Simpson Grierson

Nominee/entrant details

Simpson Grierson

Organisation details

Size: 200-499 staff

Industry: Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

Organisation background

Simpson Grierson is an NZ commercial law firm founded in 1887; a partnership comprising of 43 partners, ranked in the top legal firms, and the largest (350+ employees). We have offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The 3 values at the core of our business: Putting people first: we prioritise wellbeing and build healthy relationships based on mutual respect, trust and integrity At our best: we deliver excellent service and best outcomes for our clients by developing and empowering our people Energetic for change: we seek out, embrace and invest in positive change that benefits our people, clients and community

Executive summary

The wellbeing of our people is vital to our business - putting people first is one of our core values. Mental health issues are common and can affect anyone: • 15% of New Zealanders suffer at any point in time • 50% of the population will have a significant issue at some point in their lives; and • lawyers are 3.6 time more likely to suffer from depression or mental illness than other professions. We don’t want our people to be another statistic. THRIVE; our wellbeing programme is focussed on reducing stress and stigma, increasing awareness, supporting balance and growing a thriving culture.

Background on situation and opportunity

Our goal: to create an all-encompassing wellbeing programme, prioritise mental health, and give our people the tools to thrive. Why? Law is a profession steeped in tradition; lawyers are either dealing with people’s issues, or scanning and anticipating the next issue to arise. This can create an extremely risk adverse environment with low-trust. We are very aware of the pressure on lawyers to succeed; university exams, graduate recruitment, wanting to make a good impression in their first jobs and ultimately making partnership. We know that healthy employees are happy employees and we in turn will have a thriving culture.


What was implemented? The design and development of: 1. A 3 year wellbeing and mental health plan 2. An annual wellbeing and mental health programme for our people (called THRIVE) 3. An annual staff management programme for our partners and directors focussing on staff management and leading through wellbeing (called Heads Up) 4. A support network of wellbeing champions (called THRIVE Champions) The needs the strategy addressed The strategy addressed four key (ongoing) needs: 1. To reduce stress and stigma, increase mental health awareness, and support balance through participation in wellbeing seminars, workshops, and activities 2. To create a psychologically safe workplace by building knowledge, confidence and self-awareness with our people and leaders; 3. To provide our leaders with the tools and strategies needed to lead through wellbeing and role-model healthy behaviours; and 4. To grow a network of wellbeing champions who can be a supportive and trusted colleague for those who may need assistance or someone to talk to. Key goals and objectives • Have at least 75% attendance in wellbeing seminars (achieved 75-80%) • Have at least 80% attendance at Heads Up seminars and workshops (achieved 95%) • Have at least 25 volunteers to be THRIVE Wellbeing Champions (achieved 29 volunteers) • Ensure the sessions are facilitated by clinical psychologists, industry leaders, or specialists (achieved) • Ensure we use evidence based best practice guidelines (achieved) Each step in our wellbeing programmes are considered and have purpose - they are not a tick box exercise, but are designed to make genuine positive cultural change. The initiatives are ongoing and adapt as our needs change (eg COVID response).


Planning and design of the THRIVE programmes was carried out by: Sarah Bulkeley, OD Consultant (Lead). And was supported by the OD Manager, P&C Director, and P&C Manager. There are 4 key programmes under the ‘THRIVE ‘umbrella’: Programmes and Steps undertaken 1. THRIVE Wellbeing and Mental Health 3 Year Plan: Design, develop and execute • Researching international best practice guidelines • Reviewing PCBU obligations under the Health & Safety at Work Act • Setting guiding principles that need to be addressed to maximise the wellbeing and mental health of our people (and how these principles are displayed) • Setting deliverable actions, and how success is measured • Submitted to the board for sign off 2. THRIVE Annual Wellbeing Programme: Design, develop and execute: • 12 month calendar of wellbeing events • Monthly wellbeing newsletters that include a challenge of the month (to help our build healthy habits) • Promote participation in awareness days and fundraising events • Briefed facilitators on content • Developed invites, promotional material and comms 3. Heads Up: Annual Wellbeing and Staff Management Programme (for Partners and Directors): Design, develop and execute: • Reviewing PCBU obligations under the Health & Safety at Work Act • Set key learnings and objectives • Briefed and worked with Clinical Psychologists (content and facilitators) • Reviewed and finalised content • Developed comms and invites • Booked dates, meeting rooms and catering and sent out invites to the workshop 4. THRIVE Mental Health & Wellbeing Champions Programme: Design, develop and execute: • Working with a clinical psychologist to provide mental health awareness training • Agree workshop content • Develop comms plan, launch initiative, and seek volunteers • Gather volunteer submissions, confirm champions firm-wide (29 in total) • Work with the comms team to create champion profiles, including a set of interview questions. This is so our people could learn about our champions, and create connections for if/when they need to talk to them.

Engagement and communication

Communication is key to the success of these programmes. It is essential that our people are engaged with what we are doing, what we are trying to achieve, and understand that the initiatives are in place to benefit them as individuals, teams, and firm-wide culture. At Simpson Grierson effective communication is open, transparent, and kind. We work with our communications team to ensure we have frequent and varied channels of communication through: • Monthly newsletters • Weekly features in our Chair Update (a publication from our Chair that is circulated on a Friday) • Weekly news items on our intranet home page • Designated Wellbeing and Mental Health resource pages on our intranet • Modernised videos to promote initiatives and events • Where possible we use are leaders to communicate or participate in initiatives (so the directive isn’t always coming from the People & Culture team) Because we communicate frequently, we have a high uptake of participation in the following: • Wellbeing events and seminars: 80% • Heads Up Annual Programme (for partners and directors): 95% • THRIVE Champion volunteers: 29 out of 30 available spaces filled


When you ask people why Simpson Grierson is a great place to work, the response is always “the people”. The positive impact of providing a wellbeing programme has meant we have a workforce who is caring and compassionate in their approach, who look out for each other assist each other when needed, who communicate open and honestly. This has been demonstrated by: • 3 senior members (x1 partner and x2 directors) sharing their stories of anxiety, and experiences of mental health issues • A 130% increase of self-referrals to EAP in a period of 12 months since our focus on mental health awareness • In our 2020 Covid response survey we rated high in staying connected and prioritising wellbeing. And communication was rated as having the biggest positive impact on our people during lockdown (transparency, and using different methods such as videos and yammer) • We received over 30 volunteers to be a THRIVE Mental Health Champion and participate in mental health awareness training to be well equipped to support their peers. • We have had no critical incidents • We have a high level of participation in wellbeing events and seminars (75-80% per session). • We have a high level of partners and directors attend the annual Heads Up workshops (95%) This is a continual journey, we are always learning and adapt our approach to our people’s needs.


We demonstrate an inclusive approach and prioritise inclusion by not only aligning our wellbeing and mental health plan to our values, but to 6 guiding principles that support and enhance employee wellbeing through: • Organisational Culture – we have a positive working environment that is built on mutual respect, trust and integrity • Leadership capability – we have well equipped leaders who role model health behaviours, support balance, communicate effectively and provide clear expectations • Psychological and social protection and support – we have a speak up culture where our people are confident to share concerns, questions or ideas, they are supportive of each other’s mental health and wellbeing and respond appropriately when needed • Smarter work design – we reduce stress and support balance by offering a variety of choice of where and when to work, and create opportunities for our people to get involved at decision making level • Build resilience – we have a workplace that feels like a community; we celebrate diversity, foster connections, support balance and provide opportunities to carry out meaningful work • Support recovery – we act with compassion and have good processes in place to support early intervention and recovery Having an inclusive approach is also demonstrated through: • Online yammer groups – find your people • Opportunities to provide feedback, share ideas, and opinions (through forums, surveys, and focus groups) • Seeking volunteers (rather than shoulder tapping) • Having a cohort of contact people across the firm that people can turn to should they come across bullying behaviour or harassment • Having a group of 28 wellbeing champions who are upskilled in mental health awareness training • Upskilling our partners and directors on social inclusion, anti-bullying and harassment, LGBTTQIA+ awareness

Innovation and creativity

1. We got creative and innovated the way we communicated: In 2020 we had to quickly adapt the way we worked, communicated and connected. The exciting part of having to adapt so quickly, is how creative we became. During this time the use of email to work accelerated (because people were working from home in blended environments and it was easier to email than call). This meant that key messages were getting lost. We innovated by developing informational videos that were heavy in imagery, focussed on short and succinct messaging, and were uplifting during times of stress. These videos were well received and we’ve continued to use this approach post lockdown. 2. We moved online During this time we needed to continue to support our people. We did this by developing informative eLearning modules, and facilitated educational Zoom sessions with a clinical psychologist on: • Transition, Agility and Wellbeing – Understanding the way we respond and adapt to COVID. • Leading you well: supporting health and wellbeing through COVID-10 - The established link between work and health can often mean leaders prioritise the wellbeing of their people before their own. This is especially prevalent during crises. • Option B Wellbeing - 2020 stripped away preferred 'Option A' living. Freedom and surety were replaced with uncertainty, upheaval and complexity. Environmental conditions that naturally amplify exhaustion and distress. Learn how we can prioritise our mental health and help each other during this uncertain environment. 3. We seek ideas and opinions It may seem simple, but we’ve gone back to basics and asked people what they need, what support looks like for them, and encouraged them to share their ideas. It works.

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Referee details

Jo Stevenson, People & Culture Director (Simpson Grierson)

099775368 • [email protected]

Key contact

Sarah Bulkeley, Organisational Development & Wellbeing Manager (Simpson Grierson)

099775487 • [email protected]

3 Months
Since posted
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