For any company, a purpose must be the north star, guiding us, setting out why we exist, and connecting employees and their work to the bigger picture. But a purpose must be enduring and stand the test of time. 

In 2019, nbn established a new and enduring purpose, to lift the digital capability of AustraliaIt looked beyond nbn's initial purpose, to bridge the digital divide, timestamped by a mission to connect eight million homes and businesses across the nation. In 2020, that time came when the Australian Government declared the nbn® network complete and fully operational. Lifting digital capability took nbn beyond this milestone, asking us to think about the value delivered to people accessing the critical broadband infrastructure we built, the nbn network. 

Twelve months on, we communicated a refreshed strategy to deliver this purpose ushering our people on the next leg of our journey as the digital backbone of Australia. This required continued and deliberate efforts to support engagement and connection to the purpose, particularly from our leaders.

A Shifting Employee Experience

Through the pandemic, our values shone through, with care and connection to team and purpose prioritised company-wide. Like millions across the country, employees felt the benefits of their efforts relying on the network to continue working, learning, and connecting. They also set new routines, behaviours, and expectations of their employer. 

As all companies did, we navigated new territory. nbn's focus immediately moved towards how we maintain engagement by designing meaningful experiences centred on talent attraction and retention.

Making a Difference

As a purpose-led company, our employees want to know how their contributions make a positive impact. To support this, we honed in on our leaders, equipping them with the skills to operate and lead in a changing landscape, how to align their team to strategic imperatives, and ensuring values and behaviours are central in how we lead and manage performance. We saw these as critical to building purpose, trust, and collaboration within and across teams, no matter what you do at nbn.

“By designing the company’s purpose at the heart of our sustainability approach, it connected our people to the creation of social and environmental value for our stakeholders”

Our CEO led quarterly sessions, anchored senior leaders and employees to our purpose, strategy, and the environment we operate in, and created a space for two-way dialogue. Monthly webinar panels brought together diverse voices to discuss company initiatives and how we are delivering our strategy. At a team level, the conversation laddered up, ensuring everyone knew how they contributed to our company's priorities.

We embraced our role as a sustainable, accountable business that enables long-term social, economic, and environmental value for our people, customers, communities, partners, country, and the planet. By designing the company’s purpose at the heart of our sustainability approach, it connected our people to the creation of social and environmental value for our stakeholders. Through various, events, communications, ways of working, governance forums, and reports, we engaged employees to embed sustainability into company-wide thinking to support long-term value creation for nbn and our stakeholders. Our people showed genuine interest and the appetite to adopt this mindset as we deliver our strategy.

Purpose-Led Flexibility

The pandemic accelerated the value of flexibility and people’s need to balance work, caring, and life whilst feeling included in their teams. From the outset, nbn was clear we would operate in a hybrid work environment, recognising connecting in person is important for our culture, work, and company. This was well accepted and recognised company-wide.

Our employees were critical to the future design of nbn's hybrid work model. Over 250 employees and 20 teams nationally participated in focus groups, and surveys and experimented with different work modes to inform the model. Open communication throughout was essential. Leaders played a key role and were supported with data, insights, and engagement forums to build the capability to plan and lead teams in a hybrid environment. 

Transparency was vital; employees welcomed the approach and valued the concept of connecting with purpose, including professional development and skill sharing, and balanced flexibility, for both business and individual needs, when announcing our model in late 2021. 

The Result

Our continued focus on our people saw nbn achieve a score of 81 percent on our 2022 annual employee engagement survey. Digging deeper, nearly eight in ten employees said purpose is integrated into everything we do and felt social responsibility, care for the environment, and climate action is genuine and important at nbn. Nine out of ten felt genuinely supported if they chose to work flexibly and that hybrid enables them to deliver value to nbn. Over nine in ten felt their work was meaningful, contributed to the company's strategic goals, and understood nbn’s vision. 

Like many companies, nbn relies on building a connection to purpose and developing adaptable leaders. Coupled with a highly engaged and skilled workforce, we see confidence in our people to continue to operate and evolve with the company in line with our strategic change agenda so that together we can proudly continue to lift digital capability across Australia.