Putting people first

You might expect a sawmilling and timber processing operation to be all about rugged blokes, big trucks and noisy machinery. But Northpine has an edge all of its own – a workplace philosophy centred on supporting its employees to be healthy, happy and fulfilled, at work and at home.

The story goes that one day a visitor to Northpine’s Waipu (Northland) headquarters saw something he didn’t expect – one of the company’s employees dancing enthusiastically around a truck. It turned out that it’s a not uncommon sight, because dancing and other fun stuff are a big part of the company culture.

Established 17 years ago, Northpine is a timber sawmilling and processing operation that produces structural timber, decking material and other products for merchants in the North Island and wholesalers in Australia. It’s proudly independently owned and operated, and deeply committed to creating an environment where people love to work. Supporting this commitment is a diverse range of ‘wellness’ initiatives for its 50-plus staff, including Southern Cross health insurance.

An investment in employee health and wellbeing

Southern Cross health insurance has been part of Northpine’s employment package since the early days – a reflection of the management team’s own experiences with health insurance, as well as their personal commitment to employee health and wellbeing. The insurance has become a key part of the company’s strategy for attracting and retaining staff, in an industry and a region where it can be difficult to find people with the aptitude and attitude it looks for.

Northpine has chosen the Southern Cross Wellbeing One plan, which provides broad cover for diagnostic tests, surgical treatment and specialist consultations. Full-time employees qualify when they’ve been with the company for six months.

“Its big advantage is that our people don’t need to be on medical waiting lists,” says Human Resources Manager Gaylene Wilson. “They get the treatment they need and get back to work quickly. It’s also a good way to reward them for their loyalty to the business.”

Gaylene comments that the support provided by Southern Cross has been a key part of the scheme’s success.

“We have a dedicated Southern Cross account manager who understands our business and who we contact whenever a new employee qualifies for the insurance,” she says. “He/she come to our site, sit down with the person and explain how it works. It’s very valuable for our younger people, who often don’t ‘get’ why it’s such a good idea.”

“Southern Cross is also great to deal with, and any claims are always handled very smoothly.”

 Part of a bigger ‘wellness’ picture

Southern Cross is one tool in Northpine’s extensive arsenal of health and wellness initiatives, which complement an industry training programme that earned the company the title of Training Company/Contractor of the Year in the 2016 Northland Forestry Awards.

“Southern Cross does a great job in looking after our people’s health, while our training and other initiatives help to boost their skills, morale, and mental and emotional wellbeing,” says Gaylene. She cites four examples:

  • Northpine has adopted and embraces the principles of two internationally successful organisational development programmes, ‘The FISH! Philosophy’ and ‘Gung Ho!’. These focus on creating a strong teamwork culture in which employees are inspired, motivated and engaged in their work and their workplace.
  • Every member of staff spends 1.5 hours a month with a professional life coach, who supports them in addressing personal and professional issues and being the people they want to be, at work and at home.
  • The company regularly hosts ‘workshops’ with invited experts, covering matters as diverse as violence prevention and prostate cancer.
  • Employees are encouraged to make fun an integral part of their working day; this includes responding to random ‘dares’ to dance around their trucks!

Southern Cross also supports Northpine’s wellness programme, turning up recently with a pile of fresh fruit and one of its ‘smoothie bikes’ – a stationary bike with a blender attached that can only be switched on with pedal power.

“We put it in the dry shed and everyone had a great time making their smoothies,” says Gaylene. “It was fantastic to see some of them emptying their Coke bottles to make room for a much healthier alternative!”