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What happened when Griffin’s created a ‘Be Brave’ work culture?

16th December 2020

The Griffin's Food Company has been ‘New Zealand’s favourite biscuit maker’ for the past 150 years. Like many organisations, there was room for improvement when it came to worker engagement and retention – as well as safety.


Griffin's teamed up with workplace training consultancy Upskills, to embed a communication skills programme that would empower their workers to speak up and suggest better ways to work as a conduit to better safety. 

Here’s what happened:

The Be Brave programme

Site Manager, Craig Rooks, explained how the programme works. Over 20 weeks, groups of 10-12 workers make their way through the programme. 

“We like to get people from the same shifts to encourage teamwork and support,” he says. 

Depending on their role within the organisation, workers develop the leadership and communication skills they need to progress into higher-paid positions, or technical and people skills to help them become more confident in their jobs, especially with health and safety procedures.

Each group or individual will also complete a work-based project as part of the programme, and participants are assigned a mentor to help them work through their tasks. 

At the ten-week mark, the senior leadership team will sit in and listen to the experiences of workers and offer their support for projects on the go. 

“The success of this programme is impossible without our leaders encouraging people within the plant to participate,” Craig says. 

When they’ve completed the programme, the organisation celebrates. 

“It’s important that people feel valued,” he adds.


Win-win for workers and organisation

Craig explains they’ve experienced huge improvements right across the organisation:

Better understanding of work 

More workers understand health and safety procedures and documentation, like how to fill out an incident form if something happens, what the process is and what actions to take should they need to escalate an issue.

Less staff turnover

The company’s Papakura site had a relatively high staff turnover. For those workers who haven’t been through the Be Brave programme, staff turnover is 18%. Those who have upskilled reduced that rate to 5%.

Improved technical capabilities

This includes computer, maths and communications skills. 

“The focus isn’t on the answer, it’s how you get to that answer,” Craig adds.

Nearly 20% more internal promotions

Almost 20% of Be Brave participants have been promoted into leadership roles or have moved into different roles within the organisation. That includes workers who have moved into Griffin’s apprenticeship baking programme. 

10-20x more qualifications

The amount of people trained in food and beverage is 10-20x higher than it has been in the last five years so there are significantly more people with recognised qualifications. 

Increased staff engagement

A recent organisational-wide survey had a 75% engagement score – a much better result than previous communications. 

Empowered staff, better safety outcomes

The best outcome, Craig says, is that workers at all levels of the organisation now have the confidence to openly talk about safety and put in place actions to deal with those hazards, instead of “getting frustrated and not saying anything”.

For some people, that confidence extends beyond their work and is having an impact on their home life. 

Griffin’s machine operator and trainer, Nadia Kahui, says the Be Brave programme has helped her with her communication skills at work – and at home with her children. She enjoyed the practical aspect of the programme, helping to create a video tour of the factory, and how to put PPE gear on correctly.

Michelle Te Kanua has been with Griffin’s for over 14 years as an operator and trainer – and jumped at the chance to be part of the Be Brave programme. It’s helped her improve her maths skills “which was a very weak subject for me when I was younger,” and how to apply them on the factory floor. Gaining a better understanding of safety acronyms and procedures now means she can give valuable feedback.

“Anybody can fill out a piece of paper, tick the boxes, sign their name at the bottom. But are you filling it out correctly and do you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing?” Michelle says. “I’ve become very vocal about safety issues,” she laughs. 


Create work cultures conducive to speaking up

When employees feel comfortable to candidly voice their opinions, suggestions, and concerns, organisations perform better. But often workers will remain silent. Sometimes they lack the disposition to stand out, but often it’s because their work environment is not conducive to speaking out. 

If you want employees to speak up, your organisation needs to create a work culture that fosters empowered workers. Only then can you use worker engagement and participation as a conduit to better safety outcomes.

  1. Want to know more about how creating a better health and safety culture? View ecoPortal  smarter safety videos.  ecoPortal health and safety software can also help your business. Try a demo or get in touch with the team at ecoPortal.


Jacob Beullens_150px_compressed

Jacob Beullens

Content Marketing & Creative Specialist

Jacob is the Creative Specialist at ecoPortal - Australasia's leading health, safety, and risk  software. ecoPortal's intuitive reporting, management, and analytics technology have been developed to help organisations improve performance, engage people, reduce risk, and stay compliant.

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