Empowering Pacific Employees: Unleashing Untapped Potential in Your Business

Sep 28, 2023 11:31:14 AM

Welcoming and empowering Pacific employees can unleash new potential for your business. By embracing diversity and offering opportunities for growth, you can unlock talent, lift motivation and build resilience within your team.

An opportunity to enrich your business

Over 8% of New Zealand's population are Pacific peoples; we have one of the largest Polynesian populations in the world. The youthfulness of the population means they’ll make up a third of working-aged Aucklanders within the decade. Ensuring you’re a welcoming and supportive employer can set you apart in recruitment. A team that thrives through diversity also signals to your customers that you value inclusion and you’ll welcome them.

More than 60% of Pacific peoples in New Zealand were born here. This Pacific community is home to an incredibly rich mix of cultures. It includes at least 13 distinct languages and a growing number of ethnically diverse and blended families. Pacific people are often skilled at navigating many intersecting cultural realms. When you welcome such diversity into your team, you can benefit from unique insights, complementary problem-solving approaches and much more.

Now is the time

The Pacific Pay Gap Inquiry Report compared earnings for pakeha men with those of others. It found that for every dollar a Pākehā man-made in 2021:

  • Pākehā women earned 89 cents
  • Māori men earned 86 cents
  • Māori women earned 81 cents
  • Pacific men earned 81 cents
  • Pacific women earned just 75 cents.

Closing this gap presents an opportunity to help more people and businesses thrive. And it’s right in line with the Kiwi values of fairness. After all, we were the first country in the world to introduce universal suffrage, and we have staunchly stood against oppressive regimes.

Research shows that current efforts to be culturally inclusive of Pacific employees often fall short. Many opportunities for improvement were uncovered in a recent productivity report called, ‘A Fair Chance for All: Breaking the cycle of persistent disadvantage’. We all stand to benefit when all New Zealanders, present and future, feel proud of their cultural identities and have genuine opportunities to live better lives.

Simple steps can empower people

For Pacific peoples, good health and well-being are intertwined with their connections to others. It’s vital to build trust and a sense of belonging. Pacific employees value a job that provides a sense of worth, work-life balance, and opportunities for training and development.

Our Pacific staff possess untapped talent and leadership potential. And even in small businesses, there are practical but powerful practices to help create more supportive environments that nurture skills and talent.

  1. Provide relevant role models, support, and mentors. Pairing new employees with experienced peers from similar cultural backgrounds fosters empathy and understanding.
  2. Recognise the significance of whānau in the lives of Pacific peoples. Look for appropriate opportunities to engage with families where you can. Pacific parents often play a vital role in their children's career choices and welcoming them into your workplace or to key events can deepen your connection.
  3. Embrace the concept of Teu le vā. This is a common expression in Polynesian culture. Vā is the space between — not empty space but the sacred betweenness. The saying acknowledges the importance of mutual trust, respect and maintaining each person’s integrity. Putting this at the heart of your relationships with Pacific peoples is vital. For example, make sure you have a process so that names are pronounced correctly. Listen when your team talks about their obligations outside of work.

Your business and community will thrive when you nurture an environment that allows everyone to express their culture and bring their whole identity to work. When you foster a sense of well-being among your team members, you’ll lift their motivation, grow your business’s resilience and contribute to stronger communities. Together, we can paddle our va'a/waka towards a brighter and more inclusive future.