The way we fulfil this purpose, the ‘how’, is through the collective strength of our people – by utilising their collective knowledge and experience through collaboration.
The past year has been one of significant change and it has been rewarding to see our new organisational structure taking shape and the level of collaboration between teams and functions growing day by day.
The key drivers for the rearrangement of our teams was to enable more collaboration and sharing of information between functions, ultimately increasing our responsiveness to customers, and the empowerment of our people to take ownership of and solve problems.
This has manifested in different ways: our two main areas of service, water and wastewater, have come together, creating a single point of contact for a customer if something goes wrong.
Our operations and infrastructure delivery teams have been learning how each of them approach their work and achieve their goals, facilitating a better interface between two of our most important functions.
In the past year, our Strategic Transformation Programme introduced our people to the agile principles of working: teamwork, embracing change, delivering frequently and measuring progress. Since then, teams have been applying these principles on other projects beyond the digital space.
The 40:20:20 programme, for example, has seen people from infrastructure, operations, finance, sustainability, planning and design come together as a taskforce to identify a programme of initiatives to build better, more sustainable and cost-effective infrastructure for Auckland.
We piloted Surf and Immerse, two online solutions for career development and individual learning. These tools put our workforce’s development in their hands, empowering them to work towards a goal that they have set, at their pace.
We also streamlined and automated some of our processes through MyPlace, an online knowledge base that provides information, resources and schedules workflows. This replaced the previous paper-based manual processes and freed up our people to focus on their core jobs.
One of the highlights of the year included the opening of our maintenance training facility at Māngere. The facility has been designed to closely replicate what our maintenance crew encounter when working in the street. It is complete with a live water reticulation network, mini wastewater network, a residential façade and typical streetscape.
Our in-house maintenance team and contractors are responsible for maintaining more than 17,000 kilometres of water and wastewater pipes in Auckland, fixing leaks, clearing blockages and cleaning up the mess.
It is work that is vital for the health of our communities, and sometimes, working in streets with traffic hazards
and underground power services, can be risky. So, having a purpose-built training facility, where new recruits can master the core skills of the job without disrupting services to our customers, is a wonderful addition.
We are moving away from looking at health and safety purely from a numbers and incidents perspective to focusing on our people’s overall well-being. The health and safety team has brought on board a dedicated wellness lead to develop a wellness programme and support our people with workshops, early intervention, recovery and resilience building.
We also established our first-ever diversity and inclusion committee at Watercare. This committee is an opportunity to bring to life the spirit of Watercare and provide representation to the many cultures and communities within our company. A diverse and inclusive workplace also helps us to serve a diverse Auckland effectively.
One of the challenges we face in the industry is the competition for talent. It is projected that there will be more than $50 billion invested in the infrastructure industry over the next 10 years. As we will be competing with the private sector for the same pool of talent, we need to ensure that we are a sought-after place to work while fulfilling our responsibilities as a minimum-cost service provider.
To achieve this, we need to build our brand as an employer and industry leader and partner with organisations that will enable us to grow our talent pool.
We are joining Fulton Hogan and GHD for Project New Grad. This three-year development programme gives civil engineering graduates the chance to work across the contractor, consultancy and local government industries, spending a year with each of the partners and building their experience with a variety of work.
We have also partnered with University of Auckland to build a work-ready pool of graduates by sharing with them scenarios from our business and focusing their efforts on solving these. Two of our executives participated in the university’s ‘Shadow the Leader’ programme where the students were exposed to real-world issues faced by leaders today.
Our focus for the next year is to strengthen our position as a performance-oriented organisation. We want to transform from a technically excellent company celebrating individual capabilities to one that is known for having high-performing teams that work together to take ownership and exceed expectations.
Globally, the changing nature of our work means the way we perform this work has evolved too. Technical and technological abilities are a critical component of any job today.
At Watercare, our workforce is a mix of office-based and field-based staff and their learning needs vary from person to person. But one theme remains constant: our teams want to take charge of their own learning and development and future-proof their skills.
To enable this, we launched two online tools at the end of the 2018/19 financial year – Immerse and Surf.
Immerse offers our people access to a wide range of learning and training opportunities online. Included is access to a learning suite with a range of courses that staff can explore and work through at their own pace.
Our learning and development team is adding more learning modules to the platform every day. Immerse is also being used to train our people on the new processes and systems being introduced as part of the Strategic Transformation Programme.
Encouragingly, the pilot group of staff who trialled the tool found it easy to use, flexible and tailored to their needs.
“Interactive and encouraging”, “online resources made it easier to learn” and “easy to follow and very informative” make up some of the initial feedback received.
Surf, a career development platform, enables staff to identify the aspects of a meaningful career for them and charts their path from their current role to their aspirations for the future.
Both tools empower our people to manage their development in their chosen direction and at their own pace.