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Building an Effective Indigenous Recruitment and Retention Strategy in New Zealand

Direct Sourcing
CXC Global7 min read
CXC GlobalJanuary 18, 2024
CXC Global

Introduction to Indigenous recruitment in New Zealand

Despite making up over one quarter of the New Zealand population, the Māori people of New Zealand (NZ) are only 6.8% of the working population. And in terms of well-paid, highly skilled jobs, Māori people account for just 8.4%. With talent shortages in key sectors of the NZ economy, the indigenous workforce presents a huge opportunity for employers to broaden their hiring scope beyond non-indigenous workers, to plug skills gaps.

New Zealand, like Australia, needs to achieve equity in the workplace with a fair representation of Māori peoples. Hence, employers must take stock of these facts:

  • 38 percent of all population growth between now and 2040 will be Māori.
  • More than half of the population growth aged 15-64 between now and 2040 will be Māori.
  • More than 1 in 5 people aged 15-64 will be Māori by 2040.
  • 237,000 new jobs will be created between now and 2027.
  • 87,000 of the new jobs created will be categorised as highly skilled and pay over $70,000.

Source: Tokona Te Raki

With every decade passing, New Zealand is set to experience significant growth of the Māori population. The future really is Māori. And now is a critical time to build a fruitful talent pipeline for employers.

Understanding the importance of Indigenous talent

Cultural diversity in the workplace, has, for decades, been proven to add enormous value to the employer’s bottom line. From the expansion of ideas to broader innovation and creativity, cultural diversity offers employers the opportunity to realise tangible commercial benefits, workforce retention, and a great culture for workers.

The presence of employees from diverse backgrounds, races, ethnicities, sexual and political orientations encourage a workplace environment of inclusion and teamwork. Conversely, a lack of cultural diversity in the workplace can lead to miscommunication, conflict and impeded productivity. Of course, the implementation and management of Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity (DEI) policies is key to its success, both from an HR and hiring standpoint, and from its application at a line manager level.

When it comes to the hiring of indigenous workers in New Zealand, there are a raft of benefits, not only for the employer and the worker, but also significant economic and social impacts. These include:

  • From a worker perspective, Māori employees realise significant economic and lifestyle gains for themselves, their families and their community thanks to their employment.
  • The worker will frequently have the opportunity to attain qualifications and skills that they otherwise would not acquire.
  • For the government, higher tax revenues and lower social security outlays are realised.
  • For the economy, the effectiveness of the labour supply is increased.
  • For the employer, new perspectives, creativity, innovation and teamwork (as noted), are all potential outcomes.

Recognising the challenges of hiring Māori talent

A significant challenge to the hiring of Māori peoples, is the perceived limitations employers and industry leaders carry, when it comes to their hiring. Yes, there are industries and role-types Māori people have more commonly been employed in. And understanding the skills, strengths and industries best suited to Māori workers is one consideration in the hiring of Māori peoples.

However, so is recognising the need for providing education, training and professional development so that Māori workers can expand beyond the sectors in which they are traditionally employed.

Proportion of Maori and all peoples employed by occupation, September 2021.

Source: Integrated Data Infrastructure, Stats NZ

If traditional hiring practices are sustained by sector, the opportunity for greater Māori employment across a broader scope of industries, will not be realised. A widespread, strategic approach is to be considered – one where education and training sits at its core – if employers are keen to fill talent pipelines with Māori workers.

Source: Household Labour Force Survey, Stats NZ

Another challenge of hiring Māori workers, is perceived discrimination in the workplace. Perceived discrimination results in detrimental outcomes at work, including ‘work outcomes’, such as job satisfaction and engagement levels at work, as well as ‘well-being outcomes’, such as job stress and anxiety. It comes as no surprise then, that perceived discrimination can play a role in the workforce participation of Māori people.

Developing a comprehensive indigenous recruitment and retention plan in New Zealand

We’ve researched and uncovered three major strategies your business can adopt today, to include Māori workers in your workforce plan and hiring strategy.

Education and awareness in the workplace

The first – and arguably most important – factor in developing a comprehensive and successful hiring plan for Māori workers is the development of cultural awareness and competence.

Actions companies can take to boost workforce education and awareness of Māori workers and culture, include:

  • Establishing a knowledge based program, for all workers to undertake so that the workplace is rooted in Māori cultural awareness and understanding.
  • Create interactive programs, run by Māori workers and cultural experts, to accelerate learnings and insight, and to expand awareness of the Māori culture, business wide.
  • Create a workplace program to bridge the gap between the Māori world and the corporate world, through relationship building, team interactions and dedicated education solutions.
  • Offer value-based training that exposes and educates non-Māori workers to Māori cultural values, practices and beliefs and provide peer-based interactions to foster relationships and broad-based cultural understanding.

Overcoming historical and systemic barriers

Historical barriers to employment for Māori people include:

  • Lower levels of education and professional qualifications.
  • Cognitive dissonance of employers and workers in professional settings.
  • Discrimination due to long-term unemployment.
  • A distinct separation between Māori community groups and non-Māori workplaces.

In addition to many others…

If industry groups and policy makers can partner with educational institutions and Māori community groups, the educational and economic outcomes for Māori people will completely shift. High-quality, accessible tertiary education and career pathway planning will boost the opportunity for Māori workers and make a potentially lifelong difference.

Māori people need the incentive to pursue tertiary education and training. Therefore, a plan at both secondary and tertiary education levels, to pilot vocational education programs will create systemic change. The inclusion of Māori careers support and advisory in secondary education environments will provide incentives for Māori students to participate in tertiary education and, eventually, professional workplaces.

Communication and Community Engagement with Māori

There are several guiding principles for communicating and connecting with Māori people. These principles and cultural practices are undertaken across different cultural sub-groups and are widely recognised as important for successful engagement and communication. It’s these principles that the broader business community need to adopt, for successful engagement and hiring of Māori workers.

They include:

  1. Involvement of Māori communications experts. Inclusion of Māori communications exerts to design, develop and implement valid, respectful and engaging communications with Māori workers and stakeholders.
  2. Equity. A detailed communications plan that includes messaging and information to respect and reach Māori of all relevant ages. Culturally appropriate language that is suitable for Māori workers and creates equity between the working interactions of Māori and non- Māori workers.
  3. A detailed stakeholder communications plan will ensure all parties in the organisation are educated and aware of their responsibilities when it comes to integration of Māori peoples into the workplace.
  4. Recognising and respecting diverse perspectives and approaches to problem-solving or decision-making, inclusive of Māori thinking.
  5. Celebrating Māori Language Week by offering language lessons or incorporating Māori words and phrases in internal communications. This not only demonstrates respect for the Māori language but also promotes cultural awareness among employees; it’s is about developing a Māori Voices Mindset (MVM). Engaging with Māori workers via simple greetings in person and in emails is a way to develop an MVM.

The path forward in Indigenous recruitment and retention

The path forward for Māori recruitment and retention relies on the adoption of the principles outlined here, coupled with a concerted organisational mindset shift, to eliminate discrimination, biases and structural restrictions.

Employment of Māori workers will be pivotal to a thriving New Zealand economy, and now is the time to set the groundwork for sustaining a labour supply to meet these future economic demands. Importantly, when hiring, employers need to focus on the design and delivery of their hiring practices, and the cultural changes that need to be made. Māori workers must become a central, integrated component of all workforce planning and hiring strategies, where Māori values and culture are prioritised. This way, hiring of Māori workers will present with low barriers to entry for workers who may be wary about discrimination or alienation.

The role of professional recruitment solutions

The role of professional recruitment solutions is a fast track to successful, compliant, culturally sensitive Māori hiring. Experienced Māori recruitment solutions will ensure the elimination of discrimination is at the core of service deliverables, as well as ensuring wage equity, and a culturally safe working environment.

Professional Māori recruitment solutions will also ensure a wide range of talent opportunities are available for employers, including workers where skills development and qualifications may need attention, via support from government and the education sector. In addition, professional recruitment solutions for Māori hires will advise on retention strategies of these workers, so your business can optimise your recruitment investment.

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