Com­pa­nies start to em­brace di­ver­sity

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JENNY LING

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.

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