A team that works together stays strong together. Oftentimes, the resiliency level of a team tends to be stronger than that of the individual. This has been the leadership approach of an HR manager working at one of the most trusted banks in New Zealand.
For Marc Figgins, General Manager - Human Resources & Communications at Westpac New Zealand, the resilience of the people in an organisation is anchored on four foundations: communication, well-being, diversity and inclusion, and community.
“Resilience has been touted as the top contender for Word of the Year 2021. Sure, it has been well used in the past 18 months, but when it comes to our day-to-day well-being, it’s one of the best tools we have, and it will be just as powerful post-pandemic as it has been throughout it,” he said.
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Marc believes that a significant part of Westpac employees’ resilience at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic were their solid communication lines, a priority when the pandemic was just spreading across the world.
The top management became their main source of information about COVID-19 during the pandemic. They opened communication channels, supplied consistent information, and established feedback loops.
It was so effective that when they announced the availability of vaccines, they got high engagement and vaccination rates among their employees despite the anti-vaccine sentiments spreading in several places in the world.
In the middle of the pandemic, Westpac initiated several programs that focused on employee well-being, such as providing five extra days of paid leave for mental health and family time, as well as offering counselling programs for both employees and their families.
The stability they were able to achieve during the pandemic allowed them to improve their diversity and inclusivity, even winning The Hunter Campbell Diversity and Inclusion Award in 2021 for maintaining at least 50% women in leadership positions and addressing gender pay gaps. To do this right as the world was navigating its way through crisis was a feat in and of itself.
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Marc said they also found a way to support employees who were taking an active role in helping their communities. Their initiative resulted in 9,466 hours of volunteer work and NZ$60,964 in donations to 57 charities.
The pandemic was a challenging time, Marc said, but it taught them resiliency as an organisation.
“Above all else, it’s brought us all a bit closer – we’re talking more about our home lives, getting to know each other's families, and sharing moments that have tested our resilience – and we’ve all had those,” he said.