People and Culture
Thousands of people from a range of disciplines, different backgrounds and from around the world united under the SCIRT umbrella into a high-performance "team of teams" to deliver its massive programme of work.
3:37am 22nd November 2017
- A Case Study by Resilient Organisatons: Creating an Environment that Delivers High Performance
- A case study was carried out by research and consulting group Resilient Organisations on what made SCIRT an effective organisation, based on an interview with Duncan Gibb (founding Executive General Manager, SCIRT), Belinda de Zwart (HR and Peak Performance Manager), and Rod Cameron (Value Manager). It focused on how SCIRT had been intentionally shaped and refined to create an environment that delivered high performance amid uncertainty from continuing earthquake aftershocks, and in post-disaster recovery. A key lesson from SCIRT was that an organisation's culture didn't just emerge - it was a function of the way the organisation was designed, and the values and behaviours that the organisation continually enabled and reinforced. Creating the right environment within an organisation needed to feature in every decision.
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- Creating the SCIRT Culture
Observers attributed much of SCIRT's success to the culture that created a unique environment and experience for team members, which, in turn, resulted in outstanding outcomes for the people of Christchurch.
Five fundamental principles were woven into the fabric of the SCIRT culture:
- The role of human resources at SCIRT;
- "Spirit over ego";
- Intentionally creating a culture;
- The culture of an organisation affecting outside groups;
- Achieving the right tensions to enable innovation and high performance possibilities.
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- Developing a Civil Trade Qualification
SCIRT's Training Centre worked closely with Civil Contractors New Zealand (CCNZ), Connexis (the Industry Training Organisation (ITO) for the Civil Infrastructure industry) and other industry leaders to develop a Civil Trade certification.
At the time of the Canterbury earthquakes the civil infrastructure industry did not have an industry-wide, transferable trade qualification, unlike the plumbing, building and electrical industries.
SCIRT recruited a Project Manager who was seconded to Connexis, The Project Manager and Connexis worked closely with CCNZ and mobilised the SCIRT Board's experience, advice and input to develop an apprenticeship system and a civil trade certification.
In December 2015 the Civil Trade Certification was launched in Parliament's Grand Hall. 15 people from throughout New Zealand were awarded a trade certification, having been through the Record of Current Competency (RCC) process that SCIRT helped Connexis to develop. Of this group, four had worked for SCIRT.
- Industry Training Organisation (ITO)
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- Operational Workforce Gap
To resource the SCIRT infrastructure rebuild programme, an additional 600 operational workers were needed.
To find these workers and to get them up to speed, SCIRT's HR and Training Teams developed a three-pronged tactical approach:
- Off-job pre-employment training, using local training providers;
- A targeted recruitment campaign, offering a clear benefit to get involved in the industry;
- Creating a SCIRT Training Centre.
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- Peak Performance Coaching at SCIRT
- An integral enabler of SCIRT's capability and culture was the use of peak performance coaches. SCIRT's first Peak Performance Plan identified a primary aim of "delivering high performance and resilience in an environment of uncertainty". To facilitate this, its secondary objective was to introduce New Zealand-based coaching to the civil construction industry. Prior to SCIRT, there were no New Zealand-based executive-level coaches in existence who had alliance experience. SCIRT's aim was to change this situation. Over five and a half years, SCIRT engaged more than eight coaching organisations in its peak performance activities. Key ones were (in alphabetical order): Alchimie, CareerBalance, Creative Spirit, Elevate Coaching, JMW, Leadership Lab, Moira Mallon Ltd, and Vital Futures. This is unusual in alliance coaching as usually one supplier provides all coaching throughout the project duration. To read more about SCIRT's approach to peak performance and lessons learnt, please refer to the documents below.
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- Positive Influence: Training Advisory Group
SCIRT, Civil Contractors New Zealand and Connexis drove the creation of an industry-wide Training Advisory Group.
In early 2013, SCIRT's Training Team established a SCIRT-wide Training Forum Group.
It was made up of a wide range of skilled operational leaders, who, as Mason Tolerton, SCIRT's training and peak performance manager, described, knew "what good looks like, in both infrastructure work and how to train a crew to do it".
The group proved invaluable to the ongoing development and improvement of qualifications suited to the civil infrastructure industry. As qualifications were developed, these experts took them to workers on-site, to quickly review and provide feedback to Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) on their practicality and usefulness. The forum also gave SCIRT trainers feedback about risks and needs for on-job training and short courses.
The Training Forum Group ceased in 2015, as people moved on to other companies and roles and the SCIRT training programme was intentionally wound down.
Through the success of this group, and SCIRT's involvement in the development of a civil trade certification (see story about Civil Trade Certification), the power and benefits of industry-wide advisory group involvement in qualification development were highlighted.
SCIRT was uniquely placed to speed up and improve qualification creation, as it spoke with a shared voice about the needs of the industry.
As SCIRT's training programme wound down, SCIRT's Training Team wasn't able to provide as much support to Connexis and other ITOs.
Tolerton realised that when SCIRT came to an end, there would be no organisation to provide support or input from a nationwide, industry-wide perspective to the wide range of organisations interested in delivering infrastructure or safety training in New Zealand.
In mid-2016, Tolerton and the chairman and president of Civil Contractors New Zealand discussed the need to hold a meeting with a range of industry representatives.
In July 2016, Tolerton and SCIRT executive general manager Ian Campbell, along with representatives of medium-sized civil contracting businesses, the president and chief executive of Civil Contractors New Zealand and the CEO of Connexis, held a meeting to discuss the elements of a training advisory group, and create an outline.
Civil Contractors New Zealand and Connexis took this proposal to their annual national body meeting. At that meeting, there was endorsement of the need to have an industry-wide Training Advisory Group that could speak on behalf of the civil construction industry to ITOs (and other organisations with a desire to improve and benefit industry-wide training).
The Training Advisory Group would aim to benefit workers in the civil infrastructure industry by improving training, through ensuring consistency of approach, via industry alignment and collaboration. The group would have a mix of safety specialists, learning and development and training professionals, operational practitioners, and people with influence within civil contracting companies (senior operations managers or similar). If information or advice were needed by training organisations about the latest methods, and it was not immediately available within the training group, those people would be able to get the information.
Additional information about the Training Advisory Group can be obtained by contacting Civil Contractors New Zealand.
- Involve the right people: Tertiary-qualified people often aren't the best individuals to provide feedback on qualification development because they're removed from what is happening on-site ("what good looks like"), whereas skilled site supervisors and crew leaders are.
- Get support from the top: SCIRT's Training Forum Group lost its effectiveness when long-serving operational people left for other roles. Having the support of industry leaders and managers who understand and believe in the long-term benefits of training can help to mitigate the loss of team members.
- Focus on training, not assessment: It is easy to default to assessment rather than training. Industry is in the best position to advocate for this.
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- Resourcing and Capability
More than 2000 people from over 100 organisations joined forces under the SCIRT umbrella at the post-earthquake peak of the rebuild. Hundreds of people came and went, bringing innovation and tenacity to an enormous task.
With a wrecked cityscape, broken pipes, twisted roads and bent bridges, the horizontal infrastructure rebuild took five and a half years - more than double the usual lifespan of a civil infrastructure project.
Under the alliance arrangement, many were chosen to complete a particular job, while others came for the experience, before moving on to a higher-level role or being head-hunted because of their upskilling.
SCIRT was a "virtual organisation", so no one was directly employed by the entity. Instead, frameworks and initiatives were established that enabled people to participate, contribute and grow in a structured way.
- Integrated Services Team (IST)
- SCIRT Women in Construction (SWIC)
- Resource Coordination Group (RCG)
- Non-owner participant (NOP)
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- SCIRT Memento Book
- A powerful photographic montage captured the SCIRT journey in a special memento book for staff. All of the hundreds of people who contributed to the remarkable achievements of SCIRT received a copy of the book to celebrate and acknowledge their dedication to a long and tough task, rebuilding Christchurch's horizontal infrastructure. A PDF version of the book is available below.
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- SCIRT Training Centre
In January 2012 a capability analysis identified the SCIRT programme needed 600 more operational team members than were available locally. This raised a significant programme risk of having a workforce with many new entrants and under-skilled resources.
The risk was presented to the SCIRT Board, along with a proposal to establish a SCIRT Training Centre as a mitigation measure. The proposal also aligned with the Alliance Objective of "purposefully lifting the capability of the sector-wide workforce". The Board agreed to the proposal, and the Training Centre was established, staffed by Workplace Trainers and led by a Training Manager.
The Centre was initially resourced with two Workplace Trainers, but as the programme ramped up and Delivery Teams and subcontractors recognised the value of training, six trainers were engaged. Trainers were chosen for their patience, credibility (minimum of 10 years' industry experience - the average was 30 years), skill at influencing and marketing themselves (they had to be able to prove the benefit of taking operators away from work for training), ability to identify and adapt for people with learning problems (46% of the industry are numeracy and literacy challenged), and ability to learn and grow as a trainer (e.g. conducting fair and impartial assessment, providing constructive feedback).
Priority was given to on-site training, because studies have found that individuals obtain 70 per cent of their knowledge from on the job experiences, 20 per cent from interactions with others and only 10 per cent from formal classroom training. SCIRT Trainers routinely delivered sessions to teams on site off the back of a ute with a television and generator. Classroom based training was also delivered, but always with a practical element included. Training was always modified to ensure it was fit for purpose. One example of this was how SCIRT tailored the industry-wide Site Safe course to make it applicable to the civil infrastructure industry, with regard to risks and delivery.
Some of the achievements of SCIRT's Training Team:
- More than 7400 attendees at SCIRT short courses, including Site Safe, Safety Observer (spotter), Cable Location and Slinging and Lifting.
- Development of trade certification pathways in partnership with national industry training organisations, from Level 2 to Level 4. This included the creation of a Civil Trade Qualification (see story about Civil Trade Certification for more information).
- More than 50 Level 4 Crew Leadership Qualification completions.
- At times up to 24 per cent of the operational workforce were engaged in National Certificate training - the industry average is only 6 per cent.
- More than 160 people completed National Certificates, and at least twice that started National Certificate training before moving on to other organisations or careers.
- Creation of an industry Training Advisory Group, which was made up of skilled superintendents and training professionals from organisations spanning the industry. This group continued SCIRT's legacy of understanding the industry as a whole and will continue to advocate for and develop training appropriate and current to the industry (see story about Training Advisory Group for more information).
- The recruitment and use of a Traffic Management Trainer who worked on site upskilling traffic management team members in order to increase their competency and safety on site.
- The Training centre grew the training capability of the Civil Construction industry by having more than twelve trainers with industry experience. These trainers all undertook NZQA 4098 - assess unit standards training and many completed a NZQA National Certificate in Adult Education Level Four.
- Tailor training to the trainees (SCIRT's operational team started work at 6.30am and weren't used to long periods of classroom training).
- Do on the job training (on site), so trainees can apply their training immediately and site supervisors are happy as time off work for training is kept to a minimum.
- Deliver crew leadership training early on in a rebuild programme, rather than at the mid-point so that the benefits can be realised sooner and a mentoring programme developed amongst crew leaders.
- Rotate trainers every 9-12 months, to keep training fresh and to incorporate up-to-date knowledge and technologies into training. This would also upskill the crew leadership workforce to become trainers and site leaders.
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- SCIRT and Red Cross Collaboration
Wanting to create a better environment for the residents of an earthquake-hit city, the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT) and the New Zealand Red Cross (NZRC) joined forces to identify opportunities for project collaboration.
Post-quake, SCIRT and NZRC shared a purpose-built office in pursuit of a shared goal of aiding the recovery of the city and the multiple communities left traumatised. Co-working helped lead to the realisation of those goals.
Utilising the strengths and skills of an engineering entity and a humanitarian organisation, a "design thinking" workshop in February 2015 focused on collaborative opportunities that could be trialled. Concepts were identified, prototyped and refined.
For further information, see the attachments below.
- NZRC - New Zealand Red Cross
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- Women in Construction
- A SCIRT Women in Construction (SWIC) working group was established to raise the visibility of women working in operational roles. Research commissioned in Canterbury in May 2013 found there was an untapped pool of women labour, of which half had not considered rebuild positions (such as civil construction) because they were seen as "jobs for men". In response to this, a SCIRT Women in Construction (SWIC) working group was established to "Raise the visibility and enable women working in construction across the SCIRT programme." In one year, the success of SWIC was such that it resulted in the doubling of women in crew roles at SCIRT - from 6% of the workforce in 2014 to 12% in 2015. In 2016, with the support of the SCIRT board and the National Association for Women in Construction (NAWIC), SWIC approached industry organisations with the intention of exploring ways to maintain momentum despite SCIRT winding down. In December 2016, a national working group was established under the banner of Civil Contractors New Zealand (CCNZ). It aimed: "To raise the visibility and enable women in civil contracting in New Zealand." For additional information about SWIC's activities and successes, please see the attachments below.
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