Good health is essential for a better life 

Kimberly-Clark New Zealand may be a relatively small cog in the global company’s very big machine – but through a 20-year partnership with Southern Cross and a range of other initiatives, it’s doing more than its fair share to support its people’s health and wellbeing. What’s more, the investment is paying off, with dramatic reductions in sick leave.

Kimberly-Clark is the US$20 billion success story behind household brands such as Huggies®, Kleenex® and Viva®. Based in Texas, it employs around 43,000 staff in 37 countries, and sells products to more than 175 nations around the world.

The company’s New Zealand office, based in Manukau, is the anchor point for a tight-knit team of 50 that serves customers ranging from retail outlets to large corporate enterprises. It’s a busy, demanding operation that has little ‘wriggle room’ for slowed productivity – which is why, says General Manager Sharna Heinjus, employee safety, health and wellness is a major priority for the business.

Changing and growing with the times

Kimberly-Clark’s commitment to employee wellbeing stretches back more than 20 years, providing the essentials for a better life for all New Zealanders, to when it first partnered with Southern Cross in offering subsidised health insurance. The plans and people have inevitably changed in the years since then, but the fundamental philosophy has remained the same.

“We want to be confident that our employees and their families can most easily stay on top of their health,” says Sharna. “If they get sick we want to know they’re getting the best care available, so that they can return as quickly as possible to being well at home and at work.

“Ultimately we all benefit, because having a healthy, happy team means better performance and results for our organisation.”

The company’s health and wellness programme has expanded significantly in the past few years. As well as offering employees a suite of benefits through Southern Cross health insurance (and premium discounts for immediate family members), it:

  • funds staff memberships at a local gym
  • provides free flu vaccinations
  • supplies fresh fruit for snacks and access to smoothie-makers
  • arranges ergonomic testing for employees’ work and home workstations
  • ·offers employees and their families free counselling sessions
  • has introduced ‘summer hours’ in which employees can consolidate their workloads during the week and enjoy Friday afternoons off with family and friends
  • recently launched a ‘Pay & Benefits Expo’, at which staff can get a full understanding of the company’s wellness programme and benefits through meeting and talking directly with key wellness partners.

The company has also recently adopted Southern Cross’s ‘Let’s get a healthier mind’ engagement programme. Accessed online, it offers staff a variety of tools and resources to measure and improve their life satisfaction, sleep quality, brain activity and resilience – so they can go to work each day feeling refreshed and focused.

“As an online tool, the programme really suits our people’s working practices and preferences.  We have a diverse combination of arrangements including part time and flexible working patterns, remote office working and shift work” says Sharna. “It’s flexible, intuitive to use and can be accessed at times and places that suit their individual lives. We think it will be widely adopted by our team.”

Making good health easy

These qualities of ease and convenience are a hallmark of Southern Cross’s relationship with Kimberly-Clark New Zealand.

“We love the way Southern Cross makes everything so straightforward for our team, whether they’re signing up, lodging claims or getting medical treatment,” says Sharna.

“Many transactions can be completed online and when people need personal attention the service is super-quick, the processes are easy and intuitive to follow, and treatment is organised with minimal hassle and stress for both those needing it and their families.”

Administration Manager Shayleen Taylor couldn’t agree more - Southern Cross has had a key role in her battle with breast cancer.

“I’ve been through it all – mammograms, biopsies, a mastectomy and breast reconstruction and more recently chemotherapy,” she says. “Southern Cross has been amazing every step of the way, and not just in covering the costs, as well as offering me the luxury of private-hospital care.

“They’ve made it easy for my husband to manage the details and given me the freedom to focus on myself through what has been an incredibly traumatic time. I can’t describe what it’s like – all the information I’ve had to absorb and learn, the utter exhaustion of chemotherapy, and the long-lasting effects of the drugs. Even now I can’t remember what ‘normal’ feels like.”

Sharna says Southern Cross’s proactive support has proved just as effective for others in the company. “In helping to fund procedures such as breast screening (mammography) Southern Cross is also helping to detect illnesses early. As well as helping our employees it’s a huge benefit to our business, in terms of costs as well as operationally.” 

 

Delivering tangible results 

Sharna reports that Kimberly-Clark’s health insurance is proving a popular feature of the company’s staff recruitment and induction programmes, and in combination with the other elements of the wellness package has an important role in helping the team to get (and stay) fit and well.

“We’ve seen a notable impact on our sick leave rate too,” she says. “For example, between 2014 and 2015 we achieved a 30 per cent reduction in the average number of days taken off – which means our people are returning to work more quickly. We’re thrilled with this result; it’s a real testament to our programme and partners such as Southern Cross.”