Rising Through the Ranks at Mercury

When Caterina Berimballi began her role in the contact centre at Mercury four years ago, she had no idea that within a year she’d be promoted to Senior Customer Service Representative (CSR) and then, two years later, to Quality Administrator.

But that’s exactly what happened. And Caterina believes her fast-track through the customer service ranks was due in part to the on-the-job Mercury Contact Centre Career Pathway programme she took part in. A programme designed – in partnership with Skills – to upskill staff and provide them with a nationally accredited qualification.

“I was approached by my team leader who said I would be a great candidate for this programme,” says Caterina. “So I absolutely put up my hand. I was excited straight away.”

Pilot programme

Caterina was one of 23 people who took part in the pilot programme at Mercury in 2016. The programme has since been rolled out with around 15 staff members graduating each year.

As well as covering workflow management, and stress and time management, the qualification covers modules around health & safety, the Privacy and Commerce Act – all of which, Caterina says, are highly transferable skills.

“We were exposed to how your individual statistics, such as call and wait times , affect the wider contact centre,” she explains. “So you get a good understanding of the bigger picture. It’s not just a singular job. What you do impacts the team and impacts the contact centre.”

As well as adding to her own knowledge base, Caterina says that being able to earn while you learn, and be recognised for the complexity of your role, were extra benefits of taking part in the qualification.

New Directions

Her new role in Quality Administration means Caterina is now looking closely at interactions between customers and agents, and looking for ways to identify gaps in knowledge and areas where extra training could be required.

“Doing the qualification helps you gain a solid understanding and boosts your morale,” she says. “As you move along and start to understand things a little bit more, your communication gets better because you’re understanding the business better.”

Proud manager

Janet Tautaiolefua, who is the Manager of Training & Quality at Mercury, is immensely proud of Caterina and others in the contact centre team who have undergone the Mercury Contact Centre Career Pathway programme.

Janet and the team at Mercury, in partnership with Skills, designed the programme to help staff provide an even higher level of customer service through on-the-job training, and also to address issues of staff turnover.

“It’s been fantastic,” says Janet. “Of all our agents who have been through the programme, we have about 18 who, like Caterina, are continuing to develop their careers at Mercury. And they are working in all sorts of different roles – in Finance, ICT and Credit & Collections – so they have been able to show that they have the skills to do the job and really apply themselves. We were able to show the agents a real career pathway at Mercury.”

Future goals

For Mercury, the programme has been proven a real success – so much so, there are plans in place to put other on-the-job qualification opportunities in place in the future for other areas of the business.

“We have several business units that are keen to be part of it,” says Janet “They’ve seen the graduation ceremony, they’ve seen all the hype and they are wanting to look into a qualification for their staff.”

So all in all, Janet says the programme has been a real win-win.

“For Mercury, the best part about the alignment programme is that it is using what we already had running within the business,” says Janet. “For the employees, they are like ‘wow, I can actually work, earn and gain a qualification that is NZQA accredited – so I’m learning new skills and it’s fully funded’.”

Janet says some the agents may already have had qualifications from elsewhere “but they want to do this too, because they find it really meaningful”.

Caterina wholly agrees: “I needed that understanding of customer service and contact centre for me to jump across and do this new role. So this certification, and the learning opportunities at Mercury, have definitely helped with moving across to that.”

If you’re looking to find out how you can upskill your staff and help keep them engaged in the work they do, get in touch today. Skills are your partners on workforce development and can offer a range of solutions to meet your needs.

Call 0508 SKILLS (0508 754 557) to be put in touch with an account manager.


Induction alignment rewards Housing New Zealand staff

Housing New Zealand are actively looking for ways to recognise and reward the hard work of their residential property management teams. Having worked with Skills over a number of years, a conversation began on the best way to achieve this goal.

Skills carried out an analysis exercise of the tenancy management induction programme used by Housing New Zealand, and proposed that providing staff with a qualification would provide significant career development benefits.

The exercise looked at their existing processes, systems, and workplace training. Specific elements of the programme were then aligned to a national qualification. The system gave staff the opportunity to achieve the New Zealand Certificate in Residential Property Management (Level 4) as a part of their induction programme. It included practical skills such as resolving tenancy conflicts, establishing and maintaining relationships with tenants, professional management of a residential property rent roll and knowledge of key terms and acts relating to tenancies.

Because much of the programme involved recording naturally occurring evidence of tasks that the team were already doing in their roles, the programme had less impact on their day-to-day workload than if they’d done a qualification with an institution.

Key Outcomes:

  • Management has given feedback that staff have shown a lift in enthusiasm, increased ownership of their work as well as improved planning and scheduling.
  • Management noted that skills staff learned throughout the programme followed through into their everyday work and had a positive impact on performance.
  • Following the successful introduction of this programme in 2017, Housing New Zealand will be offering the opportunity for staff to undertake the qualification as part of a 2018 cohort.

“I felt proud of myself for doing the work. At the beginning it seemed like a huge mountain, but by the end it had gone from being Everest to being rolling hills. Thank you to my manager for investing in me.” – Lois Buchanan, Senior Tenancy Manager, Housing New Zealand

Feedback from graduates is that working together throughout the process made course completion easier and more enjoyable. Many staff commented that they were thankful to have the opportunity to develop career skills that could be used in both the public and private sectors in the future.

“I am so proud of the two from my team that took part. They showed outstanding commitment and have done so well with their achievement.” – Karen Hema, Area Manager, Housing NZ

Unique sales development programme leads to successful a partnership

Adecco New Zealand is part of The Adecco Group and is the world’s leading HR solutions partner. Globally they provide more than 700,000 people with permanent and flexible employment every day.

Their New Zealand based sales team were looking for a way to recognise the achievements of their staff through formal qualifications. They approached Skills to develop a unique method that would help inspire staff, improve sales performance and maintain high staff retention levels.

Skills designed a programme that would elevate staff capabilities, without drawing them away from their daily tasks for too long. Skills analysed the current responsibilities of the sales staff at Adecco, and then carefully aligned those requirements to a nationally recognised qualification that would best suit the sales team.

Key outcomes from the programme:

The first group of Adecco staff has now completed their National Certificate in Sales (Level 3) qualification and management has reported that:

  • Staff engagement has increased as a result of the programme designed by Skills, with team members actively volunteering to take part in further training.
  • Staff gave positive feedback on the process and were pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to learn while they worked.
  • Management believe that the programme will help to increase sales performance and maintain high retention numbers. They believe that those who have been through the qualification will likely become top performers.
  • Adecco is investigating further team development options through Skills as a result of this programme.

Industrial Operations Manager Libby Brazier couldn’t be happier with how the Sales (Level 3) qualification is improving the capability of her team: “From a management perspective, the best thing about the Skills [programme] is that we were able to upskill our people without taking them out of the business. By investing in the development of our people, we have created loyal employees who feel appreciated and valued. Our path with Skills has been a true partnership to deliver our goals and we look forward to growing our partnership in the future.”

“The Sales Certificate from Skills makes so much sense when you work in a sales driven environment. The methodology is customised and based on your actual work. It pushes you to perform better and think outside the box,” says Branch Manager Wytske Zijlmans.

If you’re looking to find out how you can upskill your staff and help keep them engaged in the work they do, get in touch today. Skills are your partners on workforce development and can offer a range of solutions to meet your needs. Call 0508 SKILLS (0508 754 557) to be put in touch with an account manager.

New Zealand’s one-stop infrastructure maintenance company gets a boost

City Care pride themselves on being the one-stop-shop for all of New Zealand’s property and infrastructure maintenance needs. In a bid to continue their success, and to build on it, they approached Skills and The New Zealand Institute of Management and Leadership (NZIML), based in Christchurch, to discuss leadership training.

As an organization which seamlessly provides services across a broad spectrum of industries – from road construction, to tree services, to asset management – it was important to develop bespoke training which suited City Care’s needs. This would also enable them to continue operating at a high level, ensuring New Zealand is kept maintained at its best.

City Care identified mid-level leaders as well as up-and-comers to take part. The aim was to provide meaningful qualifications that would make a real difference to their daily work, as well as providing an understanding of business operations – the bigger picture.

Skills worked closely with NZIML to achieve this. As an educational provider that crafts leadership learning for member organisations NZIML were the perfect partner. They are uniquely placed to provide individuals with the knowledge to advance them in their career while also servicing the needs of their organisation.

NZIML created a blend of their original Team Leader Series workshops and integrated the unit standard assessments from Skills to develop a unique programme, and incorporate the nationally recognised Level 4 Leadership qualification.

Three key learning outcomes of the programme were – know yourself as a leader, get the best from working with your team and enhance productivity and performance in the workplace. The programme was designed and facilitated by Therese La Porte, Learning and Development Manager at NZIML, and executed by Skills assessors. Therese said of the programme: “Participants not only engaged in new learning, they demonstrated savings and value back to the organisation. Their managers provided mentoring and support, which made it easy for participants to share their learning in a written report and a presentation to their cohort and senior management. There was a genuine value-add to City Care from the practical activities participants included to achieve their qualification”.

Marcus Waters City Care’s HR and OD Manager also commented on the programme, “Our supervisors are busy practical people, so it was important they could quickly see how the training would help them in their work situations. NZIML really supported our leaders to translate the learning into effective leadership skills”.

It was a programme praised for its effectiveness and value, as it was strongly connected with the work of those involved, who benefitted from skills and techniques they could immediately use.

A nationally recognised qualification developed by NZIML, Skills and City Care provided employees of City Care with a gratifying experience as well as the opportunity to become a highly qualified asset to their organisation.

Skills is proud to have been part of such a successful three-way partnership, and have no doubt that City Care will continue to thrive as a multi-faceted organisation, maintaining New Zealand’s roads, traffic, trees and more.

New qualifications mark a “sea of change” for regulatory practice

When 42 NZ Transport Agency staff graduated with a brand new qualification in regulatory practice recently, they marked the start of a wave of positive change that is transforming the government regulatory sector.

The qualifications are being facilitated by the Government Regulatory Practice Initiative, which was launched in response to a 2014 Productivity Commission report into regulatory institutions and practices. The goal of the initiative is to professionalise the regulatory workforce in New Zealand.

Skills consulted with 23 government agencies to create the qualifications, as well as a high-tech online Learning Management System (LMS), for a world first in regulatory compliance training. As a member of the initiative Skills is now promoting and enabling their uptake.

The first qualification off the line was the New Zealand Certificate in Regulatory Compliance (Core Knowledge) (Level 3), which provides a basis for understanding in this area. These were the certificates being presented to the NZ Transport Agency graduates.

It’s the start of a new world of regulatory capabilities across New Zealand. From customs officers, to maritime investigators, to traffic wardens, these qualifications will have a broad impact on society. One graduate in Wellington mentioned it has helped her to understand the impact that regulation has on members of the public, on top of the deeper awareness of her work at the NZ Transport Agency and its relevance. Another in Palmerston North praised the Learning Management System for making it very easy to study around other commitments.

The NZ Transport Agency became an early adopter as part of its wider strategy to achieve regulatory excellence. The qualifications assure the agency that its people meet national practice standards, and also provides them with sector-wide recognition of their skills and knowledge.

Incoming Director of Transport Access Delivery, Robert Brodnax, congratulated the graduates on their role in piloting the qualification and ushering in a new era.

They were the guinea pigs of a brand new qualification – one which continued to be tweaked as they were working through it. Sally Evers and Kharen Hope from Skills were there to see their hard work on it pay off. It wasn’t an easy task and all those involved – graduates, Skills staff, and others – were thanked for their patience.

Particular thanks came from Keith Manch, Chief Executive of Maritime NZ, and member of the Secretariat for the Government Regulatory Practice Initiative. “You are part of something bigger”, he said to the graduates in Wellington, “For the first time, we are seeing regulators considered as a profession in itself, leading to the creation of its own qualifications. We are witnessing a ‘sea change’ – maritime pun intended”

This was echoed by Judy Kavanagh at the Palmerston North event. Judy played an instrumental role in the Productivity Commission of New Zealand’s inquiry into Regulatory Institutions and Practices which started this process. She emphasised the need to have regulators recognised as professionals, which these qualifications are doing.

The Core Knowledge Certificate is the first of six new qualifications. The two Level 4 Qualifications, in operational knowledge and practice, are scheduled to be ready towards the end of 2017.

Despite holding very diverse roles, the NZ Transport Agency graduates worked together with a dedicated learner support person to ensure that everyone, without exception, achieved the Level 3 qualification – resulting in a 100% completion rate.

“It is with help from committed learner support people that Skills, and the whole initiative, can ensure these qualifications become a success across New Zealand” said Tony McKenna, Skills sector manager for Local Government who has led the government regulatory practice campaign on behalf of Skills.

These were the first of many graduations to come, he stressed, as the group of organisations who became early adopters of the first Level 3 qualification reach the end of their pilot programmes. It is the close of chapter one for the qualifications, but chapter two is soon to begin.

Find out more about Government Regulatory Practice Qualifications offered through Skills.

To get in touch with Tony McKenna and see how you or your organisation can become enrolled, either email him on tonym@skills.org.nz or call on 027 291 1259