People and culture

PC banner

Our ability to respond to crises and recover from them is a reflection of the capability and commitment of our people.

The challenge for us, then, is to keep them safe and engaged, and enable them to grow and develop professionally while continuing to attract the right people for the right roles.

Engaged teams

Employee engagement levels, measured through employee net promoter scores (eNPS), were well above our targeted score (35 against a target of 20 or above) and remained relatively stable from 36 in 2019/20 for the company and showed positive increases for our operations and customer functions.

Meaningful work and a positive work environment are areas where we continue to perform well. One issue that emerged as an area for improvement is resourcing. Our work to tackle the drought has meant delivering critical projects within short timeframes which has impacted our people’s ability to focus on long-term professional development and training.

The water industry has an ageing workforce, so attracting people – especially for critical operational roles – has been an ongoing challenge. To address this, we have been focusing on developing specific career pathways for operations; we have also increased the number of interns by 40%, and developed a new three-year graduate programme and apprenticeship scheme across our operations, Central Interceptor and infrastructure teams. Career pathways for other areas of the business will be developed from mid-2021 onwards.

Cultural shift for a safer workforce

Another ongoing issue has been the health and wellbeing of our workforce and ensuring our people go home safely to their families. Over the past few years, we have noticed a year-on-year increase in injuries. Injuries and incidents are symptoms of a deeper problem, so we have directed our attention towards identifying the implicit behaviours and factors that drive health and safety outcomes. Our work with Human Synergistics has been involving people from across the business – including our board and leadership teams – to improve our health, safety and wellbeing performance by understanding and addressing those implicit behaviours that are shaping our culture.

We have also made improvements to the way we report on health and safety every month, focusing on lead indicators including the number of cases raised and closed on our incident management system, number of safety conversations held by leadership teams and the number of site visits by leadership teams. These go beyond the blunt measures of lost-time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) and total recordable injury frequency rate (TRIFR), historically used as measures of health and safety performance.

Increasing diversity

Watercare is a diverse workplace, and we want to reflect this diversity across all functions in terms of both gender and Māori and Pasifika representation. We have committed to specific targets for increasing diversity and have completed work in identifying baselines that we will improve on year-on-year. (Read more information on page 122.) In 2020/21, we improved gender and ethnic representation: 9.0% for female employees and 6.4% for Māori/Pasifika ethnicity compared to 2019/20.

We also have a reciprocal arrangement with Waikato Tainui for sourcing interns from the iwi. During the year, 27 Watercare team members of Māori ethnicity participated and completed the Wānanga Māreikura for wāhine (female) irawhiti (transgender) and irahuhua (non-binary, gender-fluid). This bespoke programme was delivered in a marae environment to support our Māori employees to connect with their Māori tanga and cultural identity and has been designed to build confidence and competency. We also continued to incorporate te reo Māori into everyday business.


Growing talent

As a public water utility, we are competing in a tight labour market – not just with the private sector locally but also with companies overseas. Our aspiration is for Watercare to be an employer of choice by offering more growth and professional development opportunities. Our leadership development programme was delivered to 220 people leaders during 2020/21, focusing on core competencies, communication and delivering feedback. Our Future Stars and Mentoring the Watercare Way programmes are also examples of this in action.

Future Stars identifies people from across the business to collaborate and solve problems that challenge the water and infrastructure industry. Launched in 2019/20, one of the groups from the first cohort has been working on trialling the reuse of treated wastewater to irrigate green spaces and introduce the idea to the public. The next cohort of Future Stars has been identified and is working on issues like innovation and efficiency in the water sector.

More recently, we launched Watercare’s mentoring programme and it has already seen encouraging participation from across the business. Mentoring programmes add valuable skill sets for current employees to advance their careers and personal development, while also attracting new talent into the organisation, particularly the younger generation. Mentoring is a key aspect of a supportive workplace as workplace statistics show that 76% of people believe mentors are important but only 37% have one.

PC Casestudy

Central Interceptor partners with Mates in Construction for suicide prevention

Watercare’s Central Interceptor project is a foundation member of Mates in Construction NZ, which works to improve mental wellness and reduce suicide in the construction industry.

According to the Suicide Mortality Review Committee, the construction industry has the highest proportion of suicides across all industries in New Zealand, at 6.9%.

A one-hour mental health and suicide awareness programme is now part of the Central Interceptor induction, undertaken by all new employees.

The programme focuses on building people’s confidence to talk to each other about mental health. Statistics show that of those who have taken their lives, only 7% had sought formal counselling, but more than half had reached out to a family member or friend.

Suicide still has a big stigma attached to it. This programme is about trying to normalise talking about it. Building the confidence and skills of mates at work will empower them to have conversations about these really challenging topics.

Watercare is finalising an agreement for the rest of the infrastructure team to join the Mates in Construction programme.