Big Interview: Mathew Gallivan.


This month, we speak to Mathew Gallivan, Head of Human Resources from our newest Accord signatory firm, Hilti. We discuss how following Covid-19, the company looked at their office space and asked themselves, how can we make it more of a draw for people? From this, their newly developed wellness space was born. We also hear how integral their internal diversity and inclusion committee ‘The Own It! Group’ was to the development of the space. 

So, to start, could you tell us about yourself and your role?

I’m Mathew Gallivan and I have been the Head of HR for Hilti New Zealand since February 2020. Originally from Wales in the UK, I have worked overseas since 2009 in the Aerospace, Defence & Construction industry, arriving here from Saudi Arabia in 2016. Auckland is now home!

Tell us a little bit about Hilti

Hilti Group are a family-owned, global company who are world leaders in the design and manufacture of cutting-edge technologies, software and services for the professional construction industry. We’ve been around for about 80 years now, and we’re based in over 130 plus countries worldwide. 

There’s around 110 of us in New Zealand. We’ve been here for 21 years serving our customers and we’re very well-regarded within the world of construction for our products. But in recent years, we’ve moved more towards a solutions-focused approach to building new business.

Are engineers a big part of the company?

Absolutely. Our Engineering team has doubled in size this year. We have 13 engineers that work for us in a variety of different positions across the country. And our engineers work very closely with our Account Managers in the field.

We employ Structural and Non-Structural Engineers that have expertise in the certain products and solutions we sell. For instance, Firestop protection is an exciting area we excel at in New Zealand. But globally, Hilti has a much larger Engineering community. 

And Hilti as an organisation is committed to diversity and inclusion?

Within Hilti, both in New Zealand and globally, diversity & inclusion is not an HR topic – it’s a leadership topic. It’s every leader’s job to develop their people to achieve outstanding results, and it’s in that order! The foundation of our culture is a caring and performance-oriented approach, this we would never compromise so we take care to walk the talk when we say that we take D&I seriously. 

In fact it was one of the main draws for me to join this business because spending time in New Zealand and knowing the HR industry, the focus on diversity & inclusion at Hilti stood out from the interview stages. I wanted to be part of something I have yet to experience in my previous positions.

What’s been your experience working elsewhere and have you noticed the difference working somewhere where maybe D&I isn’t such a priority?

I’ve worked in and alongside organisations that understand the importance and wants to take it seriously, but often go about it the wrong way. So it’s often an agenda point, but unfortunately, things fail to take off, especially when leaders don’t pay attention to the grass roots.

So, one of the initiatives that took off and I helped drive is our ‘Own It! Group’ – our D&I committee, an employee-led diversity and inclusion group. 

It doesn’t have any representation from myself, nor the GM. Participants are from all areas of the business who are comfortable enough to admit that, okay, diversity initiatives are great, but how do we reduce barriers to include people?

The ideas from the group are then either introduced autonomously or for more far reaching proposals they are funnelled through to the Executive Management Team for review and ultimately approval.

And that’s been really good because then it’s not the leadership that’s constantly having to drive the topic. The topics take life. And then we learn from our people and we listen.

Did leadership support help to get the ‘Own It! Group’ off the ground? 

Yes, otherwise the volume doesn’t get raised. We ensured that we had representation from all around the country, not just people within our Auckland HQ. We wanted to make sure there was adequate representation from all regions, because we have a hundred people spread nationwide and we have a lot of tenured employees who have plenty to say but often spend months on end without seeing their colleagues.

Firstly, one of the big things we changed was the stigma around working from home. Prior to Covid, I was very sceptical of this as a concept – that was my unconscious bias. Particularly as an HR person, to spend time at home wasn’t something I thought that clients of mine saw as fair, especially in an organisation that’s customer-facing – but anyway, Covid happened.

And what happened? All the varnish and glamour of working from home disappeared and we got to see what it truly was. It’s tough, it’s difficult. You must work extra hard to ensure that you’re available to people.

So is this how your Wellness Space started? Can you tell us a bit about the space?

Yes. So after Covid, we introduced a permanent working from home culture for our corporate functions, which continues to this day. Then we began to redefine (with the help of the Own It! Group) what do we use the office for?

We looked at our space and asked – do we change our office? Do we not? Do we need an office? Do we need to be here where we are? How can we make this more of a draw for people? What will offices look like in a post Covid world?

We put it to the group and said, what can we do that’s different? That’s how the Wellness Space started – it germinated from a variety of different ideas that came from the group. 

So originally, we had an area at the back of the office, which was a dumping ground for old IT equipment and an office meeting room that wasn’t being used to its full extent. So we put the idea forward to the Own It! Group and we got plenty of suggestions for its use.

Firstly, we learned from our new mothers they were having to go and express milk in the bathrooms, which was horrifying to hear. And because of this, some of our new mothers weren’t returning to work as soon as they could, because they felt uncomfortable.

Then we learnt that some people in the office had medical needs we weren’t catering for. Some people had “sensory needs” including the need for a quiet space to alleviate sensory overload.

And then finally, from parents – we had comments they found our office quite clinical and cold. Despite being a family company, it didn’t feel as if they could bring young children and babies to work if their personal situation required it.

So, the space became about four or five different things over a month, to the point that even the wellness title itself doesn’t quite capture what it’s for, because we know it’s going to evolve and turn into different things.

We’re planning to split into two rooms – one is a quiet space, and the other is where you can be yourself without having to leave the building, a place to feel comfortable in the middle of a busy office. 

Hilti’s new wellness space

So, your Own It! Group had quite a large say and help in developing the purpose of this space. It’s awesome to see – because D&I committees are something we really encourage. And this is a great example of how they can be so effective.

Absolutely. The space will change over time for people to use as they see fit. But we’re trying not to make it for one particular purpose. 

It was interesting from the point of view that we had nothing – and now we have 10 or 12 competing suggestions, which is amazing. And without the Own It! Group, it would probably still be an area where we’d have discarded phones and boxes.

So, what’s been the general feedback? Have you had any standout comments of how it’s really benefited people?

We’ve had some fantastic feedback from candidates that we’re speaking to in the market. Great to hear that this is something they see as a benefit when deciding who they want to work for, both men and women.

It must be quite a drawcard to people that you’ve got this physical space – as it showcases how you value wellbeing and your employee’s wellbeing?

Absolutely. A year ago, we had 30 or 40 people in a space that catered for 30, 40. Now we have maybe half the people at any one time.

So, we’ve had to redesign the office to make it more attractive for the people that work here – and for potential talents.

Everybody wants the room to succeed. People have come forward saying they’re happy to donate items to go into the room, comfy chairs, maternity desks, all sorts of things.

People at Hilti obviously feel they’ve got a real voice in your company coming forward with all these suggestions. Why do you think that is? 

A few things. We used to have SurveyMonkey where people gave anonymous feedback and we found that no one trusted or used that platform. You can give anonymous feedback, but at the same time, you can’t respond to that person. So, we removed that. 

For past 20 years we run an annual engagement survey where we get feedback, the lifeblood of our culture. Last year, an area we knew we could improve on was D&I. And this was actually after we established the Own It! Group. 

And now the Own It! Group, has become the place where people know they can go and voice their opinions. We have about 16 members, which is great representation for a company of our size. 

It’s a group that will continue to evolve over time. And because it’s at the forefront of what we do and a lot of our decision-making, then people know they can make an impact. We encourage as much open discussion as possible.

You recently signed the Diversity Agenda Accord, which is awesome. Can you tell me a little bit about why you signed the Accord?

Peer comparison is important to us, and we know our Engineering team value the Diversity Agenda as a force for good. We’ve also got customers in the Agenda, and we’ve visited different offices and spoke to different people within the Accord – it was always very powerful to see what they’ve achieved. 

And especially that aspect of holding peers to account. I took a lot of inspiration from Glenn Cornelius. I visited his office a couple of years ago actually and saw the progress Harrison Grierson had made. 

As a business, we’re good at comparing against what other market organisations within Hilti are doing. What we’re less good at, is understanding what the industry is doing. So, we wanted to put the magnifying glass on ourselves to say – we believe we’re doing a good job, but are we actually as good as we think we are?

So, in terms of the reporting, we look forward to being transparent and seeing where we sit against other businesses. And because our engineering department has grown significantly as well, it’s very important for us that our engineers understand we benchmark ourselves against other comparable organisations. 

You’ve done a bit of measurement recently – in terms of employee engagement – and you found that useful. Have you done any measurement that the Accord requires yet? 

We’re very fortunate that a year ago, one of the biggest investments in Hilti’s history was to introduce Workday across the globe.

Workday, what’s that?

So Workday is probably the primo HR information platform and our ability to drive analytics on diversity is phenomenal. Every diversity analytic you can think of. Every single leader in the business has it at their fingertips. You can break down to every single team level, what our diversity statistics look like. It’s a one-stop-shop. 

So the reporting on diversity is a daily, real-time activity. With Workday – it’s all there. We can’t hide. It’s the ability to provide evidence on what we’re doing, it’s something that we can do and it’s something that everybody can see. 

If you’re a Diversity Agenda member with a great story to tell, please get in touch.

Scroll to Top