The People Programme
Overview of this campaign
The objective of NZME’s Editorial Learning and Development programme is the care and evolution of our people.
Using a flexible, modern and personalised approach to training and mentoring, we aim to motivate, inspire and empower and to upskill editorial staff into a great variety of career options across our integrated digital-print-radio-video company.
Co-ordinated by a small team, strongly championed by senior editors and delivered mostly by our internal experts, the programme uses digital tools from Slack messaging to Zoom video meetings to offer short, engaging and effective training many times a week to 350-plus journalists in our newsrooms across New Zealand, plus longer immersive sessions such as full-day workshops, as well as one-on-one mentoring and coaching.
Five themes are covered:
- Journalism fundamentals;
- Technical skills for all of our platforms;
- Digital savvy (SEO, social media, analytics and understanding audience behaviour.);
- New forms of storytelling (podcasts, data journalism, animations and more);
- Leadership and personal skills ... including mental health and wellbeing.
That commitment to wellbeing was brought into sharp relief on March 15, 2019, when New Zealand was rocked by the Christchurch mosque attacks which killed 51 people and injured 49.
Our journalists found themselves covering a mass shooting the likes of which New Zealand had never seen. People from all parts of our operation needed help in working through the complex after-effects.
Trauma training is already a part of our wellbeing programme. Materials (such as a compelling video in which NZME journalists talk about their experiences) were developed using learnings from the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia. The important message conveyed in all of our trauma training is that, in our newsrooms, it’s safe and encouraged to speak up about mental wellbeing.
In the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks, managers received extra training on ways to support their teams and themselves - and how to have sensitive conversations about stress and trauma.
Our people programme was immediately expanded to add extra counselling within newsrooms - in addition to the employee assistance programme which is already available to all staff.
In the days after the attacks, plus regularly for the rest of the year and continuing into 2020, visits by counsellors for informal drop-in sessions have become a valued part of the way we care for our editorial teams.
The objective of the wellbeing section is to ensure our people feel prepared for the types of difficult situations they may encounter as part of their roles, equipped to notice signs of stress in themselves and others, and supported in raising concerns and working through any issues they may face.
Ultimately, we want our journalists to have long, productive and rewarding careers with NZME - and our People Programme is one way we can make that happen.
Results for this campaign
NZME’s L&D programme in 2019 delivered more than 1100 hours of workshops and training sessions across 26 newsrooms, plus untold hours of one-on-one coaching, mentoring and counselling.
In a reversal of recent trends, resignations in the reporting team dropped in 2019. (Our flagship newspaper, The New Zealand Herald, saw resignations by reporters in 2019 drop to just 50% of the 2018 level and 45% of 2017’s.)
Engagement remained healthy, with editorial departments scoring the engagement survey question “this organisation strongly supports learning and development” at up to 79% - 26% ahead of the Australia-New Zealand average for media companies.
That high score was recorded by the community newsrooms - some in remote parts of the country, with offices of just one to three journalists - indicating that the Zoom and Slack methods of training have enabled them to take part effectively.
Delivering mentoring in an informal and flexible way has also proved popular with younger staff. More than 50 mentors shared their expertise in 2019. Staff select a mentor and contact them direct via Slack or email, or request a mentor via organisers.
A comprehensive training programme also accompanied the launch in April of a paywall for nzherald.co.nz - a first in New Zealand for a major national news site. More than 300 editorial staff required training around strategy, quality requirements and technical aspects, and the launch was achieved seamlessly - meeting the full-year target for digital subscriptions within only six weeks.
A focus on journalistic quality contributed to strong results for the New Zealand Herald website and our stable of newspapers across readership, total audience and engagement measures.
And the additional counselling was received enthusiastically. As an extra to the employee assistance scheme already offered, the ease and informality of having counsellors on-site for drop-in sessions led to increased uptake.
The People Programme helped our teams to survive and thrive in a challenging year, and the scheme will continue to adapt to an ever-changing environment to ensure our people flourish and choose to remain with NZME.