Money talk at work helps staff

ROB STOCK
Last updated 05:00 15/06/2014
Maxwell
WORK LESSONS WORK: Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell.

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The organisers of a pilot project to develop a short workplace-based course that could one day transform the financial abilities of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders said it had been well-received by The Warehouse staff it was trialled on.

The pilot at the listed retailer's giant South Auckland distribution centre in Wiri is the first step in a plan by the Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income to transform the financial savvy of the country's workforce.

Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell said the pilot, which involved eight sessions on topics like debt, budgeting and goal-setting, had proved a success and offered the promise of a rapidly scalable financial literacy push around the country.

Like many countries, New Zealand is seen as having a population with low average financial literacy, and the commission is trying to drive that up.

Maxwell said a key part of the pilot was to ensure attendance, and The Warehouse helped out by allowing half the time workers spent at the course to be paid.

That indicated its commitment to the pilot, but also recognised that it can be just too hard for workers to find time in the evening to attend courses.

Maxwell said a "family day" at the weekend was also a key part of the pilot, designed to expose workers' wives, husbands and children to the concepts being taught.

Westpac bank staff chipped in to help course teacher Christine Liggins deliver the course, and that, Maxwell said, could prove a key partnership model for rolling it out around the country's employers.

Maxwell has formed a network of large financial services providers like banks and insurers, called The Exchange, and she hopes that it can provide a free labour force to deliver the course developed in the pilot around the towns and cities of New Zealand.

"What they can offer is 25,000 bankers who could go region by region to deliver brand-neutral facilitation," Maxwell said.

The next step is an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the course by the 14 people who underwent the course. Tweaks will then be made to the course's content.

Simon Turner, chief executive of the Red Shed stores, said Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall's vision for his company was that it would be a place that people wanted to work, and that meant taking positive action like instituting the "career retail wage" as well as wellness programmes for workers.

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He said Tindall's vision was also "about providing an education, about really helping people to succeed and achieve, and be better than they could be if they were working on their own".

The company was already rolling out a literacy programme across its stores, Turner said, and it was possible the financial literacy project piloted at the distribution centre could follow.

"I've been hearing really good things about it," he said.

- Sunday Star Times

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