Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Aotearoa New Zealand is a bicultural nation, with a growing multicultural population. It is essential that business owners and managers actively use the principles of cultural diversity as a basis for decision making and growing company culture in a way that affirms employees’ cultural identities.
That is not to say that a person who identifies as an ethnic minority should be seen as “needy, vulnerable and victimised” (Singham, 2006, p. 36). Singham states strongly “I do not want people to be nice to me, help me settle better and retain my mother tongue... Rather, I want to be valued and included because my contributions … are recognised and respected” (2006, p. 36).
Take for example, UTech, a (not real) company in Wellington that has recently employed several Filipinos, who are new to Aotearoa NZ. The manager, Maureen, uses Hofstede’s Dimensions in Cross Cultural Management to help her consider how to ensure all employees feel recognised and respected. It is immediately apparent that, according to the Hofstede dimensions of Power Distance and Individualism, Filipinos appear high in Power Distance (Aotearoa NZ appears low). Therefore, the new Filipino employees could find the accessibility to managers, and expectations around the sharing of expertise, quite challenging. In turn, the Kiwi employees may be frustrated by the Filipinos’ more formal, less direct or passive approach, to communication. When it comes to individualism, in the Aotearoa NZ context, the Filipinos may struggle with a business community that appears to be less close-knit, and that expects a high level of self-reliance. On the other hand, the Kiwis could find it challenging when their new Filipino colleagues appear to require more direction.
Maureen uses this information to work with all her employees to help raise their awareness, and hone their communication skills. Quite quickly, a wide range of previously unnoticed talents becomes obvious, with the additional benefit that the diversity of viewpoints is recognised, and there is a lot more creative problem-solving. While there are a few speed-bumps along the way, the team is focussed on developing their communication skills and works through the challenges to build synergy. Employees report feeling happier, more engaged, and the number of new projects underway increases.
This example illustrates that business owners and managers in Aotearoa NZ, who acknowledge cultural diversity, will be able to provide support for employees so that they become aware of the differences between specific characteristics. Such support will help ensure that employees value the strengths, motives, viewpoints, and life experiences that cultural diversity brings.
Hofstede,G. (1980) Culture's Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. Beverly Hills CA: Sage Publications.
Singham, M. (2006). Multiculturalism in New Zealand – the need for a new paradigm. Aotearoa Ethnic Network Journal 1(1). 33-37.
Circle of feet. CC ( BY NC ND ) licensed Flickr image by Adam Connolly: https://flic.kr/p/3QR3y