Can you give us an overview of the legal team at NZ Post and how you support the work of the organisation?
The NZ Post legal team currently consists of four employees - 4 senior legal counsel (including a Juno lawyer). We have recently lost our ‘token male’ to the Wairarapa, so we are an all-female crew at the moment.
Our Head reports to the head of People & Governance (which is wide ranging and includes all assurance areas, HR, communications, property and sustainability). Our remit covers legal advice other than employment, tax and property. We provide support on procurement (including IT), customer contracts, delivery and retail contractors, relations with international operators, insurance, company secretariat, financing, intellectual property, privacy, OIAs, marketing and external comms, complaints, government (shareholder and regulatory) interactions, and the myriad other issues that arise in an SOE of around 6,500 workers (both employees and contractors) with revenue of $912m (FY19).
We provide both legal and pragmatic commercial support and advice, balancing legal compliance and sustainability (both economic and environmental) with a customer-centric overlay. The team obtains external advice and support from a panel of valued law firms.
What do you do to build and enhance the influence of the in-house legal function across the organisation?
The team builds and enhances influence within the business by a variety of standard means – for example, providing training presentations, attending other teams’ workshops and regular meetings, and intranet information pages; but we also find that getting ‘known’ and being seen as approachable works as well, through posting on internal Yammer groups such as Pets of NZ Post, Yoga and CyberSecurity, minuting Board and committee meetings, and involvement in ‘Tier 3’ manager meetings and cross-functional (Data Governance, AML/CFT) working groups.
We also find that being seen to ‘have the ear’ of the senior leadership team - just through working closely with them, and in an open-plan office based near the CEO and his team – helps to bring influence to bear within the organisation. This, and sharing of detailed information within the team, helps us keep our finger on the pulse, which again enhances our usefulness and influence within the business.
What have been the impacts of the lockdown challenges on your team and how have you responded?
All of us were pretty well set up to work from home when lockdown struck, except one team member and she enjoyed the excuse to work from bed in her jammies! We discovered that if you’re working from home it doesn’t matter if you’re not in the same city – we had previously had a mindset about all being Wellington-based.
We have found it more difficult to stay in touch with what’s going on in the business. Reading Yammer more, and getting involved in the numerous cross-functional planning meetings, and then sharing what we learn with the rest of the team, has helped bridge that gap. With the HUGE increase in parcel volumes and customer enquiries, we have been taking time when we can to help out in the business – answering contact centre calls, sorting and delivering, clearing posting boxes, etc. So if NZ Post has made a mistake with your parcel, it was probably one of us – sorry!
Are you rolling out or planning to roll out any innovations to support the work of the legal team?
Innovations due to lockdown? Well, we were already mostly completely paperless, but Microsoft Teams had just been rolled out in the month or so before lockdown, so uptake was immediate across the whole company. The team intends to look at new ways (or at least a centralised way) to store our file information – it has become disorganised with numerous legacy systems over the years, and the lockdown has emphasised the difficulty.
How have you connected as a team during lockdown and looked out for one another?
We connected and supported each other as a team during lockdown by having regular ‘morning tea’ catchups on Teams (2-3 times a week) sharing our kids, spouses and pets, weekly team meetings to gauge capacity and share information, a wider team quiz on Friday afternoons, and nationwide wider team singalong sessions at random times.