Welcome to my regular series My Light Bulb Moment. This column highlights a blinding flash of insight business, cultural and sports leaders have experienced and how it changed their lives.

Chris Till

In 2014 Chris became chief executive of the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand. Prior to this role, he worked for six years as General Manager of Human Resources for the Christchurch City Council, overseeing the needs of 3000 staff.

The earthquake


"In the days and weeks after the February 22 Canterbury earthquake, the whole Council organisation was dislocated, physically and emotionally," Chris remembers. "At times it felt like we were, as an organisation, just clinging on by our fingertips."

His HR team had done some great work in the people space before the earthquakes and employee engagement had risen well. However, right from the start of the devastation, he realised that staff were very badly affected. "It wasn't just the immediate trauma of the overwhelming natural disaster, it was the practical impact on work, family, well-being, routine, loss of control - everything!"

As a seasoned HR practitioner, Chris knew the well-being of the organisation was critical, however the main thought that hit him was "we have a city to run, ratepayers to support, communities to help. We really need our people to be here, together and settled for them to deliver. If the organisation isn't here to show leadership and truly support them - who is?"

Genuinely care for your team

"At this point the true meaning and real value of genuine care, as human beings, for your workforce, aligned with a really effective, comprehensive, innovative and fully resourced well-being support programme, became a true, real priority for myself and my team."

Chris persuaded the council executive to double the well-being budget and launch innovative and far reaching staff programmes. "The end result was even through the devastation of a major earthquake, engagement lifted to the top decile for the sector, our work force mood recovered, and then rose tangibly."

21 May, 2015 9:41am
3 minutes to read


The concept of well-being clearly includes our psychological state and high levels of staff engagement aren't sustainable without correspondingly high levels of staff well-being.

"Engagement without well-being leads to a burned out workforce. It's vital to realise that the number one thing that drives staff to reach for the stars is a true belief that their senior managers actually have a sincere interest in their well-being.

"As leaders we always need to remember that actions speak louder than words."

If you have had a blinding moment of insight (a light bulb moment), please email me.

Tom O'Neil is an award-winning business speaker, best-selling international author and MD of both www.cv.co.nz and www.TomONeil.com. Contact him at tom@tomoneil.com