Companies start to embrace diversity
Auckland businesses are slowly embracing ethnic diversity in the workplace.
But while some bosses are making huge efforts to make staff from different backgrounds feel welcome at work, many are failing miserably.
The Equal Employment Opportunities Trust chief executive Bev CassidyMackenzie says about 50 per cent of businesses in Auckland – mainly small to medium sized businesses – are biased.
‘‘They’ve made a start, but I still think they’ve got a bit of a way to go,’’ she says.
‘‘Unconscious bias has a part to play.
‘‘Some businesses are still looking at a CV that comes across their desk and going ‘that’s not an English looking name so I’m not going to look at that CV’.
‘‘That’s really sad in this day and age but it’s happening and we know it’s happening. That’s a problem.’’
The trust is a not-for-profit organisation which provides information to employers and raises awareness of diversity issues in New Zealand workplaces.
Some businesses like Mt Albert Pak ’n Save have made a important changes to make staff feel at home in the workplace, CassidyMackenzie says.
The supermarket created a prayer room for Muslim staff after noticing staff rushing off during their breaks to visit temples.
Management also allows employees’ families to join them to pray, then have lunch together in the staff lunchroom.
KFC in Balmoral is another company that made similar changes, CassidyMackenzie says.
The business transformed the top tier of its threestorey building into a prayer room and also encourages family to come along.
‘‘It’s a bit of a win-win,’’ she says. ‘‘ They have a real appreciation for the employer, their manager and supervisors to allow them to stop when it suits them to pray and allowing their family to join them.
‘‘A lot of businesses are becoming aware that religion is important to those in the workplace.’’
About 25 per cent of New Zealand’s workforce will have been born overseas by 2021, according to Statistics New Zealand.
A report published by the Office of Ethnic Affairs called Riding the Wave says ethnic diversity can add new skills and knowledge to the workplace, bring new ideas and perspectives to companies and improve their performance and results.
It features a dozen Auckland and international business which have made moves to accommodate diversity.
Beca Transportation in Pitt St organises social events mindful of people with different ethnic backgrounds, including having yum cha lunches and alcohol-free drinks available.
The engineering consultancy, which has around 50 full-time employees in Auckland and more than 2400 worldwide, has begun hiring more people from a variety of countries, the report says.
A consultant has been brought in to work as an English tutor and the company has since used the consultant’s skills to improve management of staff of diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Office of Ethnic Affairs acting intercultural advisory manager Anukool Sathu says people from different cultures bring new ideas to a team.
‘‘This helps create a more innovative and productive team environment,’’ he says.
‘‘When you have that, other team members will be able to draw on these diverse skills to further enhance their products and services.
‘‘Auckland tends to have more diverse workplaces than the rest of New Zealand.
‘‘Over the last 10 years there’s been a shift to a more diverse workplace and organisations are starting to value diversity as well.’’
Prejudice problem: Equal Employment Opportunities Trust chief executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie is concerned half of Auckland bosses avoid employing staff from different backgrounds.