Meet the Kiwi company which outsourced its HR so it could take care of pests, possums, and performance management.

In 2014, High Country Contracting kicked off eight years of exponential growth – and a journey of learning how to use digital and phone support to get on top of HR challenges.

The industry High Country Contracting was becoming a leader in was pest animal and plant control, focused on New Zealand’s South Island, with some forays into the North and Stewart Island.

The company launched with a strong start and good contracts, helping High Country Contracting to win repeat business immediately – this meant it could expand from an initial team of six in 2014 to 54 staff by 2022. However, with great success came great responsibility, as High Country Contracting tried to develop multiple teams in multiple locations, simultaneously.

High standards of work require high standards of HR

New Zealand’s pest control industry is worth tens of millions, thanks to the Jobs for Nature and Predator Free 2050 funds, though the work is challenging to deliver and manage. Every week, High Country Contracting has to ensure staff drive large distances to correct locations, set feral mammal traps correctly and humanely, kill wildling pines, weeds and wallabies or support native birds. The work necessitates lots of staff autonomy because most High Country Contracting staff spend four full days killing pests in the wild, beginning and ending the week with in-person meetings in Timaru or Mosgiel.

Every weed and possum project requires rigorously-high standards to pass audits and ensure the business continues. Maintaining and exceeding these high standards means a typical week can see Business Development Manager Kuran Ireland and Office Manager Nadine Shearer conduct performance reviews, training and people management, all while balancing other parts of their roles.

It was great work with great money for a great purpose if High Country Contracting could handle the human resources and recruiting for the right people to get the work done. However, in the months after March 2020, COVID-19 caused mass redundancies of South Island tourism workers. Those people were natural candidates to fill pest control roles – but there was plenty of competition as the market favoured these jobseekers, High Country Contracting needed to be competitive by being able to:

  • Swiftly onboard candidates so work could commence before the candidate was lost to a competitor.
  • Provide contracts that were legally sound.
  • Have customisable, templated contracts to speed up onboarding.
  • Quickly get HR completed from any device when out in the field.
  • Create legally sound employment agreements quickly and not have to pay each time to use the intellectual copyright (adding extra costs to each contract).
  • Ensure employment agreements were worded correctly so they wouldn’t result in poor employee performance or risks to the company.
  • Minimise the risk of a workplace grievance claims due to substandard HR guidance in a climate which can disproportionately favour employees.

The quest to find great HR support

The first HR subscription service which High Country Contracting trialled unfortunately couldn’t match the company’s growing needs, with its phone operators unavailable on weekends, and contracts being prepared too slowly for High Country Contracting’s needs. This meant the company was frequently at risk of losing valuable new staff and therefore valuable tenders.

“If we were HR specialists, we would do all the HR ourselves – but our job is killing rabbits and possums, so we wanted expertise in workplace compliance,” Ireland said.

The solution arrived in May 2021, when Shearer and Ireland got talking to HR Assured’s National Workplace Relations Manager Vaughan Granier.

Following an initial HR compliance audit – carried out personally by Granier –  High Country Contracting learned how to make the most of HR Assured’s 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service and HRA Cloud, the software-as-a-service tool by which employers can handle all employee records over the cloud, anywhere in the world, plus access to a comprehensive Library of HR & H&S Resources.

The advice calls demonstrated that the Telephone Advisory Service was available 24/7 and calls would go to a real Kiwi workplace expert, with real employment qualifications behind them, to take care of out-of-the-ordinary workplace challenges.

Now, in a typical week, Ireland and Shearer:

  • Can show young staff their Performance Improvement Plan on the computer and make it less intimidating.
  • Follow intuitive workflows in their HR so nothing is overlooked.
  • Receive error-free, reliable advice as part of their subscription.
  • Get a Workplace Relations Consultant or even Granier on the phone often after business hours.
  • Handle onboarding, contracts and training, knowing there is little risk of breaching employment laws.
  • Utilise HRA Cloud’s calendar reminder tools to schedule and record professional development.
  • Use HR Assured to help create employment agreements, recruitment job descriptions, and formal letters to staff.

“Nobody is staying in an industry forever anymore, and there’s transience, so all businesses are going to end up with a difficult staffer at some point.

“It means you don’t know when you’re going to need HR support until you need HR support.

“Thankfully, HR Assured feel like they’re our HR department of our business, and Vaughan is flying a flag for us. We’ve found HR Assured is super supportive, super helpful, super timely and they share our values,” Ireland says.

How HR Assured can help?

Managing people can be a time-consuming, challenging juggle for business leaders, so make the most of HR software24/7 telephone support and auditing to help you spot areas for improvement and stay compliant so you can focus on core business.