This is a photo of me and Alison Kreviazuk, doing television commentary at the 2017 World Curling Championship. TV sports commentary is not my day job - it is something I do part time.
My employer (Belong) knows that I occasionally get asked to do TV sports commentary, and are totally supportive in making that possible for me to do.
For me, that’s a big part of what work/life balance is. Even though I’m unlikely to become a full-time sports commentator, the opportunity to do this part-time has become a big part of what fulfils me as a person. The fact that my employer is so supportive of this pursuit generates enormous positives in terms of how I think about my employer. Belong, even though we a small company, really walks the talk on work/life balance. I would run through brick walls for Belong as a result.
Work/life balance is an intensely personal thing, and it can mean very different things to different people. For some, it can mean flexibility around working hours, so they can manage child care.
For others, it can mean latitude to pursue something of personal interest. For some, it can be policies promoting family time or personal well-being.
What is absolutely undeniable is that work/life balance is the number one benefit sought by job seekers world-wide.
Research clearly backs this up. Seek Australia interviewed 4000 Australian and New Zealand job seekers. 35% cited ‘work/life balance’ as the most important factor when choosing a company to works for.
I just read a really interesting piece of research from Universum – the ‘World’s Most Attractive Employers 2017’ study. They surveyed over 290,000 university students in 12 countries. ‘Work/Life Balance’ came out on top as the most desired characteristic in relation to choosing an employer. 51% of your future employees named this as the most important thing they are looking for.
But that Universum research also had another really interesting insight in it. Students are also beginning to lean away from very large employers – as they believe that it will be harder to make a difference.
In my view, this is all very good news for small and medium size businesses. They now have some really strong cards to play as employers. There is no reason at all why a 15 person company can’t be the most attractive employer in the world!
While SMEs may struggle to compete with corporates and multinationals in terms of things like base salary and employer-funded perks and benefits, they can absolutely compete – and win - in terms of offering work/life balance to their employees. The great news is that smaller businesses are often in a much better position to deliver this to their employees than larger businesses.
SMEs can often be far more flexible than big companies in terms of working hours and time off arrangements. They can rally quickly behind worthy causes and community initiatives. They can make quick decisions. And because the teams are smaller, everything is very visible to the whole team, which reduces the risk of water-cooler whispers of uneven or unfair treatment of one person versus another. They can offer choice more easily to their people, as they are less likely to be encumbered by monolithic ‘employee engagement programs’ and practices.
In other words, they are very well placed to treat people like the individuals they are.
It is important however that smaller businesses learn to communicate this very valuable benefit to prospective candidates. Younger employees will form their opinions of you based on what they see on social media. If you tell genuine stories about your people, and how you support them to make a difference, you’ll start to compete with the corporates who can afford to visit university campuses and front at job fairs.
So even though salary will always enter the decision equation, remember that your prospective employee often values work/life balance, and the opportunity to make a difference, much more highly than the salary number. Don’t take the lazy way out and just have ‘a salary negotiation’. Take the time to understand the interests and aspirations of your people, look for ways you could support them, and all of a sudden the salary discussion becomes less of a barrier.
Employers who can offer choice and flexibility to their people, and who support them in achieving their life goals, will win the war for talent. It’s much more important to people than you think! I’m happy to be working for a company that truly believes in helping employees achieve their hopes and dreams.
So SMEs – take heart. You don’t have to outspend the Megacorps of the work in order to become the most attractive employer in the world. Just tell your story well about how you can help your people achieve all of their hopes and dreams – not just the work-related ones! You will be pleasantly surprised at how your team responds.
Looking at things differently than everyone else can really pay off.
In Auckland today, we are celebrating the amazing America’s Cup win of Team New Zealand. As Hannibal Smith on the “A-Team” used to say – “I love it when a plan comes together”.
Emirates Team New Zealand chose the daring, different path to victory. CEO Grant Dalton set the tone for the campaign early by saying "Let's just throw the ball as far away as we can this time and try and get to it".
That meant challenging everything they ‘knew’ about sailing, in an effort to create improvement.
They bravely challenged conventional wisdom. Sailboats have always used a system of winches and pulleys to adjust sails. To move them, someone standing up turned winches using arm power. In the latest America’s Cup, these winch grinders have powered sophisticated hydraulic systems.
Team New Zealand were brave enough to think very differently about this problem. Their designers knew that leg power could generate more force than arm power. Why not replace arm-powered winches with leg-powered cycles? The Kiwis showed up with a boat with 4 guys pedaling instead of 4 guys turning traditional winches. They turned Olympic cyclists into sailors, realizing that the crucial task was the ability to generate power forcefully and constantly.
Their opponents and sailing traditionalists ridiculed the radical approach. “That’s not sailing!” “They won’t be able to keep it stable – they’ll fall out of the boat” “It looks ridiculous!”.
Until they saw how the New Zealand boat could manoeuvre with the additional power. All of a sudden it wasn’t so ridiculous.
Team New Zealand also looked at the makeup of the team, and realised that this was a young person’s event. Helmsman Peter Burling is 26, and the rest of the crew except for skipper Glen Ashby about the same age. They knew this America's Cup was as much an athletic and reflex contest as it was a tactical sailing race for the ‘old salts’. So they committed to a young crew, but surrounded them with coaches and mentors who could help them learn and improve.
When all of the other competitors went to the competition venue to train, they stayed in New Zealand, training on their own. They sacrificed the opportunity to compare their setup with others, and get some race practice, to hone their own skills in private.
Finally, they were the only competitor that did not sign a pre-agreement that would have set the rules and basis for future America’s Cups in advance. Instead, they preferred to stick with the traditional America’s Cup path, where the winner of the Cup broadly decides the rules for the next defence. This set them at odds with the other competitors, and cast them as a ‘lone wolf’ at the completion.
The result? Comprehensive victory. The America’s Cup is coming back to New Zealand. We are looking forward to welcoming the team home at the victory parade next week.
Looking at things differently can have benefits in business as well.
Our business, Belong, looks at employee benefits a very different way. We are super-focussed on the ‘whole of life’ needs of the employee. The employee is at the heart of what we do.
This contrasts with the usual employer-focussed approach, where the employer fully dictates the things they want their people to have.
Many companies offering benefits to their people offer the same thing to everyone in the name of fairness. This is nice, but while some part of the workforce might really value a subsidised gym membership, other parts of the workforce don’t find that attractive at all, and would much rather get support to learn a new skill. I call this ‘one size fits none’.
Most companies are also really unaware of the ‘outside of work’ skills and interests of their people. We think this is a real opportunity for companies to both value and support their people’s ‘work/life balance’ – but also to think differently about personal development.
Instead of sending people on courses – why not encourage the development of those same skills through supporting personal activities? If James in accounts is showing promise as a budding project manager, and you’re aware that he’s part of a fundraising project for his sports club, why not support him with advice and support on that project?
We believe that if we do a great job of meeting the employee’s needs at work and also at home, that employees will be happier, and they’ll appreciate their employer more. We also believe that giving the employer better insights into the kinds of things that their people are interested in will allow them to be better employers.
The story of breakthrough success almost always involves looking at something differently, and having the courage to commit to a new way of doing things.
Will this result in the same kind of success for us as it has for Team New Zealand? Time will tell – but the history of innovation tells us that looking at a problem differently is an important ingredient for ultimate success. We’re loving being in the race!
Belong is hiring! We are on the lookout for an amazing and energetic person to join our Auckland-based team as our Customer and Merchant Success Manager.
You'll be in the middle of all the action. You'll ensure our customers and merchants have a great experience with Belong. You'll come up with better ways to do things, and be empowered to put that into practice.
You have deep customer empathy - and can bring that empathy to our two main customer types (HR leaders at companies, and business owners of merchants/service providers). You'll instinctively know the day to day challenges they face, and how we can help their businesses prosper with Belong.
You'll be really comfortable around technology - maybe you're even a closet coder. This is important, as we leverage technology to help us deliver great service, and you'll be expected to know how to wield our support and customer communication tools (Intercom, Mailchimp, join.me and HubSpot) and bend them to your will.
You'll be a polished writer - whether it is communicating directly with customers in live chat, or writing great support material. You're also comfortable giving presentations or webinars, to help people get the most out of Belong.
You're probably on your second or third job, with a track record of making great things happen for customers. You're pretty good at dealing with change, because you're usually the one putting improvements in place. You've got a good sense of humour, like working in a team, and you're open to learning and also to teaching.
You'll be joining a small, experienced, friendly team with big plans and ambitions. We're New Zealand-based now, but we'll soon be operating in Australia as well. This is a great ground-floor opportunity - make it your next career step.
Find our more about us at www.belong.nz, our LinkedIn page, or on Facebook. Apply with your CV and cover note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hans recently did a podcast interview with our good friends at Xero. He talks about Belong, and some of the other weird things he's done over the years.
Here's a link to the podcast.
Auckland, March 6 2017
Have you been looking for a better way to recognize and reward individuals and teams in your business? Then Belong's new Reward Targeting feature may be exactly what you are looking for. Reward targeting is available now to Belong customers.
Here's how it works:
Belong, (www.belong.nz) New Zealand’s most dynamic employee rewards platform, has given their customers even more value with the launch of smartphone apps for iOS and Android.
“Our new mobile app lets customers select great offers wherever they are” said Hans Frauenlob of Belong. “If they’re out with friends or family and want to choose and use an offer on the go, they can do that right on their phone in seconds. It is easy and convenient – another reason for Belong members to love their work.”
The new app compliments the existing Belong web portal, which allows companies and their employees to manage their staff benefits and group insurance on an easy to use online platform. When combined with great retail and financial offers curated by Belong, customers get an instant and affordable upgrade to their employee rewards program.
"Customers can be up and running in minutes..."
“Customers can be up and running in minutes” said Frauenlob. If a company decides they’d like a better employee benefits platform with Belong in the morning, their team can be enjoying Belong that afternoon”.
Belong Employee Rewards is now available to companies throughout New Zealand.
Hans Frauenlob is head of operations at Belong. Contact him at email@example.com.
We've passed an early milestone for us with our 100th merchant location. We love our merchants, and so do our customers. A steady flow of new merchants and great new offers is one if the things our customers love about Belong.
We recently held a event for our customers and merchants. In addition to enjoying food, cake, and great conversation, they got to meet our whole team.
We gave a sneak preview of our new smartphone app - and it's safe to say that people are looking forward to using it.
We held the event at Doolan Brothers Newmarket - they are, of course, a Belong Merchant themselves!
Here are some pictures from the night... hope to see you at our next event!
Are you attending the NZ HR Conference and Expo? It's in Welly on Aug 24 and 25, and Belong will be there. Ping us if you want to meet up! Spoiler alert: You'll be able to get Belong in Welly very soon!
Belong, New Zealand's most dynamic employee benefits platform, launched today in Auckland.
When customers join Belong, (www.belong.nz) their staff become Belong Members. Belong Members get access to a constantly updated stream of great deals and special offers from Belong Merchants. Customers can also add their own company benefits information to Belong - so their team can see all of their work-related benefit information in one place.
"The customer response to Belong has been fantastic" said Belong CEO Greg Woolley. "HR managers see that Belong delivers a really affordable, easy to roll out improvement to their existing benefit offering. They love that we do all the legwork to arrange great offers that are updated all the time. They also love the ability to easily manage their own benefits schemes in Belong."
Response from merchants has also been excellent. "We have over 50 merchants with us today, and we're adding more daily" said Belong Sales Director Nick O'Neill. "Businesses understand that Belong lets them showcase themselves to companies and their staff in a whole new way".
Belong is now available to customers in Auckland, and will be rolling out across New Zealand in the coming weeks.