Ross Larsen (Flight Centre New Zealand)


Nominee/entrant details

Ross Larsen, Health, Safety and Wellbeing Leader (Healthwise)


Employer details

Flight Centre New Zealand

Size: 200-499 staff

Industry: Other Services


Background on entrant/nominee's employer

Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) is made up of several brands which include Flight Centre, Travel Associates, Travel Managers Group (leisure travel), FCM Travel Solutions, Corporate Traveller & Stage and Screen (corporate travel) and Infinity (wholesale), we are the largest Travel Company in New Zealand. Due to Covid-19, we were forced to dramatically reduce in size, now with 400 people, and over 45 stores & offices from Kerikeri to Invercargill. Our people and our culture have always been the key pinnacles of FCTG and our purpose is to “Open the world to those who want to see”.


Executive summary

With genuine care for our people and their well-being Flight Centre is grateful to have Ross leading the way on our holistic wellness journey for many years, but it’s undeniable that the past 18 months have been more challenging than any other time in our history. Ross has approached every challenge with resilience and tenacity whilst also exhibiting vulnerability to connect. He has delivered consistent messaging, creating content to ensure that all levels of the business have learnings available to normalise the conversation around workplace wellness. His campaign #sharemystory encouraged open conversation and had a great impact to our workplace.


Authenticity and vulnerability

Ross has been a key driver in our business encouraging a focus on holistic health. He is always approachable, and this allows our people a safe place to share their goals and reach out for help when needed. He leads by example in everything that he does. Ross is constantly developing himself and sharing new ideas and content to help us on our wellness journey. He regularly interacts with the Mental Health Foundation and other companies to share his ideas and gain learnings. His genuine care and concern for others is easy to see, he is self-aware and focused on the overall goals. In September of 2020 during Mental Health Awareness week, Ross launched his initiative #shareyourstory to compliment other activities happening across the business in support of MHAW. The purpose of this initiative was to cultivate a better culture of talking about mental health in the workplace. Ross reached out to all parts of the business to be involved in the campaign, initially working with Flight Centre’s Executive Team and Senior Leaders asking them to be involved, creating questions, and filming responses to share via workplace. Ross led the way with vulnerability by sharing his own personal story about his experience with Mental Health, the self-destructive behavior that had impacted him and his journey towards improvements with the support of friends, family and professionals. He encouraged people to reach out and ask for help and to help others around them if they notice a change. Finally sharing that suffering from poor mental health or illness isn't a weakness, if anything it is a strength. The outpouring of support and stories that followed was amazing to see, and I believe that this was a major turning point for the discussions around Mental Wellness at Flight Centre.


Courage and leadership

Ross has been a driving force and his natural strong leadership has ensured that everyone at Flight Centre has access to learning materials to help with the conversations around wellness and resilience. He has also volunteered his time to review the Open Minds e-learning with the Mental Health Foundation. With a much-reduced workforce at Flight Centre and ongoing uncertainty with Covid19, Ross has ensured that all our content is available to our people regardless of location and situation, where previously creating content would have been something that was done by our Learning and Development team, Ross has stepped up and taken on board this responsibility. Our FCTG content was previously delivered in a classroom environment, Ross has found ways to connect people via video conferencing, achieving the remarkable results through this engagement. During all sessions that Ross has facilitated he has continually checked in on our people and shared where he is on his own journey at that present time, this opportunity for our people to see vulnerability from him has continued to encourage our people to be open about how they are feeling at that time and allowed the business to see that wellness can fluctuate daily. The journey of Mental Wellness is a road of learnings and takes courage, Ross constantly seeks new learnings and shares with those around him to help others, leading by example. As mentioned above I believe that his initiative #shareyourstory further demonstrates a huge amount of courage and leadership as well as being an authentic and vulnerable leader. Ross is not motivated by recognition of the work he has done, but by seeing people in our business be happy and healthy, he is an unsung hero in our business that we are extremely grateful to have.


Engagement and communication

Ross is one of our most well-known and respected individuals at Flight Centre, he is an effective communicator that can relate to many different personalities and roles across the business. He engages and presents to key stakeholders, business partners and most importantly is very relatable to our people. He is our most active member on workplace as he educates and engages our people daily in polls, articles, challenges, and video content. Our people love to see what topic Ross will bring up today and enjoy tagging him in their activities. As well as #shareyourstory Ross was also instrumental in creating our “Hour of Empowerment,” which is a companywide initiative that allows our people to take one hour per week to use towards something meaningful, there are no requirements on how the time is used, it may be to attend an appointment, go to the gym, spend time with the family, attend university, just to name a few. Our people love sharing posts via workplace with the #hourofempowerment and it has created greater connection for our people, thanks to Ross. You will find Ross starting every morning on a Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday hosting, via video conferencing for our people, his "Healthy Teams” content. Every business in Flight Centre is part of this programme and it is another way that we ensure our people have time dedicated to their development. You can also find Ross organising sports teams, team activities and other events that create connection. In addition, our strategies are complimented with the colleterial that Ross creates for our wellness journey, we have posters in our induction packs, office lunchrooms, shared spaces, and bathrooms, all guiding our people on how to support each other and the different support networks that exist.


Impact

It is without a doubt that Ross has encouraged the conversation around wellness and resilience and made Flight Centre truly a company that seeks to support and educate its people. Knowing that 84% of employees want to work for a company that supports wellness in the workplace I feel that his contribution has had a significant impact on our retention of our team which is currently at an all-time high. To hear our people sharing their challenges and successes openly in the workplace with their leaders support and encouragement is heartwarming. At a recent senior executive meeting one of Ross’s wellness meetings was facilitated by our MD and the conversation around wellness was openly discussed with vulnerability, this shows that the content that Ross has created is relevant to all our business and we have truly achieved a top-down approach to supporting mental wellness. To show the impact of Ross’s contribution to our wellness journey I asked one of our team who shared their story with #sharemystory for what Ross means to them. “What a Legend! Over the years Ross has helped me in so many ways and he truly has the biggest heart and passion for what he does. From healthy eating and ways to improve nutrition, to group fitness club in the car park for us at lunch times. But one of the best things he has helped me with is working hard on my mental health and wellness. Over the last 5 years he has impacted things in my life for the better, I am mentally stronger, healthier and a better person from the support, love and knowledge from Ross.” - Kylie Rutland Ross has consistently achieved 60 pc engagement with our people monthly showing these strategies are sustainable and scalable.


Inclusion

Ross constantly demonstrates his commitment to inclusion; he ensures that everyone in Flight Centre feels involved and heard, every post on workplace receives a personalised and genuine response from Ross. He has ensured that during a period where we have been unable to travel or have face to face connection due to cost restrictions that all content is available. He has reviewed and created updated content for wellness that can reach our whole workforce recognising that this would be important as we rebuilt and recovered. Through his passion for Te Reo Māori, getting involved and sharing his pepeha during Māori language week then coaching and encouraging others on constructing their own pepeha has shown us he continues to lead by example. A passionate supporter of Te Whare Tapa Whā in the workplace, always ensuring that we embrace this way of thinking in all our training programmes. When creating challenges or activities for Flight Centre Ross is constantly searching for variety, ensuring that everyone can get involved. Understanding that different levels of fitness or activities may be required for our large workforce. He has maintained a great relationship with our people as he guides them towards the healthiest version of themselves. Ross also helps to educate our people so that they can understand and support others on their wellness journey, this includes respecting and understanding mental illness, sharing the 5 ways of wellbeing weekly and educating on the different between sympathy and empathy. He has also volunteered his time to provide his time to run health seminars at the Halberg Games, show casing his learnings with families of young kids with a physical or visual impairment, so adapting his content to all age groups. I truly believe that Ross shows and leads the way towards inclusion in the workplace.


Innovation and creativity

Ross’s innovation and creativity is demonstrated every month as he creates the latest content for our Healthy Teams programme. Healthy teams was created at the start of Covid. Ross wanted to ensure our people nationally had access to content regardless of location. Each month Ross creates new content to share with our people in a 30min morning meeting, every business in Flight Centre is involved over a month and topics have included sleep health, gut health, nutrition, vitamins etc. The purpose is to educate the importance of self-care for better wellbeing. He has creatively come up with ways to deliver this content that is fun and engaging with things such as Kahoot used to keep people paying attention and learning. This idea has been so successful in New Zealand that Ross’s colleagues globally are now implementing this programme to create connection and conversation. In recent months Ross created 2 quizzes for our people, with QR codes able to be scanned while waiting for a lift or in a shared space. Our people can self-assess their “Perceived Stress” and “Exercise Personality” then once completed they are given further information to consider about their results and are individually followed up by Ross. #hourofempowerment and #shareyourstory are 2 other extremely strong examples of Ross’s ability to create and implement new strategies into Flight Centre already spoken about. In the past year Ross has worked to reduce the stigma of using a counsellor. Ross approached Benestar and worked with them to create content on change, when recorded into bite sized pieces and shared with our people, it allowed access to the content and an insight into the value of a trained counsellor. Ross continues to recreate and reimagine our content for our people, being fluid on the current challenges for our communities and workplace.


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Referee details

David Coombes, MD Flight Centre NZ (Flight Centre NZ)

021716138 • [email protected]


Key contact

Heidi Walker, GM People and Culture (Flight Centre New Zealand)

021775716 • [email protected]

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