INS Career Management, Workplace of Excellence in Supporting Working Parents


For many working parents, the idea of having a nanny to look after your child in close proximity to your workplace for free, sounds like a dream. However, for the 45 employees at INS Career Management – a specialised HR company in Sydney – it is a reality.

Sophia Symeou, CEO and Co-Founder

Sophia Symeou, CEO and Co-Founder


When three of the managers at INS went on maternity and paternity leave, CEO and Co-Founder Sophia Symeou said she made a selfish choice.

“I wanted them back in my business so I said, what if we hire a nanny? What can I do?” she said.

“We set up a room and hired nannies with qualifications – we are strong believers in education.”

Twelve months on from making this decision, INS a business started in 2011 and specialising in assisting workers who find themselves redundant, has a workplace creche.

The day-time nursery currently has three children cared for by two qualified nannies, which has helped parents return to work without having to worry about balancing the cost of childcare or the additional commute time to pick their children up after the work day.

INS employees with older children also enjoy reduced working hours to drop off and pick-up their children and others have the flexibility to care for elderly parents.

The structure of the creche has opened up flexibility for workers like emergency care.

“There were employees who could not find child care – we said why not use the creche?” Symeou said.

“If you don’t have structures in place to support parents you can’t have diversity.

“It sounds really altruistic but I gain so much.”

Ms Symeou even arranged a nanny for a husband and wife team both working at INS to make a business trip to South Australia feasible for them.

INS demonstrate the importance of supporting each employee and have even hired someone to pick up an employee’s child after school, support them with homework and even give drumming lessons.

On why the organisation would go so far, Ms Symeou said although some people may think paying employees is fair remuneration enough, it was all about keeping the commitment of saying that community is important.

“We have an internal award called it takes a village for people who above and beyond,” she said.

“The concept is – no one can do it alone.”


According to 1,000 Australian workers, flexible working hours is the second most important part of wellbeing (83%). It is second only to realistic work expectations (92%). (Workplace Wellbeing)

Accenture, Workplace of Excellence in Supporting Mental Health


Accenture is a global management consulting and professional services firm with 435,000 employees world-wide, 75 per cent of whom belong to the millennial generation.

In early 2017, Accenture launched the Mental Health Ally Network (The Network) as part of a global commitment to being “truly human” which focuses on improving how people work and live.

Accenture responded to workplace health assessment results that indicated a need for further training, education and support for mental health.

Randy Wandmacher, Australia and New Zealand HR Lead

Randy Wandmacher, Australia and New Zealand HR Lead


Randy Wandmacher, Australia and New Zealand HR Lead said the high rates of depression and anxiety in the general population were part of the reason mental health was prioritised at Accenture.

According to beyondblue – 1 million Australian adults have depression and more than 2 million have anxiety in any one year.

Currently, the Mental Health Ally Network has 295 members and more than 90 participants attend monthly meetings, consisting of a mix of leaders and peers. Members provide support to employees who are struggling and raise awareness about mental health challenges.

Wandmacher said that anecdotally, he has noticed a shift in employee mindsets regarding mental health. The taboo around practices like seeing a therapist have started to break down.

The Network runs programs around four main areas: heart, body, mind and soul. One training program in the area of “mind” teaches employees effective techniques on how to focus. Although most employees are multi-tasking at work, Wandmacher said the practice could be more detrimental to work productivity.

Accenture have encouraged employees to eliminate distractions – Wandmacher said research has shown that after the “proverbial ping” of a distraction, it takes 20 minutes of concentration before being able to fully return to a task.

Sleep is another area of wellbeing that Accenture is addressing – its Australian offices have new quiet multi-purpose facilities that allow employees to take naps if they need to.

Accenture also take in account their office space, making sure there is greenery in the office – which research shows helps to alleviate stress and create a more positive emotional state.

More broadly, Wandmacher said ultimately it is difficult when employees are not able to be their true authentic self at work and therefore the organisation encourages employees to, “be yourself and make a difference.”

For organisations facing similar challenges, Wandmacher said although the process is not always a linear one, it is important to keep moving forwards and, “be prepared to make mistakes.”

Accenture’s own initiatives were born out of proactive listening and creating an environment that fosters creativity and curiosity – “all the things that robots can’t do,” Wandmacher said.


Two in five Australian workers (42%) define wellbeing as, “when I have found balance across my physical, mental, social and spiritual life”. One in three (33%) see it as, “when I feel physically and mentally fit and well”. (Workplace Wellbeing Report)

ING Australia, Workplace of Excellence in Onboarding New Employees


Many organisations have extensive procedures for interviewing and recruiting new hires, but once the right hire is found, procedures might not be so clear.

ING Australia wanted a single approach to onboard new employees after discovering that the experience of new employees depended largely on the approach of individual leaders.

In November 2017, ING Australia launched a new pilot called Launchpad – a digital system designed to help new employees settle in from the time they sign their letter of offer to the end of their first six months.

Fiona Monfrooy, ING Australia Executive Director, Human Resources

Fiona Monfrooy, ING Australia Executive Director, Human Resources


ING Australia’s Executive Director of Human Resources, Fiona Monfrooy said that Launchpad supports both new employees and leaders through the transition period.

“Research tells us that the first 90 days are crucial to any new hire,” she said.

“Launchpad helps facilitate a two-way conversation between the new starter, manager and their buddy prior to their first day. It aims to, foster excitement and reduce first day anxiety.

“We wanted to make sure that we empowered a positive onboarding experience which doesn’t stop at week one!”

Launchpad includes a welcome from the CEO, snapshot of the business and values, information on the business structure, a “survival toolkit” and an introduction to another employee – their “buddy”. The system also sends reminders and escalates tasks to manage workflow.

Monfrooy said it was important to implement an initiative like Launchpad in order to retain the best employees.

“From research and experience we knew that onboarding is a critical component of employee engagement as many organisations lose employees within the first six months,” she said.

Around 40 per cent of the workforce at ING Australia is involved with Launchpad either as a new employee, a leader or a buddy. So far, Launchpad has been rated 4.6 out of 5 for preboarding and 5 out of 5 for happiness in the first week by new employees.

To other organisations looking at refreshing their onboarding procedure, Ms Monfrooy said it is important to have a team across departments to make the process smoother and to adopt a listening approach.

“Understand what your new starters need. Talk to new starters in your company to understand what information they need to help them settle in to work and feel comfortable in the new environment,” she said.

Next steps for the initiative will include revising Orientation at ING Australia.


Fostering employee participation and inclusion is the first step to building a culture of purpose and meaning. (Delivering Purpose and Meaning Report)

Xero, Workplace of Excellence in Leadership


Xero is an online accounting software provider for small businesses. Although the organisation deals mainly in the realm of technology, their Managing Director, Trent Innes, has been recognised as an exemplary people leader. In 2017, he was recognised as Australian HR Champion (CEO) of the Year at the Australian HR Awards.

Trent Innes, Managing Director Australia, Xero

Trent Innes, Managing Director Australia, Xero


Innes has led two leadership programs, Emerging Leaders @ Xero and Managing @ Xero which focus on retraining and helping employees develop new skills.

Innes said Emerging Leaders @ Xero is about building a business management community with employees already inside their environment, which makes it easier for them to learn from each other through a peer support program. It also empowers employees and gives them the opportunity to, “own their own career”.

The programs create new opportunities for employees to grow inside the organisation, helping Xero retain their best employees in diverse roles.

Emerging Leaders @ Xero was started in 2016 and has involved 45 employees to date, whilst 125 employees have undertaken Managing @ Xero. The programs encourage cross skilling which has enabled members of the customer service team and small business team advance into the strategic sales and product teams.

Innes said these retraining programs came about once the organisation looked for aspirational employees who showed promise and then thought about how Xero could fill the skill knowledge gap.

As a result, the majority of roles at Xero are sourced directly through internal talent. Only 9 per cent of the roles in the past 12 months have been filled with external recruitment.

For Innes, a willingness to embrace change and trusting employees is key to meeting modern challenges like automation and work/life harmony. He said leaders need to be conscious of smaller things that matter to employees like traffic and the cost of travel and believes teams should be afforded greater freedoms.

“You need to empower people to be successful,” he said.

Innes’ approach to both external business and the workplace is focussed on people. In 2017, Xero had 446,000 subscribers in Australia, many of whom operate small businesses and Innes said he keeps in mind that, “behind every small business is a person” and that the combination of purpose and values help build success.

In the workplace, the focus is on values and behaviour rather than restrictive rules. Innes enforces only two rules for his employees: wash your own cup and avoid eating lunch at your desk.

By encouraging a sense of individual and collective responsibility, a positive attitude is fostered in employees which see them go the extra mile to solver customer problems.

“Attitude always trumps skills and knowledge,” Innes said.

In 2017, Innes was also the winner of the IT and Telecommunications Executive of the Year and Managing Director of the Year at CEO Magazine’s Executive of the Year Awards.


Only two in five Australian workers (40%) believe employers understand how to improve wellbeing in the workplace. (Workplace Wellbeing Report)

AECOM, Workplace of Excellence in Flexibility


More organisations are thinking of ways to make their workplace more attractive to the right talent pool, leading to improvements in workplace flexibility.

A new such initiative is being launched at AECOM this week in order to benefit working parents and attract female engineers back to the profession.

In 2017, the global infrastructure firm announced its collaboration with FlexCareers, an online job and career platform, to kick-start term-time only contracts.

Term-time only contracts will require employees to work during school terms only, allowing carers of children to balance their time between work and home whilst earning a pro-rata salary – approximately 82 per cent of a full-time salary.

AECOM launched the new contract with an offering of 20 positions advertised on the FlexCareers platform which has over 70,000 women in its network. Eligible AECOM workers can also apply to switch to the new scheme.

Positions are available in technical areas including mechanical and electrical engineering, acoustics, environmental planning, civil engineering, geotechnical and chemical engineering.

Lisa Cronk, HR Business Partner

Lisa Cronk, HR Business Partner


Lisa Cronk, HR Business Partner at AECOM said the organisation’s view is simple when it comes to work flexibility.

“If it works for the client, the team and you – it works for us,” Ms Cronk said.

Since 2015, the company has increased its employees’ capacity to purchase additional leave from two weeks to four and extended parental leave to twelve weeks for primary care givers, before a child turns one.

Additionally, all contracts at AECOM have had start and finish times removed and their Flex Day trial gives 900 participants a day off each month.

Ms Cronk said greater flexibility has allowed more employees to balance their commitments, pursue other interests or travel. An internal survey in March 2017 showed 80 per cent of AECOM’s 3,600 workers utilise workplace flexibility.

“We’re trying to get people away from thinking that they need a reason to work flexibly,” Ms Cronk said.

AECOM has worked to strip away formal application processes for flexibility to make it a more informal process. Ms Cronk said the key to success in making flexibility initiatives work is the role of leaders and her advice for other workplaces looking to implement such policies is to keep things simple and informal.

“If there is one thing we can do to get that cultural change, it is that every manager works flexibly, talks about it and encourages others,” she said.

AECOM was recognised as a HRD Innovative HR Team in 2017 and their new term-time only contracts begin with the start of the 2018 school year.


A staggering 83 per cent of Australian employees said flexible working hours are important for promoting wellbeing in the workplace (Workplace Wellbeing).

Viva Energy, Workplace of Excellence in Community Involvement


Viva Energy is an Australian energy company operating one of only four oil refineries in Australia and is the exclusive supplier of fuels and lubricants to Shell in Australia. Viva Energy initiated a program in consultation with employees to bring benefit to their local community in Geelong.

Driven by their 2,000 employees and contractors, the Jigsaw program was launched in 2015 and has since increased employee engagement.

Jodie Haydon, General Manager Human Resources

Jodie Haydon, General Manager Human Resources


Jodie Haydon, General Manager of Human Resources at Viva Energy said Jigsaw has assisted in addressing issues like mental health and substance abuse, which has helped give employees a greater sense of purpose and meaning.

“We want a highly engaged workforce and Jigsaw was a way to provide that bigger purpose,” Ms Haydon said.

Jigsaw came about around purpose and giving people meaning in the communities that they were working in.

“People really want to make a difference.”

Jigsaw consists of three key areas of focus:

  1. Good Deeds Week – around 750 employees participate to “do a good deed” either as an individual or as a team. This year, employees managed to donate a collective 650 hours and complete 1,100 good deeds of their choosing, ranging from giving blood to mentoring young people on their career development.
  2. Team fundraising – employees work together to fundraise for more than 20 charitable causes and build strong connected teams. Additionally, Viva Energy matches money raised to community charities, dollar for dollar. Last year, $330,738 was raised for 23 charities.
  3. Payroll giving is the last piece of the Jigsaw puzzle, allowing employees to make pre-tax income donations to community partners like the Cathy Freeman Foundation, headspace, The Council for Aboriginal Alcohol Programs, Northern Futures, CareerTrackers, and Amity Community Services. By allowing employees to donate from their pre-tax income, it gives them an immediate tax deduction and Viva Energy again match donations, effectively doubling donations.

Ms Haydon said Jigsaw has a 75 per cent participation rate and as a result, employee engagement surveys have shown employees feel greater pride in the company.

Haydon said the key to success is simplicity and freedom. The program is easy to participate in and offers a variety of ways to get involved. Although the program has its priorities, it allows employees to support the cause of their choosing.

“It’s not intimidating,” she said.

“We trust people to manage it – it’s flexible and not bureaucratic.”

Jigsaw was recently nominated for the AHRI Corporate Social Responsibility Award.


More than a third (36%) of Australian workers say that making positive contributions to the lives of others is vital to ensuring high levels of personal wellbeing (Workplace Wellbeing).

Mercy Health, Workplace of Excellence in Addressing Wellbeing


With the demanding nature of work in the health services which can sometimes be distressing, Mercy Health introduced Thrive @ Mercy, an online hub promoting a holistic, proactive approach to health and wellbeing.

Mercy Health, a national health services organisation with 8,500 employees across Australia, care for people with differing needs and at various stages of life; from aged care, mental health services, hospital care, women’s health, early parenting services and palliative care.

Alicia Thomas, Organisational Development & Diversity Manager

Alicia Thomas, Organisational Development & Diversity Manager


Alicia Thomas, Organisational Development and Diversity Manager at Mercy Health said the aged care sector was the fastest growing in Australia and therefore attraction and retention was critical.

“In such a competitive labour market, we are fully aware that candidates are interviewing us at the same time that we are interviewing them,” Ms Thomas said.

Ms Thomas said in the last 12 to 18 months, there has been a spike in queries about employee support from job applicants – it is now one of the most common questions asked in interviews.

This prompted Thrive @ Mercy which provides online resources, tip sheets, free apps, self-assessment tools and referral services.

Thrive @ Mercy has seven key areas of focus: its Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which offers counselling, physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, work/life balance, healthy eating, positive ageing and family violence.

“Thrive @ Mercy supports our people to bring the very best version of themselves to work each day; this translates to being better placed to provide the best possible care to those in need,” Thomas said.

The online hub is regularly updated with relevant information, often driven by a wider understanding of key research and demographics.

For example, Thrive @ Mercy recently prioritised family violence on its hub, considering 85 per cent of the Mercy Health workforce is female and recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows one in six (16%) Australian women have experienced partner violence.

Additionally, the average age of employees at Mercy Health is 45 years. Taking this into consideration, Mercy Health provides content relevant for women with children or those caring for elderly parents, given primary carers are on average around 55 years and two-thirds are female (ABS).

Ms Thomas said given most of their employees are not behind a computer all day, Thrive @ Mercy is accessible through the staff intranet at anytime, anywhere which is especially crucial for employees in rural and regional areas.

After the program was implemented engagement surveys found wellness figures increased by almost 10 per cent from 61 per cent to 70 per cent. Sick leave which was hovering above 5 per cent has also decreased and Thrive @ Mercy has received well over 6,500 clicks from employees so far.

The Thrive @ Mercy was a finalist in the 2017 AHRI Awards for the Martin Seligman Health and Wellbeing Award.


Close to three-quarters (74%) of Australian workers believe wellbeing programs are worth the time and money (Workplace Wellbeing).

Transurban, Workplace of Excellence in Mental Health


Transurban is a major infrastructure company that develops and manages urban toll roads in Australia and the US.

As a top 20 ASX company with over 1,500 employees across Australia, on-site and off, Transurban created a mental health program called the Mind Program to help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

The Mind Program was triggered by Transurban’s Employee Opinion Surveys (EOS) which found employees were increasingly looking for greater support around stress, work/life balance, and advice around family and friends.

According to SANE Australia, one in five people suffer from symptoms of mental illness in any given year. Illnesses like depression and anxiety are the most common and contribute to presenteeism – turning up to work but having reduced productivity. Running across September and October each year, the Mind Program, draws on the momentum of awareness days like RUOK? Day in September and World Mental Health Day in October to create a focused period of time for mental health.

Over this period, employees are invited to participate in resilience training programs which address stress, unhelpful thinking styles and the importance of exercise and eating well; mindfulness workshops; and are encouraged to grab a coffee with a colleague to talk about mental health.

Kate Wursthorn, Wellbeing Adviser

Kate Wursthorn, Wellbeing Adviser


Kate Wursthorn, Wellbeing Adviser at Transurban said on top of this, 60 employees across Transurban have been trained as mental health first aid officers, giving regular employees the skills to recognise the signs of those struggling.

Similar to posters that indicate fire wardens, Transurban have used posters to indicate who mental health first aid officers are in the workplace for employees to contact.

“It demonstrates that people have a range of people to contact,” Ms Wursthorn said.

Although at first employees were nominated to undertake the mental health first aid training, employees are increasingly nominating themselves to undertake the two-day training program.

Ms Wursthorn said there was growing expectation in the workplace for employers to support employee mental health.

“People want us to be doing things in this area,” she said.

Transurban dedicate two months at a time to concentrate on four areas of wellbeing: mind, body, connected (involves volunteering) and reward and recognition.

This is consistent with the latest research from Reventure. The Workplace Wellbeing report shows 42 per cent define wellbeing as having found balance across physical, mental, social and spiritual life and 33 per cent define wellbeing as when they feel physically and mentally fit and well.

According to Transurban’s 2017 Sustainability Report, 80 per cent of employees say they are proud to work at Transurban.

Ms Wursthorn said part of the success has been the top-down approach led by Chief Financial Officer, Adam Watson who is also Transurban’s Wellbeing Ambassador.

This year, the Mind Program was a finalist in the AHRI awards for the Allan Fels AO Mental Health in the Workplace Award.


Unrealistic workload expectations have the most negative impact on wellbeing in the workplace? This is according to Reventure’s survey of more than 1,000 Australian workers (Workplace Wellbeing).

Peoplecare, Workplace of Excellence in Addressing Workplace Stress


Addressing mental illness in the workplace is becoming an increasing imperative for employers.

Just this year, an Australian study found mental illness to be the leading cause of extended sick leave for workers, eclipsing back pain as the number one reason employees are unable to come into work.

More workplaces are acknowledging this issue and seeking new ways to support employees and reduce the stress that sometimes comes with the job.

Based in Illawarra, private healthcare provider Peoplecare realised the escalation of workplace stress and called for greater focus on mental health in their workplace.

Peoplecare established the Mental Health in the Workplace program to encourage their employees to maintain good mental health. As a result, 82 per cent of employees at Peoplecare said that their workplace stress is manageable and the Mental Health in the Workplace program is nominated for a 2017 AHRI Award.

Maree Morgan-Monk, Head of People & Culture

Maree Morgan-Monk, Head of People & Culture


Maree Morgan-Monk, Head of People & Culture said that the program was triggered in 2015 after positive employee feedback to an initiative held on R U OK? Day. A dedicated space was created in the workplace to encourage employees to Phone a friend and talk about mental health.

Two years later, the Mental Health in the Workplace program has grown as the number of employees at Peoplecare continues to grow.

The program includes an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), offering employees and their family members four counselling sessions per year, without charge and their Safe Work Method Statement explicitly addresses workplace stress, reducing stigma and recognising workplace stress can become a serious risk to health.

Some employees have been trained as Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Officers to assist others in the workplace who are experiencing stress; all employees are encouraged to approach MHFA Officers if they need assistance for a mental health issue.

Ms Morgan-Monk said the program focuses on giving employees the skills to deal with mental health challenges, whether it is work-related or not.

“Our Mental Health in the Workplace program is centred around equipping our Peoplecarers with the tools, skills and support to face any mental challenges at work and in life,” said Ms Morgan-Monk.

“We are expanding that further into developing a mental fitness program designed to proactively build resilience through mindfulness and relaxation techniques as well as providing external expert training in the areas parenting and financial literacy which typically can cause additional stress to our daily lives.”

Peoplecare are also exploring giving employees “mind-breaks” to give them a chance to relax their mind at work and talks on parenting for employees with children.


Our research has found 14% of Australian workers have suffered a mental or physical health decline as a direct result of their work (2016 Snapshot).

Jetts Fitness, Workplace of Excellence in Supporting Personal and Professional Goals


Jetts Fitness is a chain of global health and fitness clubs with over 180 locations across Australia. The franchising business owns 38 clubs and along with its support office, has approximately 150 employees.

In addition to encouraging club members to live healthier lives by going to the gym, Jetts also encourages their team members to live more fulfilling lives at work.

Amanda McSpadden, People and Culture Manager, Jetts Fitness

Amanda McSpadden, People and Culture Manager, Jetts Fitness


Amanda McSpadden, People and Culture Manager at Jetts Fitness said Jetts recognises that life is a work-life blend.

“Our purpose is to inspire people to live a better life which goes beyond just work,” she said.

It is why the company has implemented an initiative called the Love Life Plan. The Love Life Plan is a simple idea: a sheet of paper to write down goals for all the different parts of life: family, health, wealth, contribution, self-development and career. Team members also set a timer on their goals and write down when they want to achieve their goal.

The plan also asks team members to develop strategic, audacious goals for their Top 10 Bucket List. It is an exercise that all team members complete after working at least three months at Jetts.

“This is all about ensuring our team members have a work life balance and also provides the opportunity for them to identify how Jetts can support them with achieving their personal goals as well as their professional goals,” McSpadden said.

“Goal setting is not natural for everyone; however, it is an essential part of life.”

The Love Life Plan also gives leaders at Jetts insight into what motivates their team members in a professional capacity, helping them to understand what matters to their team members, to better respond to their needs and to meet their overall life goals with unique rewards and recognition.

“For example, a leader might assume that their team member is motivated by financial reward. However, upon reviewing the Love Life Plan the leader may learn that their team member is in fact motivated by achievements and would prefer career progression instead of a bonus,” she said.

At Jetts, they also help team members celebrate when they achieve a big goal. At the bi-monthly Love Life Awards, Jetts recognise team members who have reached an important life goal – professional or personal and can range from buying a house, running a half-marathon, sky-diving or swimming with sharks.

“The Love Life Plan was developed as a tool to help our people goal set across all parts of their life, not just work,” she said.

“The holistic approach ensures that our people strive towards a balanced and happy life.”

Team members at Jetts have received the initiative positively and many put their Love Life Plans somewhere they can see every day to remind themselves of the goals they are working towards inside and outside of the workplace.


Inclusion, which is one of four Healthy Workplace Principles, involves showing a genuine interest in your employees, their families, their hobbies and their passions (Renewing Australian Workplaces).

Arts Centre Melbourne, Workplace of Excellence in Providing Mental Health Support

arts centre.jpg

In February 2017, Arts Centre Melbourne launched an industry-wide initiative aimed at improving the mental health of Victorian performing arts workers.

The pilot program, called the Arts Wellbeing Collective, provides resources to help organisations better support the mental health of their workers, focussing on both prevention and intervention.

A 2016 report commissioned by Entertainment Assist and conducted by Victoria University found workers in the Australian entertainment industry were five times more likely to have symptoms of depression and ten times more likely to have moderate to severe anxiety.

Claire Spencer, CEO of Arts Centre Melbourne

Claire Spencer, CEO of Arts Centre Melbourne


Claire Spencer, CEO of Arts Centre Melbourne, said the initiative started at Arts Centre Melbourne as a way to care for its own employees.

“Our aim is to care for our people. One of our founding values is to ‘care more’ – to go well beyond the bare minimum,” she said.

Once the initiative was launched, Spencer said she was overwhelmed at the positive response from employees and the industry.

“There was a sense of pride that Arts Centre Melbourne was stepping up to lead and acknowledging up front that we know that there are issues and they aren’t easy to solve,” she said. 

“It was a very levelling experience. There was a sense of collegiality and that this is an industry that has unique challenges and an industry-wide approach is appropriate.”

The Arts Wellbeing Collective holds workshops developed with psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg and provisional psychologist and soprano, Greta Bradman on strengthening work relationships, creative people management and living well for those in the performing arts.

The Collective also offers mental health first aid courses which teaches employees to recognise symptoms of mental health issues, how to provide initial help and how to act in a crisis.

The Arts Wellbeing Collective is also creating an opportunity within the industry to alleviate the stigma of mental health.

“It’s already changing the conversation that it’s okay and to reach out and seek help,” Spencer said.

“There needs to be a boldness to try and find a way to solve this problem.”

Part of the success of the initiative has been its custom fit for the industry. Currently in development is a tour management kit that addresses key challenges of workers who travel for extended periods of time for tours or short festivals. Challenges include eating healthy, getting adequate sleep, taking regular breaks and managing extreme emotional highs and lows.

On an emotional and mental level, workers deal with an array of issues including having their sense of identity tied with their work. Performers deal with the difficulty of “coming out” of performances of dysfunctional characters like murderers or alcoholics which they may have to play for six to seven months.

All support services are also extended to the immediate family members of employees.


High performing employees are more likely to have missed work in the past year because of stress, depression or anxiety? (2016 Snapshot of the Australian Workplace).

Starlight Children’s Foundation, Workplace of Excellence in Delivering Purpose and Meaning


Effective organisations start with a purpose, and for Starlight Children’s Foundation, their mission has been to brighten the lives of seriously ill children and their families.

Active in Australian hospitals since 1988, the Foundation offers a combination of in and out of hospital programs to provide positive distractions for sick kids.

In 2010, after the Global Financial Crisis the Starlight Children’s Foundation wanted to re-ignite passion for their mission in their team members.

Susan Henry, Head of People and Culture

Susan Henry, Head of People and Culture


Susan Henry, Head of People and Culture at Starlight said the Get Connected program aimed to do just that.

“We want everyone to feel they have purpose and meaning in their work and the best way to do this is through experiencing the impact of our programs firsthand,” she said.

The whole of workplace program requires all employees – including the executive team to work in a Starlight program once every quarter or four times every year.

Employees have the option of participating in one of four programs:

  1. Captain Starlight – working alongside a professional performer to provide positive distractions for young children in hospital.
  2. Livewire – working with teens in hospitals in workshops for art, music making, coding and more.
  3. – working on the other end of a live website chat to provide support to sick teens.
  4. Wishgranting – helping grant a wish for a sick kid. Examples include accompanying their family to a theme park or meeting a celebrity.

Ms Henry said the program was effective because it showed team members their work was contributing to a valuable purpose.

“Employees understand the difference they can make to Starlight’s mission through their professional skills,” she said.

“If they understand Starlight’s mission, and the role they play in delivering it, they are more likely to be engaged to be excited to come to work each day.

“People absolutely love to Get Connected and they really come back with a spring in their step.”

A personal “Starlight Story” is shared at the start of each monthly team meeting by CEO, Louise Baxter.

So far, Get Connected has had a positive influence on employee turnover, trust and creating pride and advocacy, with each employee acting as an unofficial ambassador in the community with their Starlight Story.

The Starlight Children’s Foundation works in every paediatric hospital in Australia in Starlight Express Rooms, which are medical free zones used to facilitate their programs.

Recently, the Starlight Children’s Foundation was listed as a Great Place to Work in 2017.


77 per cent of millennials are looking for purpose and meaning in their work? (Delivering Purpose and Meaning).

Australia Post, Workplace of Excellence in Communicating Change


An important factor in managing organisational change is how it is communicated. Information about change moves through an organisation in uncontrolled ways. The perception of being “kept in the dark” can lead to uncertainty and distrust, even more so in hierarchical structures where employees begin to ask “who knows what?”

Government owned organisation, Australia Post faced significant changes; the business strategy was changing in response to shifts in the market – the volume of letters being delivered was decreasing and the number of parcel deliveries from online shopping was increasing. E-commerce partnerships with businesses emerged as a new frontier.

Lauren Trethowan, Head of Culture, Australia Post

Lauren Trethowan, Head of Culture, Australia Post


“Technology has fundamentally changed how we connect in every way,” Lauren Trethowan, Head of Culture at Australia Post said.

“More than ever, people are shopping and transacting online, expect more convenient delivery services and want access to other services to make their busy lives easier.

“This all means our customers’ expectations are evolving – and Australia Post needs to evolve too, in order to meet their changing needs.”

In mid-2015, Australia Post experimented with a new approach to disseminating the new organisational values and strategy with The Grapevine, a two-day initiative aimed at discussing changes from digital disruption and what it meant for employees.

The Grapevine program was held at 14 major locations across Australia, each session bringing 100-120 “influential employees” to talk about the changes brought by digital disruption and what it meant for them.

“We know that those who influence our culture work at all levels of the company, from those in our frontline and operational facilities through to senior management. At The Grapevine participants have the opportunity to participate in a two-way conversation with colleagues from right across the company, they share stories, and discuss what the strategy practically means for them in their role”.

The environment for the program was informal and relaxed by design, giving employees the chance to talk directly with senior management.

“We paid careful attention to how the space was designed (language, location, lighting, colour, process) to maximize learning and change the way we have conversations. We were also very conscious of removing hierarchy, so we removed role titles from name tags.”

Employees also heard from their customers, which Ms Trethowan said helped build a sense of purpose and meaning to their everyday activities.

“It was great to hear customer stories rather than just talk about the customer as a number or NPS score” she said. 

“It was really effective in reminding our employees that a parcel is not just a parcel—it’s a birthday present or that dress you’ve been saving for all month.

“Leaders spoke openly about what the organisational values mean to them and which values they live confidently and which values fade for them under pressure. This provided permission for employees to then share their own personal stories linked up to the values.

“The Grapevine program is an ongoing network. It was not a one-way experience, employees fostered connections with each other and now have contacts right across the business that they can draw on.”

The Grapevine program now serves as a network of contacts for Grapevine Alumni. A survey of participants showed a 13 per cent increase in employee engagement and engagement in teams with a Grapevine Alumni member also showed overall improvements in engagement.


Inclusion is one of four Healthy Workplace Principles that help foster healthy relationships at work. Being included means having a sense of importance and value to others and provides a sense of belonging and desire to contribute.

It contextualises workers’ tasks and encourages them to act on behalf of the organisation. (Healthy Workplace Principles)

PepsiCo, Workplace of Excellence in Creating Individual Flexibility


“One Simple Thing” is a PepsiCo initiative that provides flexible work options for all employees, aimed at helping them balance personal responsibilities and lifestyle with work, by giving them a structured way to talk to managers about their needs.

PepsiCo said “One Simple Thing” has been successful in creating flexibility for workers that is personal and suited to their individual situations.

Shiona Watson, Senior Director of Human Resources at PepsiCo

Shiona Watson, Senior Director of Human Resources at PepsiCo


Shiona Watson, Senior Director of Human Resources at PepsiCo said employees are encouraged to make work fit around their life, not the other way around.

“We encourage people to build their work life around their personal needs and embrace all the flexible working options available to them,” she said.

Some examples of ‘One Simple Thing’ ideas include:

  • Adjusting start or finish times,
  • Extending lunch breaks,
  • Having no meetings at certain times of the day and
  • Allocating time for professional development including researching, reading articles or attending seminars.

The results have been diverse; some workers start their day surfing or organise their work hours to keep fit, study or keep religious observances.

Business Relationship Manager, Abdul Ghaffar shared his experience working and fasting during the month of Ramadan.

“Through a ‘One Simple Thing’ conversation with my manager, PepsiCo have enabled me to work flexible hours during the month of Ramadan,” he said.

“I start work earlier and finish at 4:00pm, which enables me to break the fast at sunset with my family.

“I have full support from all my colleagues who understand the importance of flexible hours during Ramadan, and together we have agreed not to set meetings after 4pm.”

95% of PepsiCo employees reportedly agree that the culture of the organisation is supportive to working in a mobile and flexible way.

Ms Watson said their approach to flexibility was a source of pride.

“I am proud of how bold we are in our approach to flexible working. We are encouraging people to thrive both at work and externally and we recognise that this is the way forward to retain and attract good talent and to reward our employees for all the work they do,” she said.


Senior managers can improve their relationships with their employees through conversations about their contributions. It instils a sense that they and their contributions are valued (Renewing Australian Workplaces).

Talio, Workplace of Excellence in Meaningful Communication

Technology has changed the way we work, making employees easier to contact anytime, anywhere – in fact, our research showed that in 2016, 40 per cent of Australian workers said they rely on technology to perform most of their work.

Although most organisations rely on email as a communication tool, one Brisbane-based organisation has eliminated them as its primary means of communication in a bid to improve work relationships.

Nathan Schokker, Director and Facilities Manager

Nathan Schokker, Director and Facilities Manager


Nathan Schokker, Director and Facilities Manager at Talio, a facilities management services provider in Brisbane, made the decision two years ago to limit email communication in the workplace, after he began to notice the unhealthy habits associated with its use.

“As an organisation, we were almost tied to them. We had the habit of checking emails every ten minutes. It was a case where people were getting bogged down by emails,” Mr Schokker said.

The bold decision to reduce emails meant Talio employee were encouraged to have face-to-face meetings or to pick up the phone to respond to client or supplier emails.

“Our aim was to eliminate as many emails as possible and get back to the sentiment that there is a person on the end of the other line,” said Mr Schokker.

This approach has reduced the number of miscommunications that often occur through email and would otherwise have led to further issues or strained relationships.

Although it was difficult at first to get all employees on board for the change, Mr Schokker said it was well worth it for Talio, improving productivity and relationships.

“Across a range of measurements including productivity, efficiency, profitability, we have experienced double digit growth after the change,” he said.

On top of improving business KPIs, healthier work-life balance was also part of the reason emails were eliminated and there has been a genuine difference in culture and wellbeing.

“As the CEO, I expected myself to work a little harder than everyone else but my employees were also working on weekends, after hours and were ‘on call’,” he said.

“At one point there was an environment where you think you have to respond no matter what time it was – people underestimate the damage that constant communications can have on your mental and emotional state. When are you ever re-setting the system, and getting yourself back?”

By reducing email use, Talio changed its workplace culture from an expectation to be “busy” with Mr Schokker leading the change.  

“If you don’t practice what you preach, you lose credibility – as much as it’s spoken about, it has got to be actioned,” he said.

“We reworked mindsets by clearly stating the fact that employees are not expected to always be on call and that they can be just as valuable to the business with this change.”

Many organisations are in this mindset – in fact, Reventure’s research shows 46 per cent of workers say they feel “always on” and unable to completely shut off from work (2016 Snapshot of the Australian Workplace).

Mr Schokker said that reducing emails reinforces the importance for building and maintaining relationships face-to-face and increasing employee wellbeing.


Most communication is non-verbal. Engaging with your employees face-to-face is a great way to show that you value your people and helps to develop a listening culture. (Renewing Australian Workplaces).

SEEK, Workplace of Excellence in Inclusion

SEEK is an organisation that aims to champion diverse and inclusive workforces. And with good reason too. Diversity has many advantages; it can generate strong business outcomes, it represents the customer group served but overall, SEEK said it is “simply the right thing to do”.

The world’s leading online employment marketplace business, has led an innovative program in the last year in its own workplace, helping vision-impaired people get work experience.

Toni Williams, SEEK Diversity and Inclusion Manager

Toni Williams, SEEK Diversity and Inclusion Manager


SEEK believe at the heart of creating a diverse workforce is creating an inclusive workforce and Toni Williams, SEEK Diversity and Inclusion Manager said the organisation has embedded inclusion into the company’s set of beliefs.

“At SEEK we have a set of beliefs that guide our behaviour and conduct at work, one of these is to have a culture where people feel valued,” she said.

“This sets the tone for how inclusion is valued from the top down in our organisation. Inclusion is genuine and embedded within our culture and we foster an environment where people can be their real selves at work.

“We apply an inclusive lens to everything we do, so be it that you are a single parent, have elderly parents you care for or have physical or psychological health issues you will be set up and supported to succeed.”

In 2014, while working with Vision Australia to onboard an employee with low vision, SEEK became aware of the low number of people who are blind or have low vision in the workforce.

Across Australia there are around 350,000 people who are blind or have low vision and this figure is expected to rise to 550,000 within the next 15 years. Of those who can work, 60 per cent are unable to find employment. This is often due to perceptions that it would be easier to have an able-bodied person do the job.

SEEK said they saw an opportunity to bridge the employment gap for vision impaired people, solve a business need, and raise awareness of the issues people with vision impairment face when looking for work. The result was an eight-week work experience program in partnership with Vision Australia.

SEEK aimed to learn through the program how to:

  1. Create a more inclusive workplace for people who are blind or have low-vision
  2. Open a new talent pool for SEEK, and
  3. Provide rewarding work experience for participants.

Ms Williams said it was important that all tasks that participants completed were meaningful.

“Whether it was writing ad copy or responding to jobseeker enquires via email, the work that participants produced had to be things they were proud of and looked good on their resume,” she said.

Vision Australia helped SEEK make necessary workplace and technology adjustments including screen magnifying capabilities and voice activated software.

“We wanted to give participants work experience that was beneficial but more importantly open an untapped talent pool to our own recruiting,” she said.

“We detailed SEEK’s organisational purpose and vision to participants and invited them along to team meetings to fully integrate their experience and allow them to pick up valuable communication skills.”

On the flip side, existing employees and leadership did their own fair share of learning how best to facilitate a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Vision Australia came into the workplace to identify potential issues and offer advice, much of which was about being mindful – like ensuring knives are not left on kitchen benchtops.

Ms Williams said SEEK is continuing its program with two sessions occurring a year and plans for a permanent paid program in the works. One employee from the pilot program has continued work on an ongoing basis.

“One of the key learnings we had was that the workplace doesn’t have to be perfectly accessible, you can start small and work your way up. It should not be a deterrent from starting,” she said.

“Another key aspect was being flexible. Peak hour times for commuting may not be best for blind people or those with low vision so we worked with participants to understand their needs and what worked best for them.

“We found out that by participants being able to avoid peak times on public transport it had a huge impact on stress levels and achieving a work life balance.

“Also, we learned about the enormous amount of support out there from industry bodies who advised us on anything we were unsure of and needed greater understanding of.”

SEEK said it was important to share what they had learned and created a series of videos titled “Open Your Eyes” to extend the reach of the pilot program. They encourage other organisations to do the same and look beyond traditional approaches to sourcing talent that encourage diversity and inclusion.


Reventure’s research shows a culture of meaning and purpose in organisations is what most Australians want in their work. Fostering employee participation and inclusion is the first step in building such a culture (Delivering Purpose and Meaning).

The Cotton On Group, Workplace of Excellence in Responding to Feedback

cotton on.jpg

Ever wished you could start your day two hours later to get some proper exercise? Or work a couple more hours in the morning to avoid the afternoon peak traffic?

Australian fashion retailer, the Cotton On Group has come up with a solution that allows team members to do just that. Empower Hours is a new initiative that has been implemented at the Group’s headquarters in Geelong, giving employees greater flexibility over the hours they work.

Kiria McNamara, HR Manager

Kiria McNamara, HR Manager


Human Resources Manager Kiria McNamara said the program was a way to keep pace with an industry moving away from traditional work hours. Under the Empower Hours Program, core hours are maintained between 10am and 4pm when employees attend meetings and collaborative activities, however they have the option to work the rest of their hours anywhere between 7am and 7pm.

She said the program came about through the Group’s global engagement surveys which found employees wanted greater choice over how they use their time.

“Each quarter, the Group conducts global engagement surveys to help management understand what matters most to our people, and ensure the organisation continues to evolve in line with their expectations,” Ms McNamara said.

Empower Hours was born out of direct feedback from our team members who wanted the flexibility to manage their own time and balance the things that matter most to them.”

Understanding employee expectations is becoming crucial for organisations looking to attract and retain the best employees. This program comes at a time when Australian workers are becoming increasingly disillusioned with their workplace; a study undertaken by Reventure found almost half of the Australian workforce were intending to change jobs in the next 12 months.

However, the Cotton On Group has been successful in building a workplace that attracts great talent; Empower Hours has helped the organisation break into LinkedIn’s Top Companies in 2017, making it one of Australia’s most sought-after companies to work in.

Ms McNamara said the response to Empower Hours has been well-received because team members can easily adapt hours to their situation.

Empower Hours mean different things to different team members, departments and brands under the Cotton On Group umbrella, and we love that,” she said.

“Our people have embraced the initiative and continue to work the flexible hours they love and deserve.”

From parents to sports fanatics, the program has had a positive impact on employees looking to balance their life priorities with work.

“Our team members love the flexibility that Empower Hours offers. During the summer months, they take advantage of the sun and beaches close to our head office in Geelong; while our parents love that they can spend quality time with their children after school,” she said. 

Ms McNamara said empowering their people to choose how they want to work is the key to the success of the program.

“We trust our team members to know what works best for them so they are still able to fulfil their working commitments but with the added benefits of flexibility,” she said.

The Cotton On Group’s vision to encourage a healthy work/life balance does not just end in Geelong. The success of Empower Hours will see the program rolled out internationally across their global hubs in New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, the United States and Brazil.


Feeling that work/life balance has improved in the workplace leads to an increase in job satisfaction and lower frequency of high stress at work (2016 Snapshot of the Australian Workplace).

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Workplace of Excellence in Implementing Flexibility

Flexible working arrangements are an increasingly common workplace initiative introduced by organisations that are keen to attract the best talent to their ranks. Typically, it allows employees to tailor their work commitments to their other life responsibilities. However only a handful of organisations are offering flexibility to all their employees, a move that PwC made two years ago.

In 2015, PwC introduced “default flexibility” which allows employees to work the hours they want, where they want and how they want. In the last year, the uptake of this flexibility initiative has been significant, with more than eighty per cent of the workforce identifying themselves as having entered into some form of flexible arrangement.

Sue Horlin, Human Capital Leader

Sue Horlin, Human Capital Leader


Sue Horlin, Human Capital Leader at PwC Australia said the program starts with talking to the individual and opening up a conversation to design a role that works.

“Our all roles flex policy is centred on every single person in our organisation having the opportunity to talk to us about how they want to work,” Ms Horlin told a future that works.

“Our default position is that we will build your role around you to give you the flexibility you need.”

This default position means employees at PwC do not have to “break the ice” on flexibility to their employers, instead the door is always open to discuss what working arrangement would work best for them during the different stages of their working life.

Some of the options taken up by employees include combinations of working different hours, reduced hours at work or working from home, either temporarily or on a permanent basis.

Ms Horlin said in order for a flexibility program to succeed, organisations need to be led in two primary ways:

  1. Leadership from the top – leadership needs to believe in the program and model it themselves.

  2. Led by employees – key employees on all levels also need to support the program. This includes team leaders and managers.

PwC have also changed the way employees can enjoy their public holiday - “floating public holidays” allow employees to take a public holiday on the day of their choosing.

Giving employees greater choice and giving them autonomy to choose appropriately is about building trust, according to Ms Horlin.

“Our flexibility program demonstrates how much management trust their employees, which is what helps attract and retain employees with diverse talents.”

“We are increasingly employing people with different skill sets and different backgrounds and have different ways of working”.

“Our purpose at PwC is to build trust in society and solve important problems and we have values and behaviours that we live by.”

Ms Horlin said flexibility was the solution for PwC – “As long as employees continue to work towards the organisation’s purpose, PwC trusts them to work the way that is best for them.”

PwC’s progressive flexibility policies has landed them the top spot in LinkedIn’s Top Companies in 2017.


The workplace of the future will need leaders to be open to changed work practices that acknowledge business, family and community life (CEO Insights Report).

Coles Express, Workplace of Excellence in Facilitating Fitness

In December 2014, Coles Express launched Express Steps, an innovative wellbeing program aimed at encouraging employees to improve their physical and mental health.

The Express Steps program was triggered by an internal workplace survey of over 1000 employees which found that 84 per cent of employees were not getting enough physical activity.

Charlie Griffin, Head of Safety and Wellbeing

Charlie Griffin, Head of Safety and Wellbeing


Coles Express is a fuel and convenience operator with 700 stores nationwide and more than 5,000 employees. Charlie Griffin, Head of Safety and Wellbeing at Coles Express, said Express Steps was born after a team member explored the benefits of the corporate Fitbit program.

Through Express Steps, team members can purchase a Fitbit at a subsidised rate and become involved by competing against teams across the Coles Express business to rack up their step count and help their area to top the leader board.

Mr Griffin, who has been Head of Safety and Wellbeing for thirteen years, said the program was first implemented to prevent manual handling injuries.

“We have had a very good track record for safety performance, but I felt it was the right time for Coles Express to take that next step and strive to create a healthier workforce, therefore limiting the risk of injury,” said Griffin.

“A lot of our team members are standing at the register all day and so they are not moving a lot.

“We put this program in place to encourage people to become more active and become a healthier person both physically and mentally.”

Since the launch, one team member has lost more than forty kilograms with Express Steps and another member has not only lost weight through the program but has become more social, feeling more encouraged to leave the house and join social groups outside of work.

“That is the main driver,” Griffin said.

“We hear lots of little positive stories and if we can help one or two people change their lives then we know we are doing a great thing.”

As an added incentive, team members receive Flybuy points for being active participants in the program.

Team members who are active every day for a month – regardless of how many steps they take – receive 2,000 points, which roughly equates to ten dollars. There are 380 Coles Express team members using their Fitbits on a regular basis.

Although there are no quick fixes, Coles Express has endeavoured to make simple changes to support the wellbeing of the workforce.

The same internal workplace survey also showed 46 per cent of team members only ate breakfast less than two days a week. In response, Coles Express provided a toaster for every store and permitted access to discounted breakfast items for team members working early in the morning.

Express Steps and Coles Express’ wider health and wellbeing program ultimately works to improve safety and wellbeing and minimise the risk of fatigue and injury.

“Ultimately, that is good for our business and gives way to greater efficiency, productivity and happier team members,” said Griffin.

Due to the success of Express Steps, the program has been extended to Coles’ Store Support Centre in Hawthorn East to encourage more team members across the business to get active.

The program has now shifted to focus on individuals, however team competitions have not disappeared altogether; Coles’ next competitive team member event will kick off soon.


Our research shows engaging in physical exercise is correlated with higher job satisfaction (2016 Snapshot of the Australian Workplace).

HESTA, Workplace of Excellence in Fostering a Generous Culture

a future that works spoke to Sophie Sigalas, Executive of People Strategy at HESTA about their culture of giving and why they encourage employees to volunteer on company time.

Sophie Sigalas, Executive of People Strategy

Sophie Sigalas, Executive of People Strategy


HESTA is an industry superannuation fund managing $37 billion for over 820,000 members in health and community services, making it one of Australia’s top super funds. As the industry super fund for community and primary health care workers, childcare workers, nurses, midwives and aged care workers, a culture founded on empathy and giving is part of the organisation’s core values, says Sophie Sigalas.

Their volunteering program which is part of their overall learning offering allows all full-time employees six days of paid leave a year to volunteer.

Employees have previously donated their time in the sustainability space, housing and community services and mentoring, but most employees choose the health and community service sector to give back.

“Volunteer leave has been in place for a long time and we are generous with it because it allows employees an opportunity to give their time to the community rather than focusing solely on a financial contribution,” Sigalas said.

“In our work, employees become very connected to our members and work with them daily, so it feels natural for them to give back and we just give them the opportunity to do so.”

To ensure employees are also enhancing their skills, last year HESTA began a new system allowing employees to assemble profiles of their skills and experiences to match themselves to volunteer programs and not-for-profits.

Employees identified their current skill set and determined what skills would be beneficial to them in their role in the future.

“Assisting people from all walks of life enables employees to see different perspectives, for example someone on the people and culture team can improve their communication, organisation, planning and coaching capabilities,” said Ms Sigalas.

HESTA’s strategic aim is have their volunteer program evolve into an online portal accessible to employees and organisations looking for volunteers, matching availabilities and skills, similar to a specialised search engine.

“The online portal would allow organisations and charities to post their volunteer opportunities and what their needs are so employees can select placements based on their availabilities and skills,” Ms Sigalas said.

“This program has value to both the workplace and the community at large and employees are reminded of the impact of their contributions at the Diversity Morning Tea held at the end of each year. Employee efforts are presented to the whole team creating a strong community culture and allowing workers to recognise and value the difference they have made.”

Among others initiatives, HESTA employees have donated clothes for disadvantaged women through Fitted For Work, partnered with Red Cross for blood donation and worked with TLC for Kids to provide presents to needy children at Christmas, rather than holding an office Kris Kringle.

Ms Sigalas said this whole-of-workplace approach is part of establishing and preserving the culture of generosity at HESTA.

“We invest in our culture, and as a result our employees are engaged, active and contributing members of the community.”


Our research indicates that increasingly workers are looking for roles that serve something important beyond themselves and contribute to the common good (Delivering Purpose and Meaning).