Successful business lands Best Employer title

Some companies boast Fruit Fridays, free massages, sleep pods and slides in reception, but for Kiwi consultancy firm Woods, the initiatives that keep their employees happy are far more simple. 

"We treat everyone here like family and I think that's what matters," says Woods managing director, Daniel Williams. "When I joined 25 years ago there were four of us - now we have 120 in the team but we still think of ourselves as being a family, which is why I think our employees enjoy working here.”

Woods has just been awarded the highly regarded Aon Hewitt Best Employer accreditation. 123 Australian businesses took part and only 16 were awarded Best Employer status. The other New Zealand companies included Z Retail, Z Corporate, Coca-Cola Amatil NZ, Chorus NZ and FedEx NZ. 

Woods is an employee-owned multi-disciplinary company that specialises in engineering, survey, planning, geo-spatial, architecture, and urban design. They are behind most of the big construction projects happening at the moment and are working on six of the eight housing projects backed by the government to address the housing shortage. 

The most credible study of its kind in Australia and New Zealand, the Aon Hewitt accreditation process uses a mix of surveys and interviews to determine the organizations who record high employee engagement scores and deliver outstanding people practices. 

Woods had an 81% engagement rate in their initial employee survey and delivered a 93% employee engagement result this year which put them in the upper end of the upper quartile of NZ and Australian businesses. Last year’s list of Best Employers recorded an average engagement score of 83%.

In an industry where the battle for talent is high, Daniel says Woods works hard to ensure their employees are happy in the workplace. In 2016 their Newmarket offices underwent a major redesign, to better reflect their business and culture. Their top-of-the-line office fit-out includes open-plan office space, break out pods for collaboration, a large kitchen for work drinks and barbecues, and a dedicated training space with its own kitchenette. Woods regularly use this space to run training to help their staff develop new skills and progress in their career.

Other ways in which Woods achieves high engagement:

• They retain a flat structure, with no HR or marketing departments. All directors are accessible, involved in projects and know everyone in the business by name. They encourage face-to-face chats over email or phone calls.

• There is no tolerance for bullying of any kind. The organization encourages diversity and expects their clients to respect this too – in fact, they let one major client go because of the way they continually treated Woods staff off site.

• They enjoy each other’s company. There is an active social club and beers and a BBQ every Friday.

• There is a real caring, “family vibe” at Woods. Staff are given the flexibility to take time off for things like children’s sports days or school camps.

• Likewise, they support their employees’ cultural and spiritual beliefs and interests. Employees are supported in observing their personal religious days or cultural events. This year they held an international lunch, where Woods paid for ingredients and employees proudly cooked up their national dish to share with their colleagues. 

• Woods invest heavily on technology to give their employees access to the best tools to do what they need. “We like to think that we lead the pack in terms of acquiring and adopting the use of new and innovative technology.”

• They invest in team building, flying their staff in Christchurch up to be a part of it. Amazing Races, costume parties, meals out, gaming nights, epic Christmas parties, family days – Woods see social events as an investment in their people.

• They really support career development – in fact, there’s an expectation of it. To progress employee’s careers they offer career training, individual career path plans, give them access and exposure to the right projects and offer regular training at their in-house training space with specific providers. They even sit employees down with an independent knowledge accessor who tells them what they need to do next to get to where they want to be.

Photo: Daniel Williams.