Leadership programmes deliver lifelong skills at NZ Post

Sunday, March 5th, 2023

The challenges of COVID-19 couldn’t stop NZ Post from nurturing their staff’s leadership skills and the organisation’s culture of continuous improvement.

With a large workforce handling complex logistics on a daily basis, it’s essential for NZ Post’s Auckland Mail Centre to ensure staff stay up-to-date with the latest workplace skills. That’s why the mail centre started running two training programmes for team leaders and operational staff in late 2019, with the support of the Tertiary Education Commission’s Workplace Literacy and Numeracy fund. The courses are provided by Edvance and focus on continuous improvement and leadership.

Participants in a leadership programme work together on a model challenge.

However, both programmes faced the threat of becoming derailed in 2020 due to the challenges that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to the determination of Rory Garvey, Processing Centre Manager at the Auckland Mail Centre, the programmes commenced in March 2021 – with learners already seeing the benefits.

Embedding a continuous improvement culture

The first programme, Continuous Improvement, is designed to embed this mentality in the mail centre’s workforce and provide an opportunity for staff to contribute ideas towards continuous improvement.

A total of 37 staff are taking part in the 25-week programme, which centres around participants developing a project based on a specific issue at NZ Post, using the lean A3 problem-solving model.

Just halfway through the programme, the learners found it an empowering experience, especially thanks to having their voices heard. Staff were encouraged to not only identify manageable issues that affected their day-to-day work, but also proactively come up with solutions.

In addition to soft, transferrable skills, many participants also picked up key technical competencies along the way. For instance, some had no PowerPoint skills before starting the programme. Many have also had the opportunity to improve their digital skills and their ability to use data to understand an issue and measure improvements.

Fostering leadership capability

Running concurrently with Continuous Improvement, the Skills for Leaders programme is aimed at developing team leaders with the tools and skills required to effectively manage their teams. Upon the completion of the two-year programme, learners are awarded the New Zealand Certificate in Business (Introduction to Team Leadership) (Level 3).

Core skills covered by the programme include workplace communication; communicating with people from other cultures; developing and applying team building processes; understanding quality management principles; and applying a problem-solving model to an issue at the Auckland Mail Centre.

Participants have already seen improvements in the way they conduct their daily team briefs, improving processes, and their awareness of communicating with staff of other cultures. The knowledge and skills are not only being applied at the workplace but also on a personal level, which the team leaders find very rewarding.

Importantly, the two programmes at NZ Post have reaped benefits on a synergistic level, with participants across the programmes complementing each other through their newfound skills. For instance, the team leaders are supportive of the Continuous Improvement programme and have been keen to assist to ensure everyone is on board with NZ Post’s vision of having every employee equipped with the awareness and knowledge of a lean culture, ensuring the business’s sustainability.

“The sense of empowerment [the learners] gain through the programme is huge. Having those who do the doing, knowing they have the skills and confidence to change their work world, is like having a tiger by the tail for the leaders,” Rory says.

“The team have the skills to know how to fix things, so they want to do exactly that! It makes for an exciting culture for sure.”

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Upskilling leads to savings of $60,000 a year at Toll

Sunday, March 5th, 2023

A comprehensive suite of training programmes has lifted capability, communication, and even cost efficiencies at transport and logistics company Toll.

Trucks parked at the Toll warehouse.

Since 2019, Toll has been upskilling staff through learning and development specialists Aspire2 Business | Workplace Communication. The customised training programmes, supported by the Tertiary Education Commission’s Workplace Literacy and Numeracy fund, focus on raising the communication, health and safety, and leadership capabilities of Toll’s teams, covering topics such as teamwork, personality traits, and assertiveness.

These programmes are designed in close consultation with Toll’s managers and supervisors, to ensure the specific needs of their people – and the organisation – are met.

A high-risk environment

Transport and logistics are high-risk industries, and Toll is “safety obsessed” in everything they do. Health and safety always need to be top of mind, and effective communication is key to embedding this culture in the workplace.

As part of their ongoing commitment to creating an incident- and injury-free workplace, Toll and Aspire2 Business | Workplace Communication worked together to develop personalised training that targets their specific areas of risk and concern.

Benefits that extend beyond the workplace

Staff at Toll now have greater awareness and knowledge of health and safety hazards, and thanks to their improved communications skills, also have the confidence to voice any concerns.

“I have learnt to identify physical, cultural, and environmental barriers at work and discuss how to overcome these barriers with management and team leaders,” one participant said.

Thanks to the training, staff have also been able to identify opportunities to advance their careers within Toll, which will ultimately aid in staff retention.

Crucially, the training has also had a powerful impact in the employees’ personal lives as well. Not only have the participants’ newfound skills and confidence boosted their performance in the workplace, but they have also reported the training’s immense contribution at home, with their families, and in their communities. One employee, for instance, said he had never had a proper conversation with his son before the training, and had noticed a real difference.

On top of all this, Toll has also reported cost savings as a result of the training, with the company estimating they are now saving $60,000 a year.

Toll New Zealand’s Executive General Manager, Jon Adams, was “blown away” when he saw the transformation of his staff.

“The programme is excellent and focuses on helping our team members learn communication skills, continuous improvement, and problem-solving skills, all underpinned by our Toll values,” he said.

“It’s very humbling to support some of the most important people in our business in growing their confidence and developing skills outside their natural comfort zone. I look forward to seeing them flourish.”

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Metro Glass works through challenges to upskill workforce

Sunday, March 5th, 2023

Metro Glass and Education Unlimited worked together to increase the literacy, leadership and digital skills of their staff despite many challenges.

Metro Glass has increased its focus on training and upskilling its workforce over the past few years.

The company has more than 80 current apprentices and has put close to 200 staff through training programmes. This includes 70 staff who have increased their leadership and digital skills through the Brighter Minds programme.

The Brighter Minds programme was partly funded by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) through the Employer-led Workplace Literacy and Numeracy (EWLN) Fund.

Strong interest in training

When Metro Glass offered the Brighter Minds training programme to their employees, the response was beyond what they had expected.

“It just took off. We expected 10 to 15 and got 70 staff signing up,” says Human Resources Director Dayna Roberts.

Employees appreciated the opportunity to increase their skills and get nationally recognised qualifications through a training course designed especially for them.

Training designed for employees

Employee feedback drove important changes to the training programme, including a focus on achieving formal certification. Trainees studied towards a New Zealand Certificate in Business (Level 3) with the Introduction to Team Leadership strand.

Staff gained leadership skills that will help them work in management roles in the future. Training more staff for these roles means Metro Glass can make succession plans for their business.

Overcoming challenges

Initially, Metro Glass and Education Unlimited weren’t sure of the best approach to deliver the new training programme to employees working at 16 different sites across New Zealand.

Then they were forced to put their plans on hold before they could start delivering the programme.

Metro Glass had to reduce their business activity in response to the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020. Uncertain about how long that would last, they worked with Education Unlimited to find a way to deliver the training programme remotely.

Going online

Metro Glass decided to train their staff online using Microsoft Teams. Unfortunately, not all staff had the devices, authentication or training to access online classes.

The company bought staff new laptops with funding support from the TEC’s Technology Access Fund for Learners (TAFL) and set the learners up with accounts.

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Oji Fibre Solutions gains from investing in workplace literacy and numeracy

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

Oji Fibre Solutions is one of Australasia’s leading producers of market pulp, paper and fibre-based packaging solutions, with more than 1600 employees.

The company’s New Zealand packaging division invests in the training and development of its people through Workplace Literacy and Numeracy training programmes and has been running these programmes in collaboration with Education Unlimited for over two years.

“We invest in training for two reasons”, says Grant Fitzgibbon, Oji Fibre Solutions Group General Manager, Packaging NZ. “There’s the commercial aspect – we want to retain our people and give them skills – and there’s an altruistic aspect. We take our role as a big employer in our local communities seriously. We have an opportunity to enable our employees to learn new skills and give back to their communities through gaining qualifications and increasing their ability to generate more income.”

What kicked off the training was having several employees struggle to complete their National Certificate in Manufacturing qualification. With the support of the Workplace Literacy and Numeracy programme, many of these people now have achieved the Level 2 qualification and are aiming at a Level 3 qualification.

The company is preparing people for the Level 3 Competenz qualification by running a Bridging Programme in which employees further develop their literacy and numeracy skills and learn how to start the process of gathering the information they need for their qualification. “Those who have already completed the programme have come out with portfolios of evidence which they can use and build on when they sign up for their National Certificate in Manufacturing,” says Grant Fitzgibbon.

Ian Jennings, Oji Fibre Solutions Training Advisor, sees the Bridging Programme as a good start for what is required. “It means they will be able to hit the ground running when they sign up for the Level 3 qualification. We need to make sure we are in the right place to support them.”

But it has not just been about the qualification. The company has noticed a change in the way team members participate at work. This view is supported by Trevor Pouwhare, the Facility Manager at the Levin site. “For years people have been wanting to contribute, but didn’t know how to. Now employees who were on the programme have joined the business improvement team. They’ve realised their potential and have gained some mana around the factory. We have also seen a difference in the way people think and act in relation to health and safety, which is very important for all of us.”

Oji Fibre Solutions have now organised business improvement focus groups around project topics to drill down into each issue identified, expand on the extent of the issue and make recommendations for improvements. The photo illustrates a Christchurch project focusing on a consistent approach to new health and safety signage around the site.

The success of the programme has been celebrated with graduation ceremonies across all the participating sites.

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