If there's one company in New Zealand that's not going to the dogs it's Mars. On Fridays, visitors could be mistaken because employees can bring their dogs into their Auckland and Wanganui offices.

This and other employee-friendly policies have helped make Mars the best place to work in New Zealand, says general manager Gerry Lynch.

Mars topped the charts in the Kenexa (an IBM company) Best Workplaces award last night. The company is no stranger to being voted one of the best places to work. It was voted one of the top 25 best multinationals worldwide in 2013 in terms of workplace culture. Locally, Mars has won numerous Best Workplace awards over the past five years.

Yet the motivation to enter the Kenexa Best Workplaces survey is more about the process of measuring Mars' employee engagement, than the actual gong.


Employee engagement is so important to Mars the company has it measured every year by Kenexa and Gallup. If Mars wasn't at or near the top of those surveys questions would be asked by management.

Lynch says everything Mars does can be related back to five principles instituted by founding father Forrest E Mars Senior in the 1930s and followed by employees (or associates as they're called in-house) every day.

The five principles are a "big differentiator" of Mars from other employers. "We make sure associates from management down" know and can use the principles. "They underpin everything we do." The principles are:

Quality. Mars employees learn that the consumer is their boss, quality is the work and value for money is the goal.

Responsibility. Every employee is asked to take responsibility for his or her results.

Mutuality. Benefits are shared with staff, stakeholders, customers, suppliers and communities.

Efficiency. Mars employees are encouraged to use resources to the full and waste nothing.

Freedom. Because it is still privately owned by the founding family, Mars is not beholden to shareholders and can always take the long-term view.

Employee engagement is a key focus for Mars rather than something that is paid lip service to. "Line managers have to have an (employee engagement) action plan and are measured on their progress," says Lynch.

"I spend a lot of time out in the field. I get a sense about whether a team is engaged or not. We take action as soon as we get a sign that a team is struggling although we would expect the line manager to be aware."

Thanks to that constant attention to employee engagement Lynch says the Kenexa scores are never a surprise.