Speaking out and stepping up – the Watch Me Step Up story

Waste Management - the Watch Me Step Up leadership skills and workplace literacy programme graduates

Workplace training at Waste Management - the Watch Me Step Up graduates

With a wide range of abilities and skillsets in the supervisory team, Ian and the team from Waste Management were keen to ensure that everyone had the minimum achievable levels of workplace literacy, numeracy skills, and digital literacy – not to mention the leadership skills that would take them to the next level.

“We had a number of supervisors who had very good people management, and made good operational decisions, but weren’t able to explain or understand documents or processes. I might issue a set of instructions or a request, and three out of eleven wouldn’t understand or couldn’t do the work if it required writing or explaining something in detail.”

With everyone at Waste Management living by two documents – their annual Health, Safety & Environmental Quality (HSEQ) plan and their Personal Development Plan (PDP) – this was becoming a real problem. “Some couldn’t write PDPs for their teams or explain what it meant. Many had difficulty writing the HSEQ plan and turning that into a real, living document. Everyone is measured on their success based on those documents – so we had to do something to ensure they were armed with what they needed to succeed.”

Ian was also concerned that the team wasn’t bonding together as a wider group, sharing, “I think there’s a lot of value, especially in an industry like this, in supervisors talking and sharing experiences – after all, lots of challenges are the same at every site.”

Enter Watch Me Step Up – a programme run by Upskills designed specifically for Waste Management. A 30 hour programme, Watch Me Step Up alternates training and one-on-one coaching each week to improve the leadership skills of supervisors, as well as ensuring that their workplace literacy, numeracy, and IT skills are up to scratch.

Three of the supervisors who have taken part had already graduated from other Upskills’ programmes, while for others this was the first training of its kind that they’d experienced. For everyone involved, it’s helped to increase their confidence and get them on the right path for even greater success at Waste Management. This is particularly true for Barbara.

Barbara’s Watch Me Step Up story

Barbara Paikea, Waste Management supervisor and graduate of Watch Me Step Up leadership skills and workplace literacy training

As a supervisor with Waste Management, Barbara Paikea had always been pretty willing to ‘make a nuisance’ of herself in order to learn more and develop her skills. After 10 years with the company, she was ready to jump at the chance to take part in ‘Watch Me Step Up’.

“I started at a paper recycling plant as a sorter – it was pretty manual labour, and I made a nuisance of myself because I wanted to learn more. Luckily, I had one advantage over the rest of the staff – I spoke English and could read and write. I like that if you go through the processes, you have a lot of opportunities to train and educate yourself – if you ask and if your manager’s willing.”

After moving through a few positions, Barbara ended up in charge of the Maurice Rd branch – which is where she encountered Watch Me Step Up.

“My partner (who also works for Waste Management) and a few other guys did the supervisors course last year. He’s a people person but his admin skills were pretty lousy. From what he learnt, he basically zeroed me in on what to do; how to stop and think. I saw the changes in my partner and wanted to do the course myself.”

This year, Barbara got to do just that.

Understanding – and hitting – goals

“We had to write a letter to Ian, our Regional Manager to decide a few things that we would accomplish. Ian wanted to know why we weren’t hitting our goals, as part of our PDPs, but it turned out that none of us really knew what they were or what the intentions behind them were. Some of us couldn’t even understand the language. By getting Upskills and all of us supervisors in the same room, we could bounce our plans off each other, which made them lots easier to understand. This year with goals, we can fill those in and see them through.”

Wearing different hats – gaining new leadership skills

From learning how to talk to people, to being given the tools and leadership skills to run meetings effectively, Barbara’s already started to implement changes in the way she works – with the biggest impact being her ability to ‘wear different hats’ in different situations.

“I’ve got quite a bad temper; I’m learning to control the passion and learning how to speak to people properly instead of just firing at the hip (some days I still do that though!) It’s about learning how to wear those different hats – I used to yell and scream down the phone at other people; now I’ve learnt how to word my phrases better and not blame them. I’m learning how to step back and think about their feelings – how to be hard but fair.”

Moving on up – using new skills in the workplace and beyond

Barbara’s already putting her new leadership skills to the test, only weeks into a new position at the Papakura Transfer Station.

“Coming into my new position, there was no history, nothing I could just tweak up. I’ve learnt to keep a notebook of stuff for the next person to keep that history going. My aim is to have things organised so anyone could pick up that folder and know what to do. What I’ve noticed down here is that they’ve all got their different styles, and it’s up to me to get that flow through the office.”

And it’s not just her work life that’s affected – she’s even gained in confidence enough to speak up at her marae in a way that she never would have before. “Having that confidence to speak is awesome – now they’re asking my opinion on certain stuff.”

Plus, it’s impacting on the others in the programme too. “The other day someone who never wrote in English before gave us a sentence. The spelling might have been off, but we understood what he was talking about. It took me a long time to realise that’s what we were doing this for – to give people a voice.”

To find out how Watch Me Step up could help your organisation, contact Upskills today.

Or find out more about the work Upskills is doing with Waste Management here.

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