Aurecon - Global Expert Consulting Engineers Aurecon is the global leader in consulting engineering.

Aurecon's RSA office is shifting to visual employment contracts, replacing more than 4 000 words with illustrations to complement the text.

News

New Zealand’s first visual employment contracts launched

Global engineering and infrastructure advisory company, Aurecon will be the first company in New Zealand to use a visual employment contract, eliminating more than 5,500 words from their employment contracts to create a succinct and meaningful visual contract that uses illustrations to complement the text.

Aurecon's new visual contracts with lightbulbs representing employees or "ideas people"

28 September 2018 – Global engineering and infrastructure advisory company, Aurecon will be the first company in New Zealand to use a visual employment contract, eliminating more than 5,500 words from their employment contracts to create a succinct and meaningful visual contract that uses illustrations to complement the text.

Developed in partnership with Law Professor Camilla Andersen from the University of Western Australia, Aurecon’s employment contracts are legally binding contracts in which Aurecon and its employees are represented by characters – free of legal jargon and akin to a comic strip format.

“Aurecon is the first company in Australia and New Zealand to do anything like this, and globally this is the first time a visual employment contract has been focused at all levels of an organisation in a commercial context,” said Professor Camilla Andersen.

With workplace polls often indicating a lack of meaningful employee engagement and trust, according to Aurecon’s Regional Director – New Zealand Carl Devereux, “the issue of engaging our talent and building their trust is becoming one of the biggest competitive differentiators across many industries and companies”.

Ranked Australia and New Zealand’s 5th most innovative company in 2017*, Aurecon also decided to use the employment contract as an exemplar of thinking innovatively as part of its focus on shaping the future of work.

“We looked at the employment contract and reimagined and reframed it to be meaningful,” says Carl Devereux.

“We also saw the Visual Contract as a way to demonstrate to our staff and new hires the culture we are seeking to build, particularly around two of our Aurecon Principles: Make the complex simple and Be playful with serious intent.”

“What better place to start meaningful engagement than when people are hired,” he said. 

Video transcript: Aurecon launches visual employment contracts

When engaging talent, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Employment contracts are confusing, wordy, and written for… lawyers? Who reads it all? Who really understands it all?

As human centred designers we wanted to change all that. We wanted to make the complex simple… while being playful with serious intent. We created a succinct and understandable employment contract. Free from legal jargon these innovative contracts look like a comic strip.

They are called visual contracts. Visual contracts are an emerging discipline and part of a broader movement to simplify the law. Aurecon and staff are represented by characters or avatars. The lightbulb avatar represents employees or ‘ideas people’.

To re-design the contracts a talented team was assembled from different disciplines – people & culture, innovation, legal, communication, and graphic design. And we partnered with a visual contracting specialist – Professor Camilla Andersen from the University of Western Australia. More than 5000 words were eliminated.

Concepts and drawings were developed in design workshops. Each iteration was tested, and tweaked. The result: A succinct, user-friendly, and easy to understand employment contract. A new way to engage with employees, to build trust.

It’s an unconventional approach, but one that will set the tone of what an employee can expect when they join Aurecon. Developed for all levels of staff, Aurecon’s visual employment contacts are a world first, and part of our focus on reimagining the future of work.

A new and innovative approach to simplifying the law – creating the right foundation for positive employment relationships.

Aurecon is now using these innovative visual contracts in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

“Aurecon is a New Zealand firm operating across Australia, New Zealand, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East, with a culturally diverse workforce. Meaning can often be lost between offices, countries, cultures, and languages.”

“We should live in a world where contracts are written in accessible language – where people truly understand, and feel comfortable signing an employment contract. A world where relationships are set-up to succeed by aligning expectations and developing the right culture at the outset.”

“Too often, contracts are too complicated for their own good. Those who develop the agreement often lose sight of the original purpose.”

“We also expect these contracts will lead to easier on-boarding, and a more open and transparent employee relationship,” says Devereux.

The rise of visual contracts

Around the world, a small but growing group of businesses, lawyers and academics are rethinking contract design, using mind maps, interactive mediums, images, and illustrations – even contracts in a visual comic strip form.

Since launching the initiative in New Zealand in August 2018, more than 50 new employees have signed Aurecon’s new visual contracts in New Zealand. This new engagement model has also been rolled out by Aurecon in Australia and Africa. By the end of 2018, the company expects to have 1,200 employees signed-up on the new visual contracts.

Leave arrangements depicted in one of Aurecon’s Visual Employment Contracts

With words like “severability”, and “contemporaneous”; and phrases such as “cumulative covenants”, “breach of duty”, “waive any moral rights” and “execute all instruments” – it is easy to see that traditional employment contracts are unnecessarily complex and don’t create an environment in which employment relationships can thrive.

New employees joining Aurecon in New Zealand no longer receive a Letter of Appointment accompanied by a lengthy Conditions of Employment document written in legal terms and small font.

By transitioning the employment contract into a visual contract format Aurecon has been able to not only dramatically reduce the number of words, more importantly, improve understanding with the removal of legalese and use of illustrations to explain concepts. They are also looking to extend this approach to Aurecon’s company policies. 

But are they enforceable?

Lawyers will define a contract as something that is legally binding, which can be taken to a tribunal or court and they will reinforce a certain right.

“We strongly believe that there is no reason why a contract like this can’t be equally enforceable simply because there are pictures and simple language instead of detailed legal terms – although, until we actually have such a contract enforced in a court somewhere we can’t know for sure,” said Professor Camilla Andersen.

Our New Zealand legal advice has been that all legal requirements are met in the new visual contracts. A new employee signs in the spirit of the contract which is less descriptive and based more on trust and relationship building.

Working with Professor Andersen, Aurecon will complete a detailed assessment of the impact of the new contract later this year.

Visual contracts are an emerging discipline and part of a broader movement to simplify the law. “Ultimately, we all want the same thing – agreement, alignment and engagement. How we get there needs to be reimagined. The business world today can be overwhelmingly complex but our solutions, in the face of this complexity, need to stay simple,” says Devereux.

More From Aurecon

To top