By Iulia Leilua (5 minute read)

Does your C-Suite team have the confidence, motivation and drive to recruit and manage employees from Māori and Pacific cultures?

Are you an SME owner who can’t see the ROI from increasing cross-cultural capabilities in your workplace?

The key words here are drive and motivation, because we can’t assume that leaders and business owners want to incorporate Māori and Pacific cultural diversity and inclusion as part of their business or workplace engagement.

Deliberate, conscious actions are required to do this successfully and it also depends on a person’s internal thinking about the value of cultural intelligence, diversity and inclusion.

So what do these terms mean?

Diversity is about the differences reflected by employees as a result of their experiences, capabilities and backgrounds.  These differences relate to their gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, religion etc.

Inclusion is the behaviour that welcomes and accepts diversity.

Put another way, diversity is like being invited to a party, inclusion is like being asked to dance at the party (Verna Myers, Author and Cultural Innovator).

I would add that cultural intelligence is like the music that people dance to at the party.

It’s the ability to cross boundaries, operate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations (Julia Middleton, Common Purpose).

Here’s a scenario.

James owns a manufacturing company in Auckland which employs 30 workers – 19 of whom are of Māori or Pacific descent.  Leading and motivating his team isn’t easy because he has to be hands on and give plenty of directions. James would rather train his workers to grow their skills, show initiative and ‘manage themselves’.

 Workplace inclusion can mean looking at how employees are welcomed into a space and trained. Handing them a manual and ‘leaving them to it’ without mentoring can lead to under performance and poor staff retention.  In contrast, tuakana/teina (the relationship between an older person and a younger person) or learner/leader mentoring could be practised by putting newer staff with others who’ve been there a while so they can learn and master their work.

Māori and Pacific approaches to time, authority and relationships are critical to this process, but the family and cultural experiences they bring add further complexity.  Are they an urban Māori or rural Māori?  New Zealand born or Pacific born?  There are at least seven ethnicities within the term ‘Pacific’.  How do their island differences affect them in the workplace?

To bring out the best in diverse individuals and teams, workplaces need to value differences and make the most of everyone’s talents.

Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie – CEO Diversity Works

Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie, Chief Executive of Diversity Works New Zealand since 2012, says diversity and inclusion is becoming business as usual for big organisations but local government, the not for profit sector and many SMEs are lagging behind.

“With nearly 90% of organisations in New Zealand as SME’s, there are a lot of them that have not started that conversation yet,” says Bev. “Once they do, I think we’re going to see an incredible sea change in New Zealand. I think they’re our biggest potential.”

In the past five years Bev’s already seen a shift in attitudes towards engagement with – and ideas around – workplace diversity and inclusion.  But she says it’s inclusion that brings business benefits not diversity alone.

“That’s been one of the most satisfying things, seeing organisations that allow people to bring their whole selves to work,” says Bev.  “It’s meaning people are happier, they’re more engaged in work, they’re more productive and they’re seeing better performance. That’s not just good for the people that are coming to work, it’s good for the organisations as well.”

Dr Chellie Spiller – Associate Professor University of Auckland Business School

It’s a sentiment shared by Associate Professor at the University of Auckland Business School, Chellie Spiller, who published a report last November on Māori management practise. Creating wellbeing, having a family-based approach to work and embracing the wholeness of people are some of the strengths of Māori leadership that can be applied to the workplace.

“It means a person doesn’t have to compartmentalise who they are and leave some bits at the door when they enter the workplace,” says Dr Spiller.  “That person can feel more comfortable to be all of who they are and it opens the door to amazing relationships. A lot of organisations are increasingly looking at that because Māori are a growing demographic, they realise that they need to be a better reflection of the wider society.”

Here’s another scenario:

Kairangi has come to a job interview with a top accounting firm in Wellington.  The 22-year old has brought his family with him as a support. Kairangi’s extremely talented but humble – hūmarie is the Māori term – and uncomfortable with ‘bragging’ about himself.  But his family are more than happy to speak about his qualities and his list of achievements.

Dr Spiller says there’s timeless wisdom behind the practice of humility which can help strengthen relationships and culture in the workplace.

“In the Māori worldview, the managers who command respect are often deeply humble people,” says Dr Spiller. “Their actions ensure that others have trust in their word and their management, and an identification with their leaders as but one amongst equals.”

Leadership today is a multicultural challenge because of the global marketplace, diverse populations and rapidly shifting trends.

90% of leading executives from 68 countries identified cross cultural leadership as the top management challenge for the next century (David Livermore, Leading With Cultural Intelligence).

That return on investment from increasing cross-cultural capabilities in your workplace?

If it can improve your team’s efficiency and performance, expand into new markets and retain staff, build trust and increase productivity, it’s clear cultural intelligence, diversity and inclusion can have a positive effect on your bottom line.