Immigration is currently quite the hot topic in New Zealand. In the property market in particular, it has proven to be quite a controversial issue, specifically around the use of surnames to distinguish between foreign or domestic buyers.
With this in mind, our team got to work on writing a blog about Kiwi job seekers versus international job seekers who apply for and secure jobs in New Zealand. Throughout the course of this, however, we started to ask ourselves another question:
What does it mean to be a Kiwi?
What’s In a Name?
We have all heard the old adage: to assume makes an ass out of you and me. This could not be more true in the way that many make assumptions about how Kiwi someone is based on the country of their birth, or a name that does not sound like a ‘true’ Kiwi name.
As New Zealand’s leading Kiwi owned recruitment agency, our Auckland team has placed 202 people in permanent jobs over the last six months. When we got to analysing the make-up of these permanent placements for this blog, we found that it produced some interesting results:
- 98 out of the 202 job seekers we placed had a name that most would consider ‘foreign sounding’.
- 79 of these 98 with foreign sounding names were New Zealand citizens or Permanent Residents.
That’s right, over 80% of those with ‘foreign sounding names’ were New Zealand Permanent Residents or Citizens. Now, we all know that being a Kiwi is more than just a piece of paper. However, in the minimum of two years that it takes someone to achieve Permanent Residency status, it’s pretty likely that they’d have bought their first pair of jandals, eaten hokey pokey ice-cream and drank L&P, watched their first live rugby game, or spent their first Christmas on the beach at a bach. We appreciate that these things alone don’t make one a Kiwi, however it’s a fair bet that after two years you’ve got a sound appreciation for the Kiwi way of work and life.
The Benefits of Diversity
After a week of pondering what the real purpose of this blog was, I ended up browsing Netflix on a Saturday night, looking for something interesting to watch. With my partner (of Hungarian descent, by the way) being a car enthusiast, we ended up choosing a film about the life of Henry Ford.
In 1914, Ford’s goal of producing 1000 Model Ts per day required out of the box thinking. The birth of the first ever motor vehicle production line required huge numbers of workers, including significant numbers of immigrant workers from as many as 53 nations, speaking over 100 different languages.
To deal with this issue, Ford created an English language school to integrate these workers prior to assigning them a job on the production line. It worked, and Henry Ford created a productive melting pot of workers, who made vital contributions to his revolutionary work in the automotive industry.
This was effective over 100 years ago, and yet we still often see an aversion to having an international workforce today. So perhaps this blog is not actually about deciding between Kiwi and international workers, but rather about embracing the good that diversity can do for the workplace.
Leading by Example
If you work with five or more people, how much do you really know about their heritage, their background, their whakapapa?
Here at Beyond Recruitment, the Kiwi ideal is very close to our hearts. We’re immensely proud to be one of the largest New Zealand owned recruitment companies. And yet, our CEO Liza Viz refers to herself as a real child of the world. Born a Greek-Cypriot South African, she initially went by her full surname Vizirgianakis, but felt she had to abbreviate this when she first came to New Zealand in order to make it easier to enter the market.
We're glad that times have changed and we've been able to fully embrace the cultural melting pots in our Auckland and Wellington offices.
Our Auckland office has its own melting pot of skilled workers, including South African, Indonesian, Austrian, Swedish, Indian, Chinese, Australian; some born overseas and some whose parents came to New Zealand before they were born.
In our Wellington office we have English, Irish, Scottish, Caribbean, Canadian, Fijian, Dutch, French, South African, Chinese, and Australian – in addition to our New Zealand staff – and every one of us can give you our personal success story of our New Zealand workplace experiences.
Skills Don’t Have a Nationality
Perhaps most importantly, however, our staff all have the skills to contribute to Beyond as a business, no matter where we come from. Our clients never request a particular ethnicity. Even if they require a job seeker who can speak a foreign language, it’s about the skill of speaking the language rather than the country the job seeker was born in.
Clients may request New Zealand experience for practical purposes, but once again this is skill related. For instance, in my area of specialisation Architecture, the reason for requiring New Zealand experience relates to the changes in our building code after the Christchurch Earthquakes.
This is not to do with being born in New Zealand, but rather being able to ensure strong, lasting and legal designs. If somebody can do the job, and do it well, then what does it matter where they were born?
I personally believe that what New Zealanders, or Kiwis, do exceptionally well is work hard and create innovative solutions. We’re welcoming, neighbourly, united and team focused. Those attributes are what make a great Kiwi, and they matter more than the plot of land you were born on.
I think the real purpose of this blog is to touch on the importance of human likeness. Identifying with the sameness and humanness that we all share, no matter where we are from.
My message to you is simple. As you go about your usual activities today, embrace the likeness in everybody around you and celebrate diversity.
In closing, here is one of Henry Ford’s famous quotes:
Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.