Mark Lewis (Lane Neave)

Nominee/entrant details

Mark Lewis, People and Capability Manager

Employer details

Lane Neave

Size: 100-199 staff

Industry: Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

Background on entrant/nominee's employer

Recognised as one of New Zealand’s leading full-service law firms, Lane Neave has offices in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown with a local and global client base. With a rich history spanning 150+ years, the firm has produced thousands of alumni, and won many New Zealand Awards. The firm is focused on putting people at the heart of the firm, creating an environment that promotes improved wellbeing and performance. With a connected team of 150 Lane Neave is in a position to make each voice heard, and treasures this culture as its superpower.

Executive summary

Mark Lewis joined Lane Neave last year and, in that time, has driven a people transformation at the firm. As People and Capability Manager he has been responsible for not only supporting the firm through the challenges of Covid-19, but armed with staff feedback and a clear mandate, has provided expertise and guidance to changes that have helped improve wellbeing outcomes as measured by the WHO-5 scale. He has listened, put people at the heart of decision-making, lifted the firm’s gaze to recognise the many contributors to overall ‘wellbeing’, and contributed to a new culture that sets Lane Neave apart.

Authenticity and vulnerability

;Some could be forgiven for asking why Mark chose to get involved in a sector known for having a number of challenges, including high levels of stress and fatigue. But his passion for improving wellbeing and performance through empowering individuals attracted him to Lane Neave. Mark didn’t arrive with preconceived answers – he’ll be the first to admit he’s no definitive expert. But he does bring an enquiring mind, challenges traditional thinking, and provides new perspectives. Instead of an ‘off the shelf’ workplan, one of his first actions was to undertake a People Survey to ask staff what mattered to them. He then had to make it happen. It was just as important to Mark to ensure there were solutions to issues traditionally regarded as outside the HR realm, such as IT, as it was to reinforce positive behaviour. Despite a lack of experience with ‘practice management systems’, Mark has worked with the project team to ensure the new end user experience addresses staff needs. While still building his cultural confidence, Mark championed Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori and oversaw a three-week celebration which included nine wellbeing activities based around Te Iwa o Matariki.   He is confident in realising the goal of putting people at the heart of the firm with and takes an active responsibility for wellbeing and performance across the team with input from all kaimahi. A family man and outdoor adventurer, he takes care to make time for his whanau and look after his own mental health and wellbeing to role model balance while achieving your potential. “Mark’s been a breath of fresh air since he arrived...he’s really approachable just to go and have a chat and throw ideas around.” - Annabel Hawkins, Senior Associate.

Courage and leadership

It takes courage and leadership to take a newly formed position by the horns – particularly when it’s in one of New Zealand’s oldest law firms headquartered in one of the country’s most conservative cities. But that’s what Mark did – he asked staff what needed to be done, got a mandate to make positive changes, and made them happen. Evidence-based and decisive action to address issues that staff identified resulted in improved wellbeing and performance outcomes almost immediately, and Mark is clear he wants continued input from everyone to keep lifting those scores. His ability to lead by example is one of his strengths - he ensures he “leaves loudly” to take the stigma away from leaving the office before others and is aware of the need to identify early signs of stress and fatigue in himself, kaimahi and Partners. His inclusive leadership style has given kaimahi a greater sense of purpose and belonging. Increased transparency around compensation and leave, has given people greater clarity around expectations. Putting strategies in place and setting clear targets is important, but equally important has been his ability to bring kaimahi and Partners with him on the journey. Challenging others to think outside the square, Mark has created a more holistic workplace, focused on Te Whare Tapa Wha, where the physical, mental, social and spiritual are intrinsically linked, and championing the Five Ways to Wellbeing. It takes courage to make mental health ‘fun’. Rather than just putting up posters or sharing what others are doing, Mark has developed engaging and fun wellbeing activities that work for busy people – from pedal powered smoothie makers to indoor plant workshops. “Mark’s been great at challenging the Partners to think a little bit outside our comfort zones, but also very supportive to our staff.” - Rachael Mason, Immigration Partner

Engagement and communication

This is a strength of Mark’s, resulting in action and high levels of buy-in. He oversaw the 2020 People Survey, which had a 93% response rate and provided a full picture of perspectives across the firm. It identified that mental health is affected by a range of issues, including IT, role and remuneration clarity, and the desire to make a positive social impact. It became clear that several workstreams were required. Mark, alongside the CEO, have led firm wide communications on progressing these. He’s worked hard to ensure the wellbeing programme is fun and engaging. To promote Mental Health Awareness Week, Mark developed a ‘passport’ to encourage staff look after their physical, mental, spiritual and family wellbeing. For Matariki, he led the development of nine wellbeing activities based around Te Iwa o Matariki, including lunch time hikoi, plant workshop, ‘Matariki 101’ and a time capsule activity so staff could reflect, show gratitude, and set goals. In June about a third of the firm attended or Zoomed into the Matariki 101 presentation by Maraea Peawini. With one week of Matariki celebrations to go at time of writing, a majority of the firm have participated in at least one activity – a good proportion have participated in three or more. Mark has used a range of tools to keep people informed, including bespoke posters, two-page overviews and messages to all staff. Creativity and openness are hallmarks of his communications. He had the idea of repurposing the ‘Joy’ wedding app to provide up-to-date schedules of wellbeing activities. His Matariki and Spring into Spring campaigns have been shared nationally by the All Right? wellbeing campaign. “Mark’s had a really big impact since he arrived. He’s been front and centre and really visible in driving initiatives...he’s a positive force around the office.” - Joseph Harrop, Associate


Mark has helped put people at the heart of everything Lane Neave does. He has helped the business shift towards a culture of caring and inclusiveness, replacing a more traditional 150-year perspective of keeping personal and work life separate. In the 2020 People Survey, staff gave a clear indication of priorities, and Mark has overseen considerable progress in these areas: * CSR – established a staff-led Committee that, with his support, developed a Statement of Intent that was approved by the Board. * Role Clarity and Performance Expectations – organised focus groups and has worked with external consultants to ensure greater transparency around roles, performance and remuneration. * Technology – worked with the IT team so staff have what they need to get the job done. Mark delivered the firm’s first People Strategy. Co-creating new approaches with staff, reporting on impact, and advocating for better systems, combined with Mark’s holistic and engaging approach to wellbeing, has contributed to improvements in the workplace. The WHO-5 wellbeing scale shows that there has been an improvement in wellbeing, with the percentage of staff with what’s considered to be good mental health (a score of 16 or more when wellbeing surveyed) increasing: * July 2021: 60.9% (31.0% increase) * May 2020: 46.5% “Ensuring our people are always at the centre of what we do requires us to do things differently, and employing Mark has been fundamental in this. Mark is always challenging us to do more to make Lane Neave an even better place to work...In a short time he’s had a big impact on our culture.” - Peter Dwan, CEO “These [wellbeing] initiatives have helped me personally because it’s given me an opportunity to pause in my day and reconnect with colleagues, and develop relationships...and that creates collegiality and a great culture.”- Rachael Mason, Immigration Partner


The CSR Statement of Intent, which Mark has played a key role in guiding and getting Partner buy-in, outlines Lane Neave’s commitment to engaging with Tangata Whenua to strengthen relationships between the firm and M?ori, both within and outside the firm. While there is a lot more for Lane Neave to do in the te ao Maori space, it is testament to Mark’s tenacity that a firm operating in a conservative industry, in a traditional profession with strong roots in ‘conservative Christchurch’, has moved in this direction. Since Mark’s appointment to People and Capability Manager more learning opportunities have been created to lift the visibility of te ao Maori in the business and increase our shared understanding of the Maori world view. Mark is clear about the Lane Neave commitment to align with the Te whare tapa wha, caring for our staff in a more holistic way than in the past. Te whare tapa wha is guiding Mark’s wellbeing approach, helping ensure Lane Neave get the balance right. Mark has shared this model with staff, and it was included in the Spring into Spring passports provided to each staff member. Mark championed Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori, and encouraged hoamahi (workmates) to use Te Reo through a word of the day and co-ordinated Ka Pai awards to recognise peoples efforts. Lane Neave’s Matariki wellbeing campaign has enjoyed high levels of engagement, with about a third of the firm attending the Matariki 101 presentation. Mark believes that if you are not counted, you don’t count - and wants to ensure every one of our individual team members has their own voice. Last year, for the first time, survey respondents were given the choice of listing their gender identity.

Innovation and creativity

A key reason for bringing Mark on board at Lane Neave was his innovative, fresh perspective on what can be very complex and entrenched issues and his ability to deliver long-term sustainable change. He hit the ground running and thanks to his mahi the firm already has a People Strategy, and has started to address technology issues – with a focus on the user experience - to reduce work stress levels. Based on feedback about wanting to make a positive social impact, Mark proposed reimagining the firm’s approach to CSR. Mark has brought energy, excitement and an evidence based holistic approach to the wellbeing space. Rather than simply using off-the-shelf programmes, Mark has ensured Lane Neave create their own campaigns that speak to what the firm values. In fact, he’s been so successful that the firm are left wondering what’s going to be next! Spring into Spring promoted Mental Health Awareness Week through the development of a ‘passport’ that encouraged staff to do a variety of activities that promoted physical, mental, spiritual and family wellbeing. The Matariki campaign was also led by Mark. It comprised of nine activities over a 3-week period: 1. Matariki 101 2. Massage 3. Pedal powered smoothie makers 4. Plant workshop 5. Slipper/jumper day 6. Connect4 Championship 7. Time capsule based around Hiwa-i-te-rangi 8. Lunch time hikoi to places of cultural significance 9. Matariki quiz As offering a variety of different activities, in different places, at different times, was causing a few headaches, Mark thought outside the square – connected the people and digital strategies – and had the idea of repurposing the free ‘Joy’ wedding app to allow ‘anywhere, anytime, any device’ information access. It’s now easier for everyone to see what’s on and RSVP for specific activities. ‘Joy’ is now a key part of our wellbeing programme.

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Referee details

Fiona McMillan, Partner (Lane Neave)

027 351 2000 • [email protected]

Key contact

Isla Grant, Communications and Digital Marketing Advisor (Lane Neave)

+64 3 366 3024 • [email protected]

3 Months
Since posted
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