In the 2019 Humankind Employee Experience Awards, Overland Footwear were announced as the winner of the Medium-Large Category (151-500 employees). In conversation with Erin O’Brien, people and culture manager at Overland Foot, Apparel Magazine learned about what it means to nurture employees and encourage workplace positivity.

“We have a big culture of learning and growing our people,” said O’Brien. “We put in a lot of work in all levels of the organisation to make sure people are progressing and growing to their potential.”

The awards recognise New Zealand’s best places to work and highlight key workplace ideas like purpose, wellbeing, technology and doing more with less. The other winners included Lysaght Consultants, who won the Small Workplace Category (20-50 employees), Cake Commercial Services taking out the Small to Medium Category (51-150 employees), and Xero, winning the Large Category (500 plus employees).

“The results are effectively driven by all the people,” said O’Brien. “It’s always an honour to be recognised for the work we do.”

Overland’s employee-centric culture was apparent in the initiatives that O’Brien described occur in their workspace. She said that they celebrate as often as possible. And importantly, they make sure that their values are kept alive and celebrated daily and weekly. On a day-to-day basis, O’Brien said that people can nominate each other if they are seen to be living and breathing for our values.

Part of Overland’s thriving workplace environment comes from the investment it entrusts with its staff. O’Brien said that 78 percent of Overland’s roles are filled internally, so there is a big focus on growing people. If someone joins Overland as a part-timer, they know that they will be given the tools, resources and time to progress up a career path.

Entrepreneurial founder of Overland Group, Shane Anselmi, encourages innovative ways of keeping the working day exciting. “He’s got that lovely ability to inspire people to come up with different ways of doing and trying things,” said O’Brien. “We are all challenged to ask what we can do better. In that way, people feel like they can make their role their own.”

Personally, O’Brien was attracted to the fact that in her role, she can assist in helping people to love their job. She said that people should look forward to going to work. “You spend more time at work than at home, so you should absolutely love what you do.” Additionally, the fast-paced nature of retail is something that O’Brien was excited to work around.

Retail can be a tough industry to retain happy and productive staff. O’Brien said that although it can be hard, Overland is more holistic than just ‘sell, sell, sell’.

“Our learning culture and career progression opportunities are also attractive and provide an added incentive for staff.”

O’Brien noted that Overland is also well aware of the challenges of engaging a millennial workforce who are looking for purpose and ethics. She said that they take time to constantly learn and grow so that they can keep up with how to tap into that generation and keep them interested.

O’Brien is relatively new in her role, something that has not slowed her down from getting stuck into bettering the company. “It’s a cool opportunity to come into a business with an incredible foundation that is doing amazing things,” said O’Brien.

“It’s also a real challenge to not only maintain things but to do things better, and I’m constantly asking myself what fresh ideas can I bring to the table, or what new technology is out there that I can look into and provide different tools.”

Moving forward, O’Brien said she would like to discover more ways in which technology can further improve opportunities for employees.