Date posted: 17/04/2019 3 min read

HR policy in the age of diversity

Air New Zealand is taking an innovative approach to employee experience.

In Brief

  • Air New Zealand uses similar approaches to understanding customer and employee needs
  • The company implemented a new approach to "employee experience" three years ago
  • The policy is based around profiling six employee "personas"

Air New Zealand takes a very similar approach to understanding the needs of its 12,000 employees as it does to understanding its customers.

The company's research and insights team focuses both on the customer and employee experience and uses similar techniques built around surveys and focus groups.

"Just as we think very deeply about our customer experience externally, that is what we do on the inside too," says Jodie King, Chief People Officer at Air New Zealand and a 20-year HR professional who has worked for the NZ Treasury and had more than a decade with KPMG in the UK.

"We try to understand what they do and think throughout their day and their career, and we then think about what we can do to minimise the pain points and maximise the benefits and the leverage they get out of their jobs so they can be motivated and as happy as possible."

"We recognise we have an increasingly diverse workforce with very different expectations and needs, so we have developed an approach which is reflective of the wide-ranging demographic."

Employee experience

While Air New Zealand regularly features at the top of the list of the country's employers of choice, King says the airline "got serious about the employee experience" about three years ago with a new approach.

"Just as we think very deeply about our customer experience externally, that is what we do on the inside, too."
Jodie King, Chief People Officer, Air New Zealand.

Instead of segmenting the workforce by metrics such as age or tenure, the insights team built up an understanding of six anonymised "personas" identified through its research. This included two yearly engagement surveys and focus group discussions of specific issues.

One of these personas, for example, is known as "aspirers", a group that may not be looking for long tenure at the company but which is also likely to return after completing career and life goals.

These employees are trying to get as much experience from Air New Zealand and are looking for a breadth of roles. They are also focused strongly on the travel benefits the company is uniquely positioned to offer.

"These personas are similar to what you would do in a marketing role with customers," says Marc Figgins, who works alongside King as general manager for People, Revenue and Employee Experience.

"So we have built up personas based on marketing and insight methodologies to understand the different types of employees we have."

"It is not done strictly on a demographic basis, so we don't cut the data by age or by sex. It's more about motivation and what different employees are trying to get from us as an employer."

Best place to work

While age is not a factor in determining any of the six personas, it is natural that some older employees fit personas where issues such as superannuation are a priority.

"There are parts of our business where tenure is longer and therefore very important, and that is often in the pilot space and we also see that with cabin crew," says King.

Jodie King

Jodie King, Chief People Officer at Air New Zealand.

"So superannuation is very important to that group, and we've just spent almost a year surveying employees on what they wanted."

"For other employee profiles, we have just developed and rolled out a new parental leave policy and benefits framework and a lot of work was done around employee focus groups to get that right."

The new approach has consolidated Air New Zealand's HR leadership, and it has been ranked by Randstad Employer Brand Research as the best place to work in NZ for the past two years.

The company is also in the top quartile for Asia-Pacific in the closely watched Aon Hewitt employee engagement survey. Earlier this year, it received a Rainbow Tick Accreditation for organisations that have gone through a robust set of competency checks across all areas of the business and are deemed a safe, welcoming and inclusive workplaces.

Diversity before tenure

On leadership and team building, the policy is more about diversity of experience than it is about tenure.

"When we look at teams, we look at how many in that team should have airline industry experience, how many should have that outside experience either internationally or in a completely different or adjacent industry," says King.

"It is about a good mix, comprising people who have been with us a long time and newer people to spark new thinking and innovation."

"This is the deepest area where we use psychometric tests to think about whether we are being a bit too homogeneous in our team constructs."

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