Wintec (Waikato Institute of Technology Limited)


Nominee/entrant details

Wintec (Waikato Institute of Technology Limited)


Organisation details

Size: 500-999 staff

Industry: Education and Training


Organisation background

Wintec (Waikato Institute of Technology) is one of New Zealand’s leading institutes of technology with 14,500 students and over 750 staff, with staff members working from three campuses in Hamilton as well as Wellington, Thames, Ōtorohanga and China. We offer over 130 different degrees, certificates and diplomas, as well as many short course options, that give our students skills and qualifications across a variety of fields. These range from entry-level courses that help students prepare for further study, to postgraduate diplomas and masters degrees in specialist fields, hands-on technical training and professional qualifications.


Executive summary

Wintec is committed to supporting and enhancing the hauora and wellbeing of our whānau (staff and students). The safety and wellbeing of our people is integral to achieving our strategic goals and a core value of our organisation. We are committed to improving equity through our Tōia Mai change programme, which demonstrates our willingness to make ongoing, sustained and meaningful change across our organisation. We have invested in a holistic health, safety and wellbeing strategy, increasing mental health awareness, support networks and pathways to improve responsiveness and build the capability of our kaimahi to strengthen mental health and wellbeing.


Background on situation and opportunity

Wintec has been working for several years to provide mental health and wellbeing support for our community through sector-leading mental health first aid, family violence first responder and anti-bullying and harassment training for our managers and staff. In the past 18 months, we have further enhanced this through a variety of initiatives including appointing a dedicated Mental Health Business Partner, developing a Mental Health Policy, working towards and being awarded the WorkWell gold standard accreditation, establishing a pride committee, increasing our flexible working provisions, offering additional support to students during Covid 19 lockdown, and increasing our student hardship fund.


Strategy

Consultation and research across Wintec showed increased management of student mental health and wellbeing, which had been growing steadily. The concern for students’ mental health and wellbeing was wide-ranging, and the impact on staff was high. There was no formal policy to guide staff, which was unsafe for staff and students, and had an impact on staff’s own wellbeing. They were not trained in management of mental health issues and had no opportunity to debrief their experiences. To address this, a business case was made to appoint a Mental Health Business Partner, who started in the role in March 2020 as part of the Health, Safety and Wellbeing team, within People and Culture. This appointment was made with the aim of improving staff and student access to mental health services; raising awareness within the Wintec community; providing guidance and recommendations on best practice management of mental health and wellbeing and developing mental health policy. In June 2021 we were the first Waikato organisation to be awarded WorkWell Gold Accreditation, demonstrating our commitment to wellbeing. This year, as part of the action plan developed in response to our 2020 employee experience survey, the Āniwaniwa Alliance, Wintec’s first official LGBTQIA+ group, was formed. The group is made up of staff from across Wintec who support diversity, inclusion and acceptance and want to shape what we do in this area, and one of its key aims is to support the mental health of our LGBTQIA+ community. Our free Employee Assistance Programme provides confidential counselling to staff. When we entered lockdown in March 2020, this was opened to our students. An increase in financial difficulty being reported as a stressor for students through Covid 19 and lockdown, also led to our student hardship fund being increased.


Execution

The Mental Health Business Partner’s (MHBP) key responsibilities are to: • Manage and coordinate the assessment of students and staff experiencing mental health and wellbeing concerns to ascertain best treatment or support path. • Identify and build staff and student capability in the awareness and appropriate management of mental wellbeing and available services. • Develop and manage policies and processes that support the quality management of mental health and wellbeing for staff and students. • Provide support and advice in the management of critical incidents involving staff and students. Our MHBP is a registered mental health nurse, who triages students and staff experiencing mental health issues, ensuring timely referral to appropriate services. Between March 2020 and June 2021, he responded to over 300 mental health events. Data including themes, stressors and referrals is reported monthly to executive and the Wintec Board, who recognise the importance of a robust mental health support culture in our community. We have been working with WorkWell assessors for over three years in a process involving staff feedback, evaluations and events in order to meet the Gold Accreditation standard. This work will be ongoing in order to maintain accreditation. We ran three Mental Health First Aid courses for staff in 2020. This workshop teaches how to assist someone who is experiencing mental health distress, developing a mental illness or is in a mental health crisis. We offer this as professional development to our staff and they can choose to become a Mental Health First Aid Responder on completion. Many of our staff choose this as a professional development option to help support their friends, whānau and community and do not opt to become a Wintec first responder. We are fully supportive of this as part of our holistic approach to wellbeing.


Engagement and communication

Our holistic focus on mental health is evidenced by its high profile in communications across the organisation. We publish a weekly staff email newsletter, This Week @ Wintec, which includes a safety and wellbeing section each week. Articles have included profiling events such as Mental Health Awareness Week, Gumboot Friday and Pink Shirt Day; profiling key staff and services available to staff and students to support mental health and wellbeing; and tips and tricks for managing wellbeing, particularly through the 2020 Covid 19 alert level 4 lockdown. Our People and Culture and Safety and Wellbeing teams have high visibility across the organisation and provide guidance and support to staff, directing them to resources and support services for themselves and their students. Our staff intranet has pages dedicated to wellbeing (including a list of staff wellbeing champions), mental health first aid, EAP, family violence support, anti-bullying and harassment, and how to support whānau, friends and colleagues during or after a major event. These are regularly maintained and updated, and staff are referred to them through This Week @ Wintec, onboarding for new staff and other communications channels. Similar information is also available to students via their student intranet and student orientation and events. The MHBP meets new staff at onboarding days to raise awareness of the MHBP role, the priority we place on wellbeing, and services available to staff and students. Staff engagement surveys include questions on wellbeing, and we conducted additional surveys during the 2020 lockdown to monitor staff wellbeing. Action plans are put in place to address any issues identified. The WorkWell accreditation process requires us to regularly engage with staff on wellbeing, and they also conduct a separate survey to assess staff knowledge and impact of our wellbeing initiatives.


Impact

Since our Mental Health Business Partner started, reporting from staff and students concerning their own and others’ mental health has notably increased. This is due to both the availability of this dedicated resource and confidence in the quality and timeliness of service provided. The efficacy of our processes has improved due to assessment, systems and structures put in place by the MHBP and Health, Safety and Wellbeing team. This includes increased capacity for a coordinated referral and liaison process with external support agencies, with whom we collaborate to support successful integration back into work or study and monitoring of these plans. 86% of 585 respondents to our 2020 staff engagement survey answered positively to “I am confident in how to access support and the appropriate reporting process when I identify or recognise a mental wellbeing concern”. In additional engagement surveys run during the 2020 lockdown, 83% answered positively to “How helpful has your manager been at getting you the support (e.g. balancing workloads, adjusting arrangements, providing flexibility, balance between personal and work life) you need to get your job done?” and 83% also answered positively to “How do you feel about the level of care provided by Wintec for your safety and wellbeing during this time?” Responses to mental health themed questions in the 2020 survey run by WorkWell, were as follows (with the 2017 survey results in brackets): 63% managing their workload with little stress (55%) 67% satisfied with the amount of control over their work (61%) 85% feel capable and useful in their work (81%) 82% feel they receive help / support from co-workers (73%) 67% are able to maintain a work life balance (59%)


Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are prioritised at Wintec, and we have many initiatives aimed at measuring and improving our diversity and inclusion practices. Measures of success documented in our Diversity and Inclusion policy include: • Achieving and maintaining WorkWell Gold accreditation. • Providing staff education on bias, anti-bullying and harassment, wellbeing and inclusion. • Building a forum of skilled and capable staff, including wellbeing champions and mental health first aid responders. • Obtaining feedback from staff, monitoring and reviewing to ensure diversity and inclusion is reflected in our everyday practices. In 2021, we introduced Tōia Mai, an excellence framework that will guide system-wide change, to enable Wintec to improve equitable outcomes for tauira Māori and all learners and demonstrate Te Tiriti o Waitangi partnerships. The Tōia Mai framework is underpinned by a treaty partnership approach to achieve not just better outcomes, but the best outcome we can deliver to empower our staff and create equity for our tauira. By the end of 2021, the Tōia Mai advisory team will develop an additional needs assessment and referral process for tauira, starting with priority programmes identified as having the lowest completion and retention rates for Māori and Pasifika learners. A detailed design of the needs assessment will be undertaken with tauira. Through this process, we will start to understand our learner needs, including mental health and wellbeing needs, much earlier in their journey with us. We will also refine how we support tauira, through referrals if needed, but also through creating mana enhancing experiences and environments while they study with us. The Āniwaniwa Alliance, while driven by staff, has full support at executive and Board level, with the Tāngata Committee (Board sub-committee) having governance oversight of alliance activities.


Innovation and creativity

We understand the Mental Health Business Partner role is the only one of its kind in the institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITP) sector. Now that Wintec is a subsidiary of Te Pūkenga, the umbrella organisation combining all 16 New Zealand ITPs through the Government’s review of vocational education, our People and Culture team is working closely with the other ITPs to share our knowledge and good practices. The Āniwaniwa Alliance was established following the 2020 employee engagement survey, as one of the actions of the organisational action plan. The committee had a stall and were an active part of the Orientation Week open day in February, where participation by students and staff was positive and engaging. This is the first time we have had this representation and support for the LGBTQIA+ community. We actively promote physical and mental health and wellbeing through regular events, both within and external to Wintec. We have a calendar of events to ensure our regular communications focus on what’s coming up and incentivise participation in events such as Pink Shirt Day through team prizes. This has resulted in some creative costumes and themed kai. Our formal flexible working arrangements programme allows staff to prioritise whānau and wellbeing, and we often put additional flexible arrangements in place for staff affected by mental or other health concerns to assist with gradual return to work. We hold an annual wellbeing expo, where internal and external health and wellbeing providers promote their services to staff, through displays, activity sessions such as yoga and mindfulness, and workshops. Other innovative approaches to promoting and supporting wellbeing include free personal training and massages for staff, delivered by our sport science students; and maara kai, a place where staff can come together for wellbeing, to socialise and to learn about growing food.


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Photograph of key staff (optional)


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Referee details

Louise West, Senior Health Improvement Advisor (Waikato DHB)

021 242 2542 • [email protected]


Key contact

Katrina Van de Ven, Executive Director People & Culture | Pouārahi Whakawhanaunga me te Ahurea (Wintec)

021 629 541 • [email protected]

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