Craig Hudson (Xero)


Nominee/entrant details

Craig Hudson, Managing Director


Employer details

Xero

Size: 1,000-4,999 staff

Industry: Financial and Insurance Services


Background on entrant/nominee's employer

Founded in 2006 in New Zealand, Xero rates among the fastest growing software service companies globally. We lead New Zealand, Australian, and United Kingdom cloud accounting markets, employing a world-class team of 3,500+ . Forbes identified Xero as the World’s Most Innovative Growth Company in 2014 and 2015. Xero has 2.7M+ subscribers in more than 180 countries. Our user centric, design focused cloud-based accounting software connects people with the right numbers anytime, anywhere, on any device.


Executive summary

As managing director for Xero New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, Craig Hudson has committed to improving the wellbeing of small business owners and employees. Outspoken about his own mental health and wellbeing journey, Craig is determined to destigmatise mental health in the workplace. A firm believer that change begins with taking action, he has led from the top and demonstrated an ability to articulate and share his own challenges, applying lived experience to the leadership of the company. The value returned on multiple fronts has motivated him to share these mental health initiatives externally with Xero clients.


Authenticity and vulnerability

Craig is not one to shy away from these experiences and as a result, openly endorses the process of talking with mental health professionals. He has been open with his mental health struggles in the media, which informs his approach to empathetic leadership. For example, he was directly involved with Movember’s Man Enough campaign. As part of this, he was one of the voices included in TVNZ”s accompanying two-part documentary opening up the conversation around male suicide, challenging ideas about what it means to be a modern man. Throughout the challenging year that was 2020, Craig took to social media throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to talk about mental wellbeing, small business fortitude and generally being a voice for supporting small businesses and each other through these tough times. Craig has also been the driving force in launching the Xero Assistance Programme. He led this programme from its pilot phase with 5,000 Kiwi businesses, right through to now offering the service to all accounting and bookkeeping partners, all direct Xero subscribers, their staff and their families. As a result, more than one million Kiwis have access to free, confidential counselling through Xero. After an incredibly tough year with Covid in 2020, 58 percent of small businesses using Xero conveyed they hadn’t communicated about wellbeing in their workplace. Recognising how hard it is to speak about wellbeing personally, let alone in the workplace, Craig led Xero to create The Check In, a five step guide for all SMEs to support their team’s wellbeing. During the month we launched The Check In (September 2020), The Check In landing page was viewed 3,596 times, with 1,385 downloads of The Check In pdf over the month.


Courage and leadership

Using the analogy of how information and data can help Xero give insight into its customers, Craig has conveyed in person at Xero conferences, internal team meetings and mainstream public news media how professional talk therapy has helped him achieve insight into himself. Better understanding his triggers as well as how to communicate with his family, Craig has also helped others identify when they might need support, before reaching a crisis point. Craig has instilled the concept of “it’s ok to not be ok” into Xero employees. Exploring the context around his own personal situation in detail has helped set the high standard around acceptable honesty in the workplace, recognising that masking poor mental health is detrimental to the individual as well as those around them. In addition, Craig has challenged fellow CEOs to recognise the barriers their employees experience in talking about mental health in the workplace, recognising that employees as well as employers wear “masks” to hide true emotion. To drive home this issue, Craig set out to answer a golden question: can you put a dollar value on positive employee wellbeing in order to incentivise change? Xero worked with economists at NZIER to conduct ground-breaking research into the return on investment small businesses could get from approaches aimed at supporting better mental wellbeing at work. Ultimately, the results of the research highlighted that small business owners stand to earn $12 in regained productivity for every $1 spent on implementing wellbeing practices into their workplace. To democratise these research findings, Xero used this research to create a guide for small businesses called The Next Level. This guide includes tips and advice on how to invest in wellbeing and cloud technology, in order to make a business more productive and more profitable.


Engagement and communication

Craig leads with empathy, openness, and vulnerability every day. Central to this is his high level of engagement and communication at all levels of the company. Using internal communication platform Officevibe on a weekly basis, Craig personally takes the time to understand how his team is feeling and what he needs to do to make sure their wellbeing is taken care of, as well as making sure they feel supported to do their work each week. In addition to this, Craig also holds regular catch ups with his team that have no agenda. This creates the opportunity to talk about whatever is going on inside or outside of work in an environment that is supportive. This in turn is replicated with the members of the team who have their own teams to manage. Establishing this level of expectation from the top down has seen increased engagement and communication on all topics company wide. Regular workshops (GTM kick off and LT offsites) are also held off site to focus on prioritising wellbeing with the goal of building stronger, more resilient and empathetic teams. This includes things like vulnerability exercises to get the team to open up have helped grow their skill set and to apply the learnings in their own engagement and communication. Craig’s approach to change is through engagement and communication, followed by support and education. His demonstrable approach allows others to feel empowered to replicate his actions and apply them in either their own leadership or self care. The ability for Craig to inspire and educate other leaders, demonstrating that there is huge value (both tangible and intrinsic) in focussing on wellbeing, is profound. It has created, in Xero, a New Zealand company with a high emotional intelligence that benefits not only the company, but its employees' lives.


Impact

The impact of Craig's leadership through mental health and wellbeing can be evidenced by how it’s manifested in our company infrastructure in a sustainable way. We launched a number of wellbeing initiatives last year, including a new Xero wellbeing hub and a mental health toolkit for people leaders. We also changed ‘sick leave’ to ‘wellbeing leave’. The move was to make it explicit to staff that we value their mental health as equally as their physical health, and that they can take a leave day for either of these reasons. It’s long been assumed that being sick is physical, but at Xero we believe that it could also be mental, spiritual or emotional. On top of this we also provided an extra wellbeing day to all employees for World Mental Health Day. Put simply, we don’t want people to feel like they have to come to work when they aren’t in the right state to be here. In the same vein in September 2020, we updated our parental leave policy, allowing all primary carers to receive parental leave payments equivalent to 26 weeks, while partners have up to six weeks paid partner’s leave. This was another initiative designed to take pressure off our employees where we know it will exist. Xero also hired a Global Head of Wellbeing, Lucas Finch, in 2020. This has allowed the building of a solid foundation and a deepening of focus in this vital area - at a time when our teams need it most as they continue supporting our customers while facing all the challenges that COVID-19 brings. We believe in putting great ideas into action to create a serious impact and the efforts of the past year have been reflected in the company's stellar performance.


Inclusion

Craig has strongly championed diversity and inclusion to cultivate an engaged team that also represents the diverse needs of our customers. Espousing the importance of diversity at events, internal communications and publicly, Craig has emphasised that through inclusion we really tap into the potential and power of our differences. Through these opportunities he has repeated that inclusion means prioritising a sense of belonging and fairness in the workplace where people feel valued and respected and where they can play their part in creating business success. Some of the activity undertaken includes: - A company wide cultural diversity survey that discovered our employees originate from over 75 different countries. The diversity that this represents, particularly in management teams, has been shown to positively correlate with innovation. - Hiring for diversity via a pilot internship scheme with Specialisterne, an organisation which supports employment of people on the autism spectrum. Additionally we worked with the New Zealand Red Cross’s Pathways to Employment program, helping settled refugees to find employment. - The support of cultural and religious events such as Māori, Samoan and Tongan language weeks and Matariki (Māori New Year) in New Zealand; Africa Day in the UK; NAIDOC Week in Australia; and Ramadan and Lunar New Year globally.


Innovation and creativity

As a technology company Xero is all about finding different and better ways to disrupt and improve the world of accounting. In a similar vein, Craig was motivated to challenge himself and his wider team to find ways to apply mental health initiatives in the work environment that have significant outcomes. Applying our world renowned innovation and creativity in this space has had far reaching outcomes. As much as we have done internally as a company, we are also part of multiple communities through our products as well as our staff. Supporting the broader community is foundational to Craig, knowing that our people are passionate about doing what they can do to help, an action that is known to support great mental health. This was demonstrated through the uptake of the Xero Assistance Programme, offering free confidential counselling to all accounting and bookkeeping partners on the Xero platform, as well as all direct Xero subscribers, their staff and their families. As a result, more than one million Kiwis now have access to free, confidential counselling through Xero. Furthermore, working to develop The Check In, a five step guide for all SMEs to support their team’s wellbeing, aims to remedy how hard it can be to speak about wellbeing personally, let alone in the workplace. The Check In has also been picked up by business.govt.nz as a key wellbeing resource on their official website. This year, Craig was part of the leadership team to proudly launch the Xero Community Appeal. Through this appeal, we’re raising funds for charities that help the most vulnerable and marginalised people to build resilience and mental wellbeing. We’re working with charities in each region where we operate, as well as one global partner – Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders).


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Referee details

Natalie Weber-Benning, Head of Communications (Xero)

021 02619604 • [email protected]


Key contact

Adam Warin, Senior Account Manager (Pead)

02102901388 • [email protected]

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