"Wake-up call" for company leaders

Staff turnover slashed in wake of wellbeing initiatives.

Wellington-based Thankyou Payroll, winners of the Wayfinder Small Business Award, are a role model of how to look after staff. This award is for a business with less than 100 people that embraces a people-first approach to creating a healthier workplace and thriving because of it.

When Nicole Kennedy started at Thankyou Payroll as a People Experience Manager in early 2023, she was burnt out and anxious.

The mum of three young children was struggling to keep her head above water while juggling work and home demands.  And yet a year on in her new job, she is relaxed, fulfilled, and pinches herself every day at getting paid for doing what she loves.

This turnaround is due in large part to the attitude of her employer and the healthy workplace culture it has engendered. “I can do great things at work but also at home too as a mum and a wife,” Kennedy says.

While Thankyou Payroll’s most recent culture survey had 96 per cent of employees agreeing a healthy workplace culture is a top priority, things weren’t always so good. Just two years ago in 2021, staff turnover at the payroll software provider exceeded 28 per cent and employees were experiencing a noticeable increase in mental health challenges in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This was a wake-up call for the leadership team, who decided to implement a raft of wellbeing measures. The result: It’s 28 staff now enjoy a raft of generous benefits including five weeks of annual leave, fully subsidised health insurance* and inflation-adjusted pay increases.

But its approach goes far beyond the basics; it too covers mental, emotional, and environmental wellbeing. To this end, Thankyou Payroll gives staff 20 days of leave for mental and physical wellbeing and an annual wellness allowance of $400 which they can spend on things like gym memberships, ergonomic chairs and sports gear. It has also invested in Mental Health First Aid accreditation for nine staff members, including the senior leadership team.

And to help reduce emissions, the company pays employees for their public transport to and from the office and gives them access to interest-free loans to buy e-bikes.

Registered Psychologist, Moira Howson from Worklife Psychology says:

The provision of interest free loans to buy e-bikes and covering staff’s public transport costs are promoting sustainable behaviours that help reduce individual carbon footprints and engage in green behaviours. This may align with values of staff, reduce their individual travel costs (and therefore financial stress) and may help mitigate climate change anxiety.


  • Keep track of the organisation’s carbon footprint shift as staff transition to public transport and e-bikes
  • Find out any barriers to uptake, for example, secure parking for e-bikes and work with the staff to overcome.

The implementation of these generous wellbeing measures has paid off. Staff turnover has dropped to 12 per cent and the latest staff survey shows 96 per cent of staff would recommend Thankyou Payroll as a great place to work with 100 per cent of them being proud to work there.

One staff member commented in the survey: “Employee benefits are truly remarkable and something I always mention to others when I talk about how great TYP (Thankyou Payroll) is. The fact that this is the same for all staff is incredible, and clearly demonstrates that TYP does not discriminate against part-time staff (many of whom are women who work part-time while still fulfilling their family commitments at home). Not only do the benefits make a huge difference financially, they also truly foster health and wellbeing.”

Another wrote: “The culture is amazing, and it makes me want to do my job.”

Kennedy says these positive vibes have flowed on to the company’s 7000 small-business customers, with a recent surge in five-star Google reviews.

“If you look after your employees, they are going to give better service and build better products. That philosophy is part of the investment you make to create better businesses.”

One (anonymous) customer review reads: “The best payroll company I've dealt with - and we've been through four since I started here but are unlikely to be changing again. The system is easy to use and flexible for our employees and contractors. I've found Thankyou Payroll staff to be knowledgeable, helpful, and patient with resolving both annoying esoteric payroll questions and should-have-been-blindingly-obvious human errors.”

Kennedy says prioritising staff wellbeing doesn’t have to cost the world. It can be implemented in measures that don’t cost anything such as flexible working.

A little kindness can go a long way, too. She recalls a full-on day of meetings with the leadership team when, at the start of the last meeting, Chief Executive David Morrison told the team: “You know what it’s been a long day - let’s get ice cream,” and off they went across the street to the dairy.

“I remember thinking: ‘What a great company.’ It was a small gesture, but it made me feel valued.”

Mental Health Foundation Chief Executive Shaun Robinson, an award judge, says: Thankyou Payroll was “absolutely a standout” because they made wellbeing a core feature of their whole strategy.

“One of the things I really liked is that they try to influence their customers around wellbeing, and they see themselves as a role model.”

*Thankyou Payroll subsidises the Southern Cross Health Insurance Wellbeing One plan for its employees.

This article was first published in New Zealand Herald.

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Southern Cross Health Insurance Wayfinder Awards