Cook Brothers Construction

Nominee/entrant details

Cook Brothers Construction

Organisation details

Size: 100-199 staff

Industry: Construction

Organisation background

Cook Brothers Construction was founded on a One Team culture, driven by our vision to transform the construction industry and cement ourselves as a national leader. Since our first project in 2005, our team have been heart and soul of our business. We have never lost focus on our passion for creating spaces for our communities to live, thrive and succeed. With a national reach spanning across Auckland, Canterbury, Otago, and Southern Lakes, our team of 200+ strive every day to uphold the Above the Line values of Accountability, Responsibility and Ownership, leaving Blame, Excuses and Denial at the door.

Executive summary

A thriving One Team culture - that is the reality of Cook Brothers Construction in 2021. With the adversity of COVID19, combined with the startling statistics around suicide and mental health in the construction industry, Cook Brothers recognised the critical risk around mental health and wellbeing within their national team. What resulted, was a concerted effort to forge a holistic wellbeing culture that would inspire resilience and communication. Through the mentorship of an in-house People And Performance Manager, and firmly established health and safety practices, Cook Brothers have formed an innovative, inclusive and collaborative wellbeing programme across their business today.

Background on situation and opportunity

While always striving to provide a caring environment, the team originally were small and supported each other like family. As the company grew however, maintaining this same level of intimate support at times felt harboured by limited structure in place for team members to feed their concerns up to management. Buy in was lacking to the EAP program and reports annually showed the service had only been accessed by 3-5 team members. With the onset of COVID19, and the construction industry holding the highest suicide rate, mental health was a critical risk that required immediate attention.


Seeking an innovative approach to this opportunity, Cook Brothers sought a People and Performance Manager to develop a strategy that focused on individual performance and wellbeing by developing resilient behaviours. One of the applicants was a sports performance coach, Natalie Fraser. Utilising her background in psychology, A wellbeing through resilience programme was rapidly rolled out when just after her appointment, New Zealand went into lockdown for Covid-19. Identifying the external stressors of our usually active construction workers, this programme reached our team whilst many were unable to work from home. A scaleable approach was implemented whereby the team could participate in live sessions or view at their leisure. This programme was supported by an internal training schedule tailored to different roles within the team, right down to individual apprentice sessions. Following on from Covid-19, a formal strategy was developed expanding on this skills training. An engagement survey was created to allow the team to voice their feedback, providing qualitative and quantitative positive impacts on workplace mental health to be measured. This formed the basis for further development and integration of health and wellbeing into the Cook Brothers culture. Key focuses were: - Increased individual self-awareness and support for personal development and goals. - Individual empowerment through a shift to a focus on strength identification and utilisation instead of weaknesses. - Identifying the value of individual strengths in the development and performance of teams - A shift in culture to ensure every team member values individual health and wellbeing and reaches out for support. - Mental Health and wellbeing support that is easily accessible and utilised. This feedback ensured that the focus of the overarching programme would provide a real one-team approach, whereby support is offered and readily available to all team members, including the establishment of a diversity and inclusion strategy.


Training and Education – Short interactive sessions held with key actions to takeaway. The initial Covid-19 trainings included: - Managing Uncertainty – Self-awareness and self-care to thrive - Controlling the controllable and routines to thrive - Enhancing sleep to thrive - Mindfulness and positive emotions - Igniting strengths and gratitude - Q & A with Anna Grimaldi Paralympic gold medallist on managing change and challenges - Celebrating success and connecting to empathy Individual Performance Plans – Individual Performance Plans were rolled out, to replace annual performance reviews. Wellbeing, being the foundation for resilience, thriving and sustainable performance, was layered into a plan for growth and achievement of personal and workplace goals. Strength Profiling – This year the annual management conference and regional summits focused on recognising individual strengths. Every member of the team completed a strengths profile assessment online and participated in interactive activities to recognise the values of their realised strengths and the power of utilising their unrealised strengths in both individual and team environments. Individual and team wellbeing support – Individual development and mentoring sessions with Natalie Fraser. Team development and ‘check in’ sessions held with Natalie Fraser on every site nationwide and Mates in Construction engagement sessions on site along with individual referrals for mental health support. Flexible Work – Ultimately the wellbeing through resilience program is underpinned by the need for holistic wellbeing of our team and the recognition of their life outside of work. This has seen the development of a flexible work policy that has just been rolled out to the team. Although a challenge to schedule flexible work for the construction team the policy emphasises that “anything is possible until it is not”. It empowers our leadership to listen to their team, recognise their needs and where possible make accommodations that work for both of us.

Engagement and communication

It is no surprise, on account of the industry, that a high percentage of the Cook Brothers Construction team are hands-on or interactive learners. In response to this, most initiatives within this program have been rolled out in person, with Natalie travelling to each site for team development and individual check-ins. Natalie also conducted group strength profile training and sessions with Mates in Construction was provided on site. IPP’s were completed face to face allowing each individual time to connect and communicate in a meaningful way with their manager. Where in-person training was not possible due to distance or logistics, video conference was utilised, with the training and education focusing on the “why” behind a change in behaviours. Trainings were short, practical, interactive and provided key actions for the team to focus on. The wellbeing and engagement survey carried out two months following lockdown found that 76% of the team attended performance wellbeing training and of those that attended 68% found value in the content. Other results showed: - 84% felt connected to the Cook Brothers team during the lockdown. - 82% felt supported by Cook Brothers throughout the Covid-19 lockdown. The key areas that emerged for more specific performance wellbeing training were: - Dealing with pressure/managing stress/managing adversity. - Time management, financial management and goalsetting. - Leading, managing, and working with people and building high-performance teams. - Mental health. On the back of this feedback, a large amount of resource and time was put into the establishment of shared internal values through regional summits, which increased buy-in. A strategy was formed to develop a safe environment for mental health and wellbeing to be normalised and the health and safety committees channel this communication to ensure that company leadership drive the initiatives from the top.


The training during Covid-19 was an integral part of the wellbeing of the team on return to work. The company saw a cohesive approach on return in which teams made wellbeing the top priority. This year there has been a substantial increase in positive observations submitted. These act as a platform to align with one of Cook Brothers internal values “Ring the Gong”. Ring the Gong values the celebration of success whether big or little. Positive observations act as a pat on the back for the team or provide an opportunity to share successful innovations. The past year has seen the submission of positive observations overtake the well-established near-miss reporting. Statistics show 153 reported last year in comparison to 77 the year prior. Collaboration between the departments has seen mental health statistics start to be collected. These statistics will hopefully continue to grow representing increased engagement in the strategy until it reaches a level where the statistics could play a part in recognising a change in culture. A change in team perspective and values is also evident through the team reports and feedback. There has been: - Increase in requests for resilience tools and for the integration of wellbeing initiatives into each project. - Increased request for health improvement initiatives through the committees including – social club excursions and access to wellness providers for prevention treatments. - Increased informal conversations where concerns for their colleagues are raised and actions taken There is increasing evidence of empowerment to say no. An example includes the recent decision by two carpenters to delay traveling to an out-of-town project due to fatigue. The recognition that their wellbeing is more important and their confidence that management would support their decision was celebrated by the leadership team. From here, the programme has significant potential.


With inclusion of all members of our team a key priority, all initiatives have been adapted to ensure inclusion of our key cohort the Filipino team. Tagalog translations have been made for all forms during team sessions and translators utilised where needed. As part of our commitment to equality and inclusion within our team and society, Cook Brothers Construction recently became a member of Diversity Works and are set to release the new diversity and inclusion policy. Our new apprentice academy is building capacity to provide a more effective environment for women to enter the industry and mentorship and career progression for women in the trade is driven by female representation at all levels of management. Cook Brothers Construction is in the early stages of a formal diversity and inclusion strategy where the team aspires to create an environment where “Everyone feels they can be their authentic selves at Cook Brothers Construction and feel like they belong.” The Strategic Pillars are: 1. Build strong Foundations 2. Embed Māori te ao Māori, Te Reo, tikanga and Māori values 3. Education and Training 4. Continuously Seek, Review and Reduce Disadvantages throughout the entire team member experience 5.Whakawhanaungatanga and Celebrate differences The team are in the first 30 days of the strategy which includes: Gathering and Analysing data Building metrics to work off Ensuring Appropriate Policies are in Place and Accessible to all Building a Committee The ongoing progression of the diversity and inclusion strategy have a positive impact on the wellbeing through resilience programme.

Innovation and creativity

The drive for an innovative approach to team wellbeing, mental health and support was the key to bringing a sports performance coach into the team. The program moves away from traditional approach, which solely focuses on mental health and usually involves a significant latency period in the identification and management of poor mental health. Engaging a sports performance coach in a people and performance role and a nurse within the health and safety role, allowed the company to draw on holistic wellbeing expertise already understood in the health sector. It was a bold move in the construction industry, primarily made up of men, known to be stoic and silent in their approach to wellbeing and mental health. By flipping the approach on its head, the team were reliant on the more positive outlook on increased performance being more engaging and developing a sense of individual value as protection against poor mental health. The program provides the team with tools for performance, therefore building resilience against mental health, while also developing tools and structure for early identification, intervention, and effective management when one of the team are affected. Due to the confidentiality required when mental health concerns were raised Cook Brothers struggled to identify the initial extent of the problem. The company wanted to continue to promote that an individual should reach out to someone they feel comfortable with while also gathering an understanding of wellbeing within the company. This has resulted in the creation of multiple collaborations between departments to ensure confidential information is communicated, as necessary. A Wellbeing meeting is held fortnightly between HR, H & S and People and Performance, MIC connectors have been trained in two regions and the Executive team have introduced identification of at-risk team members to ensure awareness and support from the leadership.

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Referee details

Mike Otley, Business Consultant (Mike Otley Business Consultants)

0276148048 • [email protected]

Key contact

Michaela Murray, Health and Safety Manager (Cook Brothers Construction)

0212238938 • [email protected]

3 Months
Since posted
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