5-Star Employer of Choice 2022

Winning the war for talent

New Zealand’s HR industry has faced a turbulent 12 months amidst the Great Resignation, the war for talent, and ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. In this challenging environment, companies are re-evaluating their employee offerings to ensure they are retaining their best talent for the long term.

The beginning of 2022 was tough as Auckland emerged from a prolonged lockdown period and with restrictions in place as the country dealt with its first Omicron wave. But with the border re-opening and New Zealand moving into the Orange setting under the COVID-19 Protection Framework, employers are now fully focused on optimising the employee experience, taking all of their learnings from the last three years and applying them to their benefits programs, HR policies, and overall strategy.

The HRD New Zealand 5-Star Employer of Choice survey gave Kiwi employers the chance to showcase their progress and demonstrate their leadership in areas such as health and wellbeing, remuneration, benefits and recruitment. This year’s submissions showed an overwhelming focus on training and developing long-term career pathways for employees, the goal being to grow a strong pipeline of internal talent. Employees across the board were also boosting their benefits programs and rewards schemes, recognising that employees are now looking for the best value proposition – and that they are more than willing to head out the door if another company has a better offering.

“We were focused on the retention of our people and attracting the best talent that we could, and we understand that remuneration is a key component of that”
Kristill Loxton, Flight Centre Travel Group 


Rewards begin with remuneration

Employers have worked hard to boost their rewards programs over the last year, but rewards won’t go far in attracting talent if companies don’t get the basics right.

In 2021, there was an increase in the number of companies looking for benchmarking insights on salary, and once the tough pay cuts of 2020 were over, employers were keen to ensure that their staff were happy with their compensation. Many of HRD’s 5-Star Employers of Choice this year increased the base salary for all their employees in 2021, and others launched share options for long-serving staff.

Kristill Loxton, general manager of people and culture at Flight Centre Travel Group, says that receiving benchmarking insights has been a valuable tool, which resulted in remuneration increases for many of the company’s employees.

“In November 2019, we started working with Ernst & Young on reviewing our remuneration models against other companies and benchmarking how we compared,” Loxton says.

“We were focused on the retention of our people and attracting the best talent that we could, and we understand that remuneration is a key component of that.”

She says that Flight Centre Travel Group was progressing well with this project when COVID-19 hit, and although the work was paused, the company re-engaged with EY to continue the project in 2021.

“The first real application of our work was used in the modelling of the wage proposals that were presented and implemented in 2021 across our sales teams in corporate and retail, ensuring that these packages were in line with the market,” says Loxton.

Gabrielle Cook, National People and Culture Manager at Gallagher Basset, says that remuneration is a key component of talent retention after the difficult year of 2020, and that a competitive salary offering is “critical” to both new and prospective staff.

“Following a couple of difficult years in which business performance and COVID-19 dictated our annual salary review, we were thrilled to reward our people with a salary increase in the last year,” Wei says.

“At the beginning of the year, it was a priority of our budgeting process to ensure that this remained available and on track for our people. Our robust performance-driven culture process ensured that our people understood how their performance relates to how they are rewarded with the review. Our salary review process also enabled market correction and key talent retention.”

“Through regular employee-led one-on-ones,
we always start with what is going well and the successes
that they’ve had”

Kiri Clark, SUB60 Couriers 


A boost in rewards structures  

As employers compete for new talent entering the market, rewards structures have become one of the biggest differentiators. Hybrid working is now the norm, and the days of ping-pong tables and office snacks being listed as ‘perks’ are over. Instead, employers are turning to health and wellbeing, annual leave and monetary rewards to keep their employees incentivised, and many have also introduced peer-to-peer recognition as a tool for connection and engagement.

All of the 5-Star Employers of Choice have boosted their rewards structures over the last 12 months, with many having offered on-off cash bonuses and other financial rewards to the employees who had been with them throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Kiri Clark, brand and culture manager at SUB60 Couriers, says that celebrating successes is also an important rewards tool, particularly in the challenging environment of the pandemic.

“We want our people to focus on things they do well,” Clark says.

“Through regular employee-led one-on-ones, we always start with what is going well and the successes that they’ve had. Whether that’s a significant win, or as simple as finishing a task quicker because they are more confident, every success is important.

“The key is to recognise and celebrate all successes no matter how big or small,” Clark says.

In 2021, SUB60 Couriers launched its MVP of the Year award in each of the company’s branches. The winner is voted on anonymously, and the award program was very well received by the staff.

Across the winning companies, monthly and yearly recognition awards were a common theme. The Warehouse Group introduced a 12-day recognition campaign during the Christmas period, and strategic HR business partner Siena Goldwater noted that most team members also received cash bonuses and team incentives to achieve targets.

“In August 2021, all permanent team members were rewarded with a one-off bonus to show how proud they were of the work performed by all team members during the last year of navigating COVID-19,” Goldwater says.

“At TWG, our focus is on creating a values-driven, performance-focused culture across our teams. As such, we are constantly looking for examples of what good looks like across our core values: #ThinkCustomer; #OwnIt and #DoGood.”

“We want our organisation to be made up of highly engaged and long-tenure employees”
Kate James, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners New Zealand


Future-proofing through leadership

As employers look towards the coming year, the focus is increasingly shifting towards leadership and recruitment, and on creating a strong pipeline of leadership talent. Most of this year’s 5-Star Employers of Choice promoted a significant number of employees, and gave preference to internal hires and career development when looking to fill a new role.

Zurich New Zealand senior manager for talent development and diversity Vanessa Town highlighted her company’s commitment to internal promotion and noted that employees have access to a raft of international opportunities, along with academic development and global networking.

“All Zurich employees are required to complete an Individual Development Plan, which includes identifying areas of strength, weakness and aspirations,” Town says.

“During the past 10 years, Zurich NZ has seen numerous employees receive international promotions to New York, Australia, and the UK. Through their Individual Development Plan, employees are asked to outline if their career progression goals include international transfer.”

Leadership development programs were also a recurring theme among the winners, and most employers offered the chance to upskill, re-skill across different areas of the business, or train for a leadership role.

“We want our organisation to be made up of highly engaged and long-tenure employees,” says Kate James, head of organisational development Coca-Cola Europacific Partners New Zealand.

“We offer our employees bespoke and needs-based coaching, and a female personal development programme aimed at empowering and unlocking the potential of women across the business. We encourage our managers to have meaningful conversations with their team, and to support their career progression in a tailored and personalised way.”

This year’s Employers of Choice clearly show that New Zealand companies have pulled out all the stops to attract and retain their best employees in a difficult period. 

5-Star Employer of Choice

500+ employees

  • Air New Zealand
  • Countdown (Woolworths NZ)
  • Fonterra
  • Kiwibank
  • Ministry for Primary Industries
  • Southern Cross Health Society
  • Spark
  • Xero


100-499 employees

  • Flight Centre Travel Group
  • Gallagher Bassett


1-99 employees

  • Zurich New Zealand


In January 2022, the call went out for submissions for HRD’s Employer of Choice awards. Organisations of all sizes and across all industries in New Zealand were encouraged to participate. Nominees were judged on the basis of their achievements and initiatives across a range of areas, including leadership, learning and development, wellbeing, flexibility, diversity and inclusion, work-life balance, and recruitment. These areas represent the core facets of HR, as well as the new challenges facing employers as a result of the pandemic.

The review board considered both qualitative and quantitative data, such as engagement survey results, average employee tenure, and turnover rate. This year, 18 companies have been commended for their achievements and selected as Employers of Choice.


6.7 years average staff tenure  
15.3% average employee turnover rate
75.5% average employee engagement score