He whakakaha ake te taha ki te ahurea me te āheitanga kia whakatutuki ake i ngā putanga pai ake Building a strong culture and capability to achieve our outcomes

Our People Strategy, He Korowai Manaaki, describes how we will develop our workforce so we can deliver to our purpose of helping New Zealanders to be safe, strong and independent. It sets out what we need to do to be successful in an ever-changing environment, how we might work in new and different ways, and what we want the experience of working and leading people at MSD to be like.

He Korowai Manaaki is about protecting and growing the capabilities we already have, and has four key threads:

  • Being client- and whānau-centred – we design our work, roles and organisation to deliver for our clients and whānau
  • Building capability – we have the capability to perform to our potential now and in the future
  • Leading for performance – our leaders develop and nurture people and teams to deliver high levels of performance
  • Providing a positive working experience – our people have an experience at work that enables them to reach their potential and to be included, safe and well.

Being client- and whānau-centred

He Korowai Manaaki is driven by our mission to help New Zealanders to be safe, strong and independent. Everything we do is centred on improving outcomes for our clients and whānau. We already work closely with our partners and stakeholders, and we are increasing our focus on intervening early, helping people back to work quickly, making it easier for our clients to do business with us, and meeting the complex needs of our clients through a deep understanding of these needs.

We want this way of working to become part of our organisational DNA. Putting clients and whānau at the centre of what we do ensures that they receive personalised, integrated and joined-up services that meet their needs and circumstances, and helps them to support themselves and their whānau.

He Korowai Manaaki is an enabling strategy that supports the aspirations articulated in Te Pae Tawhiti, Te Pae Tata and Pacific Prosperity. Our Future Services model, puts our client- and whānau-centred approach into operation. People-related activity to support this includes:

  • understanding and building the types of roles needed to support our service model and meet the needs of our clients and whānau
  • having organisational structures and roles that enable us to respond quickly to a rapidly changing environment and sudden, increased or changing demand
  • having the tools and capability to resolve client and whānau needs at the earliest point of engagement
  • providing intensive support for those with complex needs
  • working in an agile way to respond quickly to demand
  • partnering with others to deliver services on our behalf, if this delivers better outcomes for our clients and whānau
  • having flexible working and agile work practices enabling individuals and teams to adapt as needed and work to their strengths.

As part of becoming more client- and whānau-centred we have:

  • continued to develop an agile approach to prioritising and delivering work to provide services to clients and whānau
  • begun to develop a strategic workforce planning capability that is aligned to our delivery system, so we can forecast and respond to workforce demands better over the longer term
  • started the mahi on the Te Pae Tawhiti transformation programme to develop our Future Service Model, including the technology, data, information and business processes needed to deliver services to clients and whānau
  • initiated work to define a standard MSD approach to organisational design that reflects a client- and whānau-centred perspective.

Our training, development and qualifications programmes aim to equip our people to deliver an empathetic and effective service experience for our clients that aligns with our key strategic priorities. We continually adapt our learning curriculum so that new staff receive a consistent induction experience and ongoing training. This has been critical during the COVID-19 and post-COVID response as significant numbers of new staff have come on board.

Building capability

We have established a wide variety of capability development roles that have replaced site-based trainers, quality checkers and other on-the-job development resources to support the development of our client-facing workforce.

We are investing in our people leaders through building core skills and coaching capabilities. Our leadership programmes have been modernised, and in the COVID-19 recovery phase we are:

  • making more places available on these programmes
  • providing specialist development in areas such as mental health
  • building positive workplaces, unconscious bias awareness, agile leadership, and systems thinking.

Strengthening our cultural competency

We have a number of tools that our people can access for developing their cultural competency. These include:

  • our Māori Capability Framework, He Matapihi ki te ao Māori – the framework identifies four levels of capability and provides clarity around the knowledge and skills that underpin working in a bicultural way
  • an app, Kimihia , to support learning and awareness of te ao Māori
  • Te Rito – Enhancing Bicultural Awareness, a 14-module online programme exploring te ao Māori at an introductory level, focusing on tikanga, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, whakapapa and te reo
  • The Wall Walk®, an interactive workshop that provides an immersive experience to raise collective awareness of key events in the history of Aotearoa’s bicultural relations.

Embedding te ao Māori

We have started to embed te ao Māori into the fabric of our organisation. Our induction package for new staff includes an introduction to Te Pae Tawhiti, Te Pae Tata and MSD’s values - all of which are grounded in te ao Māori and Pacific Prosperity. He Korowai Manaaki also emphasises our commitment to Māori and a focus on developing cultural capability.


Te Whaihanga a Rua wānanga/educational sessions are available to our people who are working on advice for policy and proposals being submitted to decision-makers. Wānanga provide a positive and uplifting environment for education, action, reflection, growth and innovation. Our people are supported to work through ideas, solutions and complexities from a te ao Māori perspective with a focus on whānau, hapū and iwi development, and honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Leadership programmes for Māori and Pacific staff

Our Te Aratiatia leadership programme is available for the development of Māori and Pacific staff who demonstrate potential to become effective leaders within MSD. Our Te Aka Matua programme supports high-performing Māori and Pacific managers to gain a Masters level tertiary qualification.

Pacific staff fono

Three Pacific staff fono were held in June 2021 in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The fono support Pacific Prosperity and provide people with opportunities to celebrate their Pacific heritage through language, culture and identity at work and how they can contribute their cultural and community skills/knowledge at local, regional and national levels.

Employee training and reskilling

Increasing investment in employee training and reskilling is helping us prepare for the rapidly changing future of work.

COVID-19 has impacted on people development across MSD. We inducted over 700 new employees in 2020/21, but some learning and development was deferred to ensure that priority operational demands could be met. Now that the disruptions of COVID-19 on our capability programmes are being mitigated, we can prioritise critical training for new and existing employees. Although recorded training hours did not meet the target this year, we know that a large amount of on-the-job training takes place that is currently not recorded. 

Skills Pledge

We have committed to the Aotearoa New Zealand Skills Pledge, an initiative sponsored by the Prime Minister and the Business Advisory Council (BAC) in 2019 in response to the report of the BAC with consulting firm McKinsey and Company, A Future that Works: Harnessing Automation for a More Productive and Skilled New Zealand . Our commitment is to double our investment in reskilling and training hours by 2025, and to report annually on progress. This will help both our people and our organisation as we prepare for the rapidly changing future of work.

In 2020/21:

  • for all MSD employees the learning hours for the year averaged 4.0 days, against a target of 4.7 days
  • learning hours in the last quarter of the year (April to June 2021) averaged about nine hours per staff member (5,815 staff), up one hour from the March quarter
  • learning hours for managers in the June quarter averaged seven hours (786 managers), which remained static from the March quarter.

The way we develop our workforce is changing. Increasingly, people development is occurring ‘in the mahi’ and much of this has not been captured in our Skills Pledge reporting. As our approach to training evolves, our ability to capture this investment and outcomes also needs to adapt. We have a method of identifying this, and future Annual Reports will reflect these insights.

Leading for performance

We are focused on building capability by embedding a new pay and progression approach that sets out a consistent approach to development, pay and progression. We continue to recognise achievements and contributions and to engage regularly with our people. Managers provide constructive feedback, guidance and regular coaching and actively develop their teams to be high performing.

Te Ara Piki: a modernised staff pay and progression system

In 2020/21 we developed a new capability and development framework for our people, Te Ara Piki (the pathway ahead). Te ara piki is designed to grow the capability of our organisation so we can continue to deliver great work and adapt to the changes around us. Te Ara Piki was made ready for launch on 1 July 2021 to complete the rollout of our new pay and progression approach and for all our people in staff roles to grow and develop skills and to apply capabilities in our mahi.

Key features of Te Ara Piki

Te Ara Piki is a forward-looking employee-owned approach, that gives our people the opportunity to have ongoing and real-time discussions to develop capabilities that support our organisational priorities and values.


Our people own and lead the process, and managers create the environment where this can occur. People identify and propose their own objectives that contribute directly to MSD’s strategies, priorities and outcomes, and align to their career aspirations and capability needs.


People can set objectives that are aligned with their own near-term requirements and wider MSD priorities, outcomes and values.

Real-time feedback

Reflection and regular check-ins help to recognise progress, provide opportunities for feedback, celebrate work achievements, identify development needs, and enable discussion about supports that may be required.

Focus on demonstrating capability

To keep up with the changes around us, we need to learn, develop and adapt. Te ara piki allows our people to use their strengths and capabilities to deliver outcomes and contributions that support the direction and aspirations of MSD. Development and learning happens every day, sometimes formally with support from managers and others, but mostly ‘in the mahi’ through change, opportunity and learning from experiences.

Te Ara Piki is the culmination of almost three years of partnering work with the Public Service Association (PSA), and is based on four principles:

  • encouragement of fair recognition for all people
  • simplicity, flexibility and transparency
  • supporting our strategic direction
  • affordability, consistency, and evidence-based.

Implementing the new framework has allowed us to:

  • lift pay for lower-paid employees
  • implement step-based progression for people in all staff roles
  • provide consistency across staff groups
  • implement a modern, fit-for-purpose remuneration and performance system.

Leadership development

We established a guide to the centralised leadership learning and development opportunities at MSD, ensuring it was aligned with our organisational purpose, key strategies and values. Everyone at MSD is encouraged to actively participate in development conversations with their manager, and to take a proactive and planned approach to their learning, development and career.

All MSD staff are responsible for drafting and then implementing strong personal development plans with ongoing support and involvement from their manager. Specific development opportunities targeted at different levels of leaders are set out for managers to access (depending on their particular needs, from emerging leaders and induction to senior organisational leaders). 

Addressing bias and discrimination

This year we introduced training for our people and managers on identifying and managing unconscious bias. This training complements our existing learning programmes, which support our people to provide client services that are grounded in empathy and respect, including:

  • Lives Like Mine – encouraging staff to recognise the importance of empathy, self-awareness and reflection to support client outcomes and interactions with colleagues
  • Mindset – developing understanding of, and skills to overcome, bias, and how to develop a growth mindset to support clients
  • Recognising Diversity – raising contact centre staff awareness of the effect of assumptions and distractions on effective communication
  • Rethinking Mental Health – supporting people to effectively engage with clients who have mental health conditions, and to explore how to support clients to achieve better outcomes in their lives
  • Mental Health 101 – building staff confidence in recognising, relating to and responding to people experiencing mental illness
  • Strengthening Service Culture – on-the-job learning through team activities, focusing on body language, empathy and understanding of clients’ issues.


  1. Kimihia allows employees to engage with Māori cultural knowledge and build awareness of key Māori concepts, values and practices.

  2. See https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/digital-disruption/harnessing-automation-for-a-future-that-works