The Top Employers in New Zealand and Australia - 2021

Date: 09 Feb 2022

Author: Jemini team

2021 really has been a year like no other and during the COVID pandemic, businesses and their leaders were forced to learn and make changes in months what normally takes decades. It has been a time where the predominant focus on profit was replaced with a new sensibility of culture, care and compassion. Leaders and employees alike found themselves in the same boat; locked down at home and forced to juggle multiple roles. People quickly adapted to new roles; as home-based teachers for their children. Meanwhile, the evolution of the workplace was astronomically accelerated with people across sectors swapping their daily commute for a new schedule of Zoom, Teams and Webex calls.

During this time, the differences between organisations that look after their people (and those that don’t), were laid bare leading to thousands of people quitting their jobs, in what became known as ‘the great resignation’. Separation from friends, colleagues and family became the new normal leading many people left isolated and suffering from anxiety and other mental health issues.

Meanwhile, leaders have been spouting rhetoric about CSR and purpose for a number of years now. It sounds good in an annual report and gave companies a way to claim a higher purpose than just profit. Many non-believers accused organisations of ‘purpose washing’ as a means to gather positive PR and reputation. One thing we can say for sure, recent events were the pivotal moment for leaders to practice what they preach. So how did they do? Well, as the COVID-19 crisis continues and new variants continue to be announced, many businesses are not just surviving but actually thriving whilst keeping their people happy, safe and highly engaged.

So how have these extraordinary times impacted the way we define the best AU and NZ workplaces in 2021?

There are multiple organisations who rank the best employers around the world. One of those is ‘Great Place to Work’ who are a world authority on workplace culture. To date they have surveyed more than 100 million employees around the world and each year, over 10,000 organisations work with ‘Great Place to Work’ to benchmark the quality of their workplace against their peers. The output of these annual surveys has enabled the creation of deep and meaningful insights as what it means to be a ‘top employer’ and a great place to work. In 2021, their research represents the views of over 50,000 employees in Australia. Meanwhile, for New Zealand, it’s worth looking at the research conducted by Human Resources Director magazine, who make an annual review of the ‘employers of choice.’ Before we reveal the employers who came out on top, we’ll dig down into what makes a great workplace and what it means to be ‘an employer of choice’.

What does it mean to be a ‘top employer’ or a ‘a great workplace’?

According to Samantha Huddle, General Manager, Great Place to Work for Australia and New Zealand, “the best companies are those that have clarity on their values and can lean on them when they need to. The best care about their communities and their people. They trust their people. In this year’s best companies list, it was the companies with purpose that did best of all.”

So what is meant by organisational purpose add how does this add to the employment experience?

The term ‘purpose’ is often over-used and for this reason is often mis-understood. These days everything claims to be purpose-driven or purpose-led. There’s purpose-driven soap. Purpose-driven cosmetics. Even purpose driven ice-cream. So what does it mean in the workplace?

Purpose is ‘why’ people come to work — not what they actually do when they’re there. It’s about giving people a sense of meaningful mission about what they are accomplishing each day over and above their immediate tasks or revenue generating activities.

“It’s more than a mission statement or list of values. Instead it speaks to the heart of the goals an organisation is striving to achieve. It must be meaningful, heartfelt and lived throughout the organisation," Samatha Huddle — Great Place to Work Australia/NZ

According to McKinsey, purpose-led organisations have reflected deeply on what they stand for and how this manifests daily in terms of how employees are empowered to make decisions and also the very product and service strategy that the company adopts.

In Great Place to Work’s 2021 rankings for Australia, the top employers have an explicit purpose over and above their day-to-day line of business. Cisco aims to make the world more inclusive. Pharmaceutical giant AbbVie seeks to cure humanity’s most complex diseases and Atlassian (famous for Jira and Trello) aims to unlock the power of teamwork. Meanwhile in New Zealand, SMB accounting software trailblazer Xero focuses its purpose on “helping small businesses thrive worldwide”.

If we look at the data from the 50,000 employees surveyed in Australia in 2021, there was a measure that was extraordinarily correlated between the highest ranking employers. Respondents are asked the question “My work has a special meaning — this is not just a job.” Of the companies that made the Best Workplaces listing, on average 87% agreed with this statement. It does vary slightly between the size of companies where you ask this question. In Small companies, the figure goes up to 91%, whilst in large companies, 81% of employees in ‘best employer’ ranked companies agreed with this statement.

All the insights you need to become an employee engagement champion

Download now!

The link between trust and the best employers in 2021

Given recent events, trust has taken on an even more greater level of importance. During COVID-19, peoples’ lives hung together by a thread. The straw that threatened to break the camel’s back was the vulnerability of people’s jobs and livelihoods. Great Place to Work’s research shows that the link between top employers and high levels of employee trust is unequivocal. According to them, the organisations most likely to have reported a positive workplace experience are those that were led with conviction and intent — where people trusted their leaders and their personal development was prioritised.

Aussies outranked the world where it came to two critical measures of trust.

Employees were asked “I believe management would lay people off only as a last resort. In Australia 91% of people agreed with this statement compared with 82% for the rest of the world. 90% of respondents at Australia’s top workplaces agreed with the statement “people are encouraged to balance their work life and personal life” compared with 81% for the rest of the world. It’s great to see Australia over-indexing on these critical measures.

Top Workplaces — the importance of giving back and bold acts of leadership

The thing that appears to make the top employers in Australia and New Zealand stand head and shoulders apart from their more ‘ordinary’ counterparts is the extraordinary steps leaders have taken to protect and support their employees — as well as supporting communities and causes outside of the workforce. Here’s some of the bold acts that stood out amongst the best workplaces:

1. AbbVie — Pharmaceuticals
AbbVie undertook a pay gap analysis and found a small pay gap of 7.5%. Following this they signed up to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s pay equality pledge. This analyses and measures their talent management data, including pay by gender. This move has set expectations among the different line managers so that they address gender bias in their decision making.

2. BlueRock — Professional Services
BlueRock is a professional services company headquartered in Melbourne. As well as ranking as one of Australia’s best workplaces, the company is one of the country’s fastest growing, with a place on the coveted Fast 100. BlueRock is also a certified B Corporation. The company established the BlueRock foundation to give individuals and organisations a cost-effective and tax-effective way way to establish their own sub-fund, so they can distribute donations to charities of their choice. The scheme is endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office — and to put its money where its mouth is, BlueRock made a founding donation of $50,000 to the foundation. Employees can donate tax free each month if they choose, via salary sacrifice.

3. 4 Pines Brewing Company
Based on the northern beaches of Sydney, the 4 Pines brewing company is a member of 1% for the Planet. This means that it donates 1% of the revenue from its core ranges to a number of different not-for-profit organisations involved with different environmental activities. In 2020, the brewery partnered with Landcare Australia, Take 3 for the Sea and Organic Matters to launch a sustainable agriculture scheme for growing brewing hops in a more planet-friendly way.

Does giving back make business sense?

Does giving back actually bring business benefits? Research shows that employees who feel that their employer is making a positive impact in the world are 11x more likely to remain loyal over the long term. They are also 14x more likely to say that they enjoy coming to work each day.

Therefore, there is an incredible, undeniable benefit to adding this as a powerful driver of employee engagement.

The rise of the B Corporation

There’s been a global rise in organisations seeking B corporation certification and status. So what’s all the fuss about then? The origins of the B movement start in Philadelphia where a non-profit org called ‘The B Lab’ wanted to create a ‘corporate structure’ and type of incorporation that would be a match for organisations that want to do much more than just create profits. What would a company structure look like for people who want to benefit society and the planet? The B Corporation was born and a certification scheme was launched that verifies that companies meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance. To date there’s over 4000 B-Corporations around the world and more and more of them are starting to be seen in New Zealand and Australia.

“Certified B-Corporations are a new kind of business that balance purpose and profit.” - Andrew Davies, CEO of B Lab Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

If you take the time to do a search online, you’ll find that some of Australia and New Zealand’s best workplaces have taken the steps to become accredited as B Corporations.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the top employers in 2021

New Zealand

The NZ ranking comes from Human Resources Director Magazine (HRD, New Zealand) that has been compiling a list of “Best Workplaces” for three years. In February 2021, the call went out for submissions for their Employers of Choice Awards. Entries were scored on the companies’ achievements and initiatives across a range of areas including leadership, learning and development, wellbeing, flexibility, diversity and inclusion, work-life, balance and recruitment. The judging panel took into consideration both qualitative and quantitative data, such as engagement survey results, average employee tenure and turnover rate.

So why did Coca-Cola Euro-pacific partners take the top spot in New Zealand?

Coca-Cola Euro-pacific partners (formerly Coca-Cola Amatil) is one of the biggest drinks bottlers in the world. If you live in NZ, you’ve probably drank their beverages hundreds of times. So what makes it a great place to work? The company offers competitive renumeration and rewards based on performance. There’s group wide insurance and employees benefit from up to 8% in matched Super/KiwiSaver contributions. The judging panel at HRD commended the firm for empowering its people and the way it enhances engagement and diversity through its flexible working policy. The company created a ‘work from anywhere’ guide that gives employees tips on how to keep themselves physically and mentally well when working from alternative locations. So what else did they do? During the pandemic in 2020, the company kept all staff employed, paid 100% of wages and repaid the $7.2m wage subsidy in full. According to the company — it’s a strong supporter to the community through the Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park, Youthline, Good2Great and the Coca-Cola foundation, which has provided Sea Cleaners with $300k in funding every year since 2018.

To learn more about the different companies that made the list in 2021, click HERE

  1. Coca-Cola Europacific Partners New Zealand
  2. OCG Consulting
  3. SUB60 Couriers
  4. AA New Zealand
  5. AbbView New Zealand
  6. CFS Finance
  7. Chorus
  8. Christchurch International Airport
  9. Clorox New Zealand
  10. Constellation Brands
  11. Crombie Lockwood
  12. Domain Name Commission
  13. DUAL New Zealand
  14. Gallagher Bassett
  15. Livestock Improvement Corporation
  16. Ravensdown Ltd

Adapted from Human Resources Director Magazine - Employers of Choice 2021


The Australian ranking comes from Great Place to Work’s 2021 Best Workplaces report. You can request a full copy HERE.

Cisco Australia took the overall top spot in the large organisations category. We take a closer look at what got them there:

Cisco’s goal of making work more human has never been so important as during a global pandemic.

As more people work from home, isolated from their peers and mentors and reliant on technology for connection and productivity, it is critically important that the workplace evolves to be more about community than place.

Cisco leverages its cutting-edge technology to keep employees engaged and informed. A monthly TV-talk- show is a vital channel for communication with a live chat function allowing people to voice questions and concerns and discuss.

But the community at Cisco is about more than work for work’s sake. A giving program with an extraordinary target of helping 1 billion people worldwide ties Cisco’s people to critical developing world issues of access to food, water and shelter as well as solving developed world problems like education, career skills and financial self-sufficiency. And Cisco’s driving ‘Conscious Culture’ initiative connects its people to purpose. The initiative seeks to create a diverse and inclusive culture where individual employees actively monitor, listen and protect each other.

We recognise that at all levels of the company, our representation of minority groups was lower than our self-imposed targets. We want to close the gap — but more than that, we want to address the root causes that allow the gap to exist,” says Shamila Wickramage, human resources manager at Cisco Systems Australia/ New Zealand.

Cisco benefits from a high profile, socially conscious, outspoken global CEO in Chuck Robbins.

A pivotal moment for the firm came as Robbins hosted renowned social advocate Bryan Stevenson in late 2019 for a conversation about race and inequality broadcast to employees around the planet.

The Q&A portion of the event generated a powerful conversation within Cisco about Stevenson’s concept of proximity – deliberately getting closer to suffering to better understand people’s actual lived experience. This helped Cisco codify a set of social justice beliefs and commitments to action that aim to drive behaviour throughout the global company.

Its our calling to ensure that communities on the margins experience a world that is just, where they are valued, validated and empowered,” says Wickramage.

This is supported by the firm’s commitment to its people — the ‘People Deal’.

Our people expect the resources and support they need to succeed. And so equipped, we ask them to take bold risks, innovate and collaborate, always with each other and our customers in mind,” says Wickramage.

The success of the strategy is evident in Cisco’s survey results. An employee comment puts it best:

“I thank my stars daily for giving me an opportunity to be a part of this incredible company and I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

Top five Large Organisations — 1000+ employees

  1. Cisco Australia
  2. DHL Express Australasia
  3. Salesforce
  4. REA Group
  5. Atlassian

Top five Medium Organisations — 100-999 employees

  1. Mantel Group
  2. BPAY Group
  3. OMD Australia
  4. Thoughtworks
  5. Canstar

Adapted from Great Place to Work - Best Workplaces Australia — 2021

Top five Small Organisations — 30-99 employees

  1. Bellroy
  2. Avenue Dental
  3. Tiliter
  4. Propel Ventures
  5. Quorum Systems

Top five Micro Organisations — 10-29 employees

  1. The Recruitment Company
  2. Entourage
  3. TrainTheCrowd
  4. Atarix
  5. Glaukos Corporation

Adapted from Great Place to Work — Best Workplaces Australia — 2021

Jemini Guide To Employee Employment & Wellness

All the insights you need to become an employee engagement champion

Download now!

Explore more...

Latest Insights

The top six HR trends to look out for in 2022

If you think 2021 was a crazy year for HR, just wait till you hear what 2022 has in store for you. Here’s six unmissable trends that will drive long-lasting change for this year and beyond.

Explore now
A plant with books

Books & Guides

eBooks and guides to help you master employee engagement.

Explore now
  1. Jemini
  2. Insights
  3. Latest Insights
  4. The Top Employers in New Zealand and Australia - 2021