High Performance through Engagement - In the News

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Dec 2018 - Comment: Damage already from Air New Zealand stoush with engineers

"The airline's proud of its employee engagement scores as being in the upper quartile of international peers, has long queues of applicants for jobs and often wins best employer awards. In the past year 71 per cent of employees were ''engaged'' with the company.

For the past five years the airline has worked collaboratively with unions — which cover around 70 per cent of its staff — in an attempt to end decades of distrust and hard-ball industrial relations.

This high performance engagement (HPE) encouraged parties to talk regularly about common interests, leaving position-based approaches at the door. It's hard, time consuming and outside the comfort zone for some but it's worked and has helped save jobs.

It seems HPE wasn't used with this round of negotiations - and even if it had been used there's growing scepticism at the process by some engineers."

Sept 2018 - The Interview: Peter Reidy - from KiwiRail to Fletcher Building

KiwiRail adopted Air New Zealand's high performance, high engagement strategy with great results.

"It's all about leaders letting go and your frontline workers taking ownership of problems," Reidy says. "The last pay deal we did – we negotiated that in four hours. What it means is we deal with all the issues like fatigue and rostering in fully worked programmes with our people. So when you sit down to negotiate it's just a rates and date deal."

Sept 2018 - Building a high performance, high engagement business - Peter Reidy - KiwiRail

"At KiwiRail, adopting a high performance, high engagement strategy has helped us boost engagement, increase productivity and improve health and safety. It also taught me that leaders can’t be afraid of letting go and empowering workers to come up with improvements."
Aug 2018 - Government considering how to best support High Performance through Engagement systems

"High Performance High Engagement is a particular approach to resolving workplace issues. It is based on the concept that employers and employees are best placed to find solutions to work-related challenges and should therefore work together in decision-making. The Government is considering how it can best support employers and unions to implement High Performance, High Engagement systems in their workplaces."
April 2018 - Peace not war in industrial relationsWorkplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway

"Speaking at the Employment Law Matters Annual Forum in Wellington, Lees-Galloway said he wanted to see the a new partnership approach adopted, one that brings employees into the decision-making process.

Called High Performance High Engagement, it centres around an idea that people closest to the problem, including workers and unions, are best placed to gather to brainstorm solutions.

The process has been adopted by Air New Zealand and KiwiRail, with Lees-Galloway telling the conference he has visited the latter company to see it in action.

“It’s a way of working that requires quite a bit of investment from the employer and it requires a different way of thinking from unions as well.

“It is a much more collaborative and engaged approach to industrial relations than perhaps the combat and conflict of the past but in my view, this is the future of industrial relations.”

Feb 2018 - Update from Nigel Trainor, South Canterbury DHB

"High Performance High Engagement won’t change the world overnight. It takes courage to hand over the reins and empower the collective to not only solve the problem but to identify it to begin with. But what HPHE has done is unlock a new way of thinking and elevate the engagement of the individual, the workforce and the DHB to take us forward to a brighter future."

Feb 2018Finance Minister Grant Robertson promises to deliver NZ's first 'wellbeing' budget:

Robertson called for "a renewed social partnership between businesses, workers and the government work, and cited Air New Zealand's "high performance engagement" model, which involved workers in strategic decisions and change processes, and had helped lift productivity and create a more harmonious workplace.
Nov 2017 Labour MP Marja Lubeck (former E tu Aviation Director), Maiden Speech to Parliament

"High Performance High Engagement is a workplace democracy model. It makes employees part of the decision-making process in their workplaces.

At Air New Zealand, for example, for the last five years we have worked under a model where those closest to the problem in the workplace work together to find sustainable long-term solutions, and, as a result, everyone wins. It's about companies, their employees, and unions working on shared interests, building trust and relationships. People are treated respectfully, treated decently; they're engaged; there's positive energy.

It translates to higher discretionary effort, productivity, and efficiency. It is a balancing act to improve the working conditions of New Zealand's workers and their families while also ensuring that businesses can thrive. It requires hard work and an open-minded approach on the part of both unions and employers."
November 2017 - High Performance High Engagement National Framework for DHB's

"All District Health Boards and participating Unions commit to work in partnership in accordance with Te Tiriti o Waitangi and utilising the principles of High Performance High Engagement (HPHE)."
In 2017 the Ministry of Health NZ began a High Performance High Engagement initiative for District Health Boards:

The Ministry’s role, as one of the tripartite parties, is to provide assistance to DHBs entering HPHE. Some funding has been approved and as DHBs engage in development work and training and any resultant work with consultants they will be able to access funding.

October 2017 - E tu Aviation welcomes new Government's rejection of low wage economy

E tu Aviation has welcomed the new Prime Minister’s call for productive relationships between business and workers, and an end to low pay and its negative economic effects.

In her speech to the Council of Trade Unions yesterday, Jacinda Ardern praised the High-Performance Engagement agreement which E tu and other unions have with Air New Zealand.

"That agreement means business and unions sit down together and help each other with their problems and the results speak for themselves," says E tu’s Head of Aviation, Kelvin Ellis.

"Working together has saved jobs, ensured good pay and conditions and helped transform Air New Zealand into one of the world’s most successful and profitable airlines.

"The new Government has clearly drawn the lesson that working together benefits all parties, and we’re delighted with its support for this model."

Kelvin has also welcomed Ms Ardern’s rejection of the low-wage approach of many employers which actually erodes productivity.

"Ms Ardern has correctly made the link between an engaged, well-paid workforce and Air New Zealand’s strong financial position.

"We fully support her message on this: that low wages aren’t simply a problem for low-wage workers, they are a problem for businesses and the economy as a whole."

April 2017 - The NZ business where 46,000 people a year want to work

Over the past five years, the airline has introduced a High Performance Engagement programme in conjunction with the unions which cover about two thirds of the workforce.

This is based on genuine consultation during all aspects of any change process, and according to a representative of the biggest union group, it's working.

The E tu union's head of aviation, Kelvin Ellis, says that from the time when workers first start, there's a collaborative approach.

''We still have the odd hiccup but there's a process for talking to each other rather than shouting at each other across the street," he says.

When the airline won awards for service, it was a reflection of the work staff did and good for morale.

Union membership is growing at the airline because the organisation is a means for staff to work alongside the company, rather than being locked in conflict with it, says Ellis.

King says staff culture is one of the three main metrics at the airline, besides customer engagement and commercial goals. It is something chief executive Christopher Luxon insists on.

''What I like about the executive and Christopher is that we manage all of those things together. It's not just about the commercial at the expense of the culture or the customer. Every conversation we have is about all three of those elements."

November 2016 - Grant Robertson: Launch of the Future of Work Commission Report

"We are recommending a greater sense of ‘workplace democracy’. In our project this was exemplified by Air New Zealand and E Tū and other unions in their High Performance Engagement process.

HPE is built around teams made up of equal number of management and workers solving problems and making plans by consensus.  Once an organisation that was riven with industrial dispute, HPE is contributing to Air New Zealand being a more productive, inclusive working environment with better pay and conditions. 

We want to support other workplaces across New Zealand to adopt new models of workforce engagement."
Sept 2015 - CEO Q&A: Christopher Luxon, Air New Zealand chief executive
"The thing for me is recognising that, as a business leader, you have a responsibility to lead a company for the future, leaving it in a better place in five, 10, 15, or 20 years' time. My job is to make sure that commercials are strong, the customer experience is great, the culture of the organisation is constantly improving."

"We announced a record result this year, which was a great outcome for our shareholders. At the same time I announced that we're doing a performance bonus for our unionised staff."
August 2015 - Working Wonders

As unprofitable Government-owned rail operator KiwiRail struggles to reduce its reliance on Crown funding, it’s hoping a new agreement with unions will boost productivity. It’s close to finalising a memorandum of understanding with the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) and other unions on high performance engagement (HPE) with its 4000 staff, a move only a handful of New Zealand companies have made, although it’s common globally.

Those that have include Air New Zealand, which until 18 months ago had an adversarial relationship with its unions and 11,000 staff, and Auckland Council, which introduced “The way we work” to its 8000 staff three years ago.
July 2015 - What's it really like to work at Air NZ?

"We sat down with our union partners and asked how can we do this differently, we're all exhausted. As Christopher said, 'It's like the Punch and Judy Show. I hit you, you hit me, we throw a tantrum, you throw a tantrum,'," says the Australian-born Murphy, who came to the airline from the Campbell Soup Company.

While there are varying views among unions and the company on the new industrial landscape, they are unanimous about the past.

Murphy tells of "anger and mistrust" in the relationship, pilots talk of bad blood and a complete breakdown in relations at some points and engineers speak about being "damaged and wounded" in dealings with the airline.

It had to change. Luxon, the pragmatic airline outsider who is comfortable with unions, has made peace with the travel trade and simplified the business, saw an opportunity to do something about it. "We sat down with our union partners and asked how can we do this differently," says Murphy.

What became known as High Performance Engagement (HPE) had to start with the unions which represent more than 70 per cent of the airline's workforce - far greater than the national average of 16 per cent of workers. "They very much trusted the unions - they didn't much trust Air New Zealand to be on their side," says Murphy.

The airline had to convince unions it had no ulterior motives and "then we together went to employees with our hands open and saying there's no agenda here. We just want to work better for the benefit of all of us." First, they had to get an outsider to set up the system.

"We knew we had to use an external partner because there was a long history of bad behaviour on both sides, us as much as anyone else."

2015 - High Performance Engagement (HPE) is an agreement which has been entered between NZALPA and Air New Zealand.

The initiative is based on a trial period of up to two years subject to review by our Board of Management. HPE is an interest based problem solving (IBPS) approach and has been effective in other industries.

NZALPA has been successful in negotiating robust CEA's in the past in part because we have good advocates and a supportive membership but also because we are forward thinking. We will continue to use whatever means are necessary to ensure that your current CEA's are complied with and that your representatives negotiate the best CEA's they can.

Interest based problem solving simply gives us another tool to use in constructively resolving issues. Groups who have been using IBPS have stated that it takes a lot of time and energy and that both employer and employee representatives need to be trained.

July 2015 - Air NZ and unions collaborate on high performance engagement

Air New Zealand has spent the past 18 months working with its staff and unions on high performance engagement designed to lift productivity by allowing worker participation in decision-making.

2014 - PSA Briefing to the government

High performance / high engagement work practices:

The PSA is leading the way in working with employers to implement high performance/high engagement programmes which lead to significant productivity improvements. We know this is also a goal of government through the Better Public Services programme.

High performing workplaces:

A high performing workplace is one where our members can mobilise their knowledge to improve the efficiency and quality of services and embed positive and productive workplace relationships and practices with a view to creating sustainable services, sustainable jobs, and productive workplaces.

There is a significant body of evidence that high performing workplaces are those which have high levels of staff engagement. Unions have a unique ability to deliver the commitment of staff. This ensures programmes can achieve maximum efficiency, and lays the foundation for a better long-term working relationship.

The PSA and its members want to see public services delivered as efficiently and effectively as possible, through building a workplace culture where staff and management work together.

June 2012 - PSA presents Dr. Tom Schneider - a global authority on High Performance Workplaces.

"If employees choose to be represented by a Union it is absolutely crucial and essential that the Unions be at the table and involved and engaged in the same way as their members. Engagement strategies, whether it be Six Sigma, Lean or any of those things that do not involve the Union are not sustainable and, in fact will be undermined over a long period of time."
June 2012 - Public Sector needs bolder change management - expert

Dr Schneider said in a traditional organisation, management would tell their workers what the problems were and how they should fix them.

In a high performance organisation the manager goes in and says: 'We aren't getting the results: tell me what the cause of the problem is.'

"So the manager, instead of being a boss telling people what to do and checking upon them, is know recognising the people who have the knowledge to solve the problems are the people who do the job."
April 2011 - High Performance depends on High Engagement

"Jessica Xu, a senior researcher for workplace survey specialists JRA, says that research points towards the convergence of two areas of focus - creating a high-performance organisation and building an engaged workforce. 

Xu says "these are two highly complementary goals and in fact, both are vital if an organisation is to fully satisfy all its stakeholders in the long-term"."