Dynamic Business report: Oliver Hill: Climate change still matters during a pandemic
Climate change didn't disappear when the pandemic hit. Photo / Getty Images Throughout the pandemic, HP country manager Oliver Hill says his company never lost sight of its sustainability goals. "We are going to defeat Covid-19," Hill recounted to the Herald. "That's going to be an amazing moment for humanity. "But global warming, climate change and diversity are all issues that are here to stay. We've continued to focus on these issues and will do so in 2021. "We're proud we were certified by Rainbow Tick this year for our work with LGBTQI and we partnered with TupuToa to help with our Maori and Pacific strategy. These are going to be important topics." Hill works for a large global operation. At times that means reporting back to colleagues in the United States. The New Zealand Covid-19 experience is in stark contrast with what Hill's counterparts see on a daily basis. "You need a great deal of that Kiwi humbleness to deal with this," he says. "Other people are going through a terrible situation. They get to hear about what is happening here on their news and they are aware of how it is in New Zealand. "Many of them are full of praise for what we are doing. Even so, you have to try and not talk about how good things are here." There's a lot on HP's agenda for the next year. Yet, Hill says sustainability remains key. "Next year we will be ramping that up and we will be working with the government to do so. The government now has a mandate to do this as well." Hill currently leads the NZ leadership team and is a board member of HP New Zealand. Getting everything to work, overnight, across much of the economy compressed an entire year's worth of innovation into less than a month. Passionate about diversity and inclusion, Hill is heavily involved in HP NZ's internal business impact network groups. This has enabled greater innovation, by bringing together different people from across the organisation, and fuelled by different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. He also has a particular interest in sustainability and was recently appointed as a member of the TechCollect NZ interim board to work on initiatives to help minimise and manage e-waste (electronic waste). HP has the good fortune to operate one of the industry sectors least affected by the pandemic. It is New Zealand's leading PC brand. That means it benefited from high demand for laptops, monitors and computer accessories at a time when businesses sent workers home and schools told students to continue their lessons using remote learning. "When the government announced the lockdown, anything to do with working from home was in demand. This was true in New Zealand and around the world," he says. Yet dealing with the increased demand was not without challenges. Getting stock to New Zealand was difficult. "There was a reduction in air freight and passenger flights were cancelled, recalls Hill. "These were our main source of logistics. So, we pivoted. During March and April, it felt as if every HP employee was a logistics person. Our salespeople didn't need to do much selling, we used them to help serve customers. They found out what people needed, then worked to get them to people as fast as possible." "The other thing we managed to do for our customers, partners and resellers was to offer extended credit and more flexible payment terms. We wanted to make sure we were supporting business and helping with cashflow problems. For some of our enterprise customers we moved them on to an as-a-service model so they could roll out new technology fast". Hill says his staff worked hard during this time to make sure HP could get its technology into the hands of the people who needed it. Yet he singles out the company's engineers for special mention. "They were out there in the field working with emergency services and other essential services keeping the country running. It was a scary time for those people, they put themselves on the frontline." HP managed to meet the demand and solve the problems even though employees were working from home. That took less adjustment than expected. Says Hill: "We learned a lot. Most of all we learned we can be productive from home, or anywhere. And that goes for our New Zealand team and our entire organisation. "If you told me before this year that the entire global company could work from home for nine months and still have very strong results, I would have never believed it was possible. But we've shown it is. "And it's not just HP. I see that almost every customer we talk to pretty much says the same thing: productivity is up, employee satisfaction is up." There is now a level of trust within New Zealand between employers and employees. Hill says this was the problem in the past, employers didn't think people would be productive working from home. When there wasn't any choice in the matter, they had to trust, and it went well. Running a technology company like HP gave Hill a front row seat observing how New Zealand businesses turned on a dime to embrace new ways of working. "Getting everything to work, overnight, across much of the economy compressed an entire year's worth of innovation into less than a month. "You had to get your VPN (virtual private network) systems to be able to cope. And then get everybody on video calls. "It wasn't just a normal amount of data traffic either, there's to be more data traffic than ever before because people were making back-to-back video calls using Zoom and Microsoft Teams. HP's technology played an important direct role in the fight against. The company is best known for laptops and printers, but it also makes industrial 3D printing systems. Hill says this was used around the world to manufacture the personal protective equipment used by frontline health workers dealing with Covid-19. That gave people who were less aware of the technology an opportunity to glimpse into the future of manufacturing. New Zealanders will get another HP-developed glimpse of the future this summer as the America's Cup yacht races get underway. HP is the laptop and printer technology partner for Emirates Team New Zealand. Hill says it gives the company a chance to show the world what it can do to help make the boat go faster. He says that while it looks like a yacht race, behind the scenes everything is digital, so it's actually a technology race. This will give HP an opportunity to show people what technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence can do for their companies. NZ Aerospace Summit in Christchurch hit by protest - which promises escalation tomorrow.