leave policies, onboarding, and revisiting the guiding principles of the company.

The EX Awards are held by Humankind, which is the leading outsourced HR company in New Zealand that has worked with over 500 organisations. Fully owned and operated by Kiwis, Humankind is about building the best workplaces in the world. 


The Humankind team 

To find out more about the awards or Humankind, head to its website

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