NZRU in top 10 places to work     10 Apr 2006

The NZRU was ranked 10th in the Best Small Workplaces category. Below is the article on the NZRU from the March 2006 edition of the magazine.

It’s hard to see how the New Zealand Rugby Union could have failed to rank as a Best Place to Work in this year’s survey. Everyone loves a winner and this outfit must have morale to burn after a stunning 2005 year in which the All Blacks stampeded through the Tri Nations and Grand Slam tournaments, and trounced both the Aussies and the Lions. And then to cap it all off, it got New Zealand the 2011 World Cup.

But as deputy CEO Steve Tew points out, most of these victories weren’t known to staff when they filled out the Unlimited/JRA Best Places to Work in New Zealand Survey 2005 questionnaire mid-year. Yet the organisation still managed — for the first time — to make the cut, coming in at number ten in the small employer category.

Syd Duflou, who works as PA for the provincial rugby unions, struggles to put her finger on exactly what makes the NZRU such a good place to work: a great bunch of colleagues who often get together socially; a relatively flat management structure where everyone is accessible; clearly articulated common objectives; regular updates that keep her up to date with how well the organisation is progressing towards those objectives — all these things play a part.

The end result is that she’s so committed to the place that even on her wedding day she put time aside for work. “It was the day the World Cup decision was to be announced, so I set my alarm for 4.30am and came in to work, then I went and got married!”

Similarly, player management advisor Cameron Good points to a smorgasbord of positives: a lively environment full of extroverts; cross-functional teams which produce superior results and allow him to get exposure to a range of different talents and skills; and the project-based nature of the work which contrasts with the six-minute time management background he was accustomed to in his previous career in law and accounting.

Tew says recruiting the right people for the goldfish bowl-like environment of the NZRU (“we have to be more squeaky-clean than government”) is a key part of the organisation’s success. “Some people are better equipped to deal with that constant scrutiny than others, so we’re very deliberate about asking questions about that before we employ someone.”

Constant feedback and communication is another core tenet. Staff meetings are held monthly, often after a board meeting so that management can report back. Often there will also be a presentation about some aspect of the business — for instance, at one recent meeting there was a special session aimed at giving staff an insight into the winning bid for the World Cup.

“It’s about making sure people know what’s going on, and not feeling like they are missing out on some part of the business,” says Tew. “Very clear priorities are set down from board level, so everyone knows where everyone is going, and how it will be measured … It’s a medium- to long-term investment in a whole lot of initiatives.”

Sounds like creating a winning workplace is as multi-faceted a task as creating a winning rugby team.