How we look after our people at PaperKite

A friend of mine was shoulder-tapped recently for a role at a design agency and he asked the Hiring Manager to talk about something very important to him, he asked, “tell me about the company’s culture and community?”. The answer he got was quick and matter-of-fact: “We have a Christmas Party and use Slack”.

Well, that is not a good enough answer from where I sit; not only as the person ultimately accountable for (and to) our people and culture at PaperKite, but also as an employee myself.

I’ve had the great privilege of working in creative organisations that all ‘did’ culture really well. I saw the way each business looked after the team in what they offered, said and did. Then I worked for an organisation that fell well short. It came as a very real shock when I realised that this stuff doesn’t happen everywhere. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.

At PaperKite we are deliberate about creating a culture for our people and community. We listen, invest, and role-model. We genuinely care. Creating a culture is not a tick-box exercise, nor solved by having Friday drinks or flexible working. Culture changes as the people at PaperKite change over time, and some ceremonies, traditions, policies, processes and offerings can hold up, or be tweaked along the way.

I’ll be honest; at PaperKite, we don’t always get it right – I haven’t always got it right. But we do ask, we listen, we try things, we refine, we admit when it’s cooked, and we try something completely new. And I’m proud of what we’ve created.

The PaperKite team share a laugh at Merry Gratitudes.
The PaperKite team share a laugh at Merry Gratitudes.

Recently an email came through. It said:

“I find myself very curious and inspired by your role at PaperKite and would love to connect for a coffee and kōrero.

As a young agency, we are constantly looking at new ways to better our culture and create an environment our people can thrive in. It would be wonderful to meet you and hear more about your journey in tech and how you’ve helped foster a vibrant community as People & Culture Director.”

I mean, you had me at “coffee and kōrero” but this human gets it. Using terms like, ‘curious’, ‘constantly looking at’ and ‘thrive’. And my ego quite liked the ‘inspired by’ bit too.

I responded accordingly and the thought that has been buzzing around my head lately landed again before I flicked it away: this stuff doesn’t just happen, someone has to make it happen, and keep an eye on it. It’s a job. Someone needs to champion it, and encourage investment of both time and money in it.
Having someone tasked with (or ideally dedicated to) thinking about people, culture, community and wellbeing is worth it.

PaperKite’s vision is a world where digital technologies uplift people. We uplift each other by challenging and supporting each other and growing together. We have a work culture where we invite our team to bring as much of their whole selves to work as they wish. Our people work at PaperKite because they believe in our vision, our purpose and how they contribute to that.

Uplifting people really means we apply our people-first approach everywhere we can. So we embrace equality and are proud to provide a supportive, inclusive and diverse workplace.

We’re committed to looking after our people. I’m incredibly proud of the mahi we’ve done to ensure we invest in our people and their wellbeing. Some of that mahi has been about seeing how we can do things better, and some of it has been about trying something new.

The list of things we do for our people is a long one, but some of the ones that I’m most proud of are:

  • We down-tools from 2:30pm every Friday to participate in team traditions and ceremonies including sharing mahi we’re working on, weekly notices, presentations from guests and practising gratitudes.
  • We ensure fortnightly 1:1’s actually happen, with both your ‘Discipline Lead’ – a subject matter expert, and a ‘People Coach’ – who offers holistic mentoring with a real focus on wellbeing.
  • Coming together as a whole team (even when you work remotely and outside Wellington) at least four times a year for group activities and celebrations.
  • An invitation to join PaperKite’s Group Health Insurance plan with Southern Cross Healthcare. This remains in place for PaperKiters on Parental Leave. We currently have 100% uptake.
  • Celebration of tenure – a letter of congratulations on work anniversaries granting additional days off, gifts that are meaningful and shared kai to celebrate each individual’s contribution to PaperKite.
Andrew thanks Pri for his Merry Gratitude with a big hug.
Andrew thanks Pri for his Merry Gratitude with a big hug.

This is just a selection of the things we have put in place to support our people, and we strongly believe it all leads to increased wellbeing and a real reduction in turnover.

Even when PaperKiters decide to move on, they stay in touch and remain active advocates for PaperKite. Our alumni promote our social posts, they recommend us to their friends and family; they even continue to sell our services and connect us with new clients. We know this isn’t normal, but it is an incredible outcome of giving them a workplace where they were supported to grow, do their most meaningful work and comfortable to share as much of themselves as they wished.

At PaperKite, we believe that what’s best for our people is best for our business. We’ll continue to challenge ourselves to stay true to that belief by carefully nurturing our thriving culture so that PaperKiters can be their best selves, doing their best work.

Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.

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