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The Guardians of NZ Superannuation’s commitment to building a strong, diverse and inclusive team with a constructive culture has been recognised by organisational development experts Human Synergistics (HSNZ).

The Guardians received HSNZ’s Nga Kākano and Te Huringa awards at HSNZ’s annual conference, held in Auckland yesterday.

Guardians GM Human Resources Mika Austin says the awards are particularly satisfying, as they reflect the lived experience of an organisation’s own people, rather than being measured against abstract criteria.

“The right culture for an organisation is not imposed by management, nor can it be developed by copying others,” says Ms Austin.

“We know the quality of our work, and the decisions we make, are based on the quality of our culture. That is why it is crucial to continually invest in the process, and to ensure connection with our values, vision and purpose.”

Ms Austin says the Guardians has been through a huge cultural shift over the past decade, which involved a lot of work by the whole organisation.

“Continuous cultural improvement needs everyone to be open to change, which is a massive commitment,” says Ms Austin.

“But committing to that process is ultimately the best way to ensure that good people will continue to want to come to the Guardians and help us to achieve our objectives, which in turn is the only way we can continue to deliver long-term benefits for all New Zealanders.”

The structure of the HSNZ awards follows a model developed by New Zealand scholar and anthropologist Tā Hirini Moko Mead (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Tūhourangi), which used four stages of biological growth to represent the development of Māori art and society.

HSNZ’s Justine Farrington says the four stages, Ngā Kākano (seeds), Te Tipunga (growth), Te Puāwaitanga (flowering), and Te Huringa (turning) are also an ideal metaphor for the development and transformation of an organisation’s culture.

“The Guardians is an excellent example of an organisation where awareness and acceptance of the importance of culture has led to action, which in turn has generated positive outcomes, and ultimately created a lasting transformation,” says Ms Farrington.

“And in the same way a plant contains the seeds of future generations, an organisation’s cultural transformation can create a starting point for continuous renewal.”