Lion’s Flexcellence

wither hills

Wither Hills winery and cellar door in Blenheim, Marlborough, New Zealand.

Sara Tucker is External Relations Director for Lion – one NZ’s largest beer companies and a significant player in the NZ Wine industry through the Wither Hills brand.


Her presentation near the end of the NZ wine industry’s 2018 Bragato Conference described the company’s efforts to provide a flexible, diverse and inclusive workforce – and it was as impressive as it was inspirational.

Far from pretending to have the answer, or the perfect model, Sara outlined the range of initiatives the company is working on. Some of the key points for me:

  • Flexible work arrangements including flexible work hours, flexible place of work and even flexible roles. The default assumption is that requests for flexibility will get a ‘yes’ unless there’s a serious reason why it’s not possible. It was interesting to hear that the company decided to internally communicate stories of senior management using flexible work arrangements to encourage all staff to consider doing the same to create 3-way-wins for themselves, their team and the business.
6 proud to flex screensaver 2

One of a series of screensavers Lion used to promote flexible work arrangements to its staff. Senior Managers were also encouraged to make the most of flexible work arrangements, to encourage uptake among their teams.

  • Tracking a range of diversity metrics: gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, language, pay equality and disabilities and mental health status, for example.  You can’t manage what you don’t measure, but even collecting and presenting the data creates awareness.
  • Measuring to manage for diversity and inclusion. It’s not just a case of recording numbers or one off action to ‘tick a box’. Ongoing practices have been implemented to embed and continue the changes sought. For example, it wasn’t just a one-off payment to address pay equality – pay equality is monitored continually to ensure a gap doesn’t re-emerge.
  • Widening the pool of candidates. Sara referred to research showing that how job ads are written influences whether females feel like it’s worth applying or not. Lion now put their recruitment ads through a filter to ensure they’re not creating gender bias in the pool of applicants.


Lion is Rainbow Tick certified, is one of the founding members of Gender Tick, and is leading an initiative to create a zero-suicide workplace.

In a tight labour market, plus with consumers increasingly taking an interest in the behaviour of companies they give their dollar to, I can certainly see the value of Lion’s programme, aside from its intrinsic right-ness.

For a “stale old beer company” Lion seems to be a leading example in this area.

What exemplary practices have you seen in companies? Or what would you like to see companies doing to address issues of diversity, equality and flexibility?

Declaration: I am a trustee of Graeme Dingle Foundation Marlborough, as a volunteer. Lion is a national sponsor of the Graeme Dingle Foundation, which delivers values-based life-skills programmes in NZ schools. Cheers to that too Lion! 

2 thoughts on “Lion’s Flexcellence

  1. Pingback: Puzzling Diversity | Agenda

  2. Pingback: Hidden Figures | Agenda

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