Cultural Competency in Aotearoa Workplaces

By Zoe Liddell | Posted: Thursday March 30, 2023

I orea te tuatara ka patu ki waho. A problem is solved by continuing to find solutions.

Aotearoa is a multicultural country, and with some predictions finding that almost 43% of today's young people are Māori and Pasifika, the future workforce will be more diverse than ever. Therefore, preparing your business with support systems for Māori and Pasifika employees is essential.

The most crucial step for employers is doing the mahi behind the scenes. To ensure your workplace is a welcoming place that supports rangatahi, here are some simple steps you can take to start:

  • Take a hard look at your current business practices and the environment you have created and reflect to see where you can improve to ensure this is a welcoming place for everyone.

  • Talk to your current employees. Their perspective can be extremely valuable in finding how to make a more inclusive workplace. Sending an anonymous survey can be a way to get some honest feedback.

  • Get an impartial third party to come in and support you with any gaps you may currently have. Several organisations across the motu now focus on cultural awareness training, offering courses surrounding cultural competency and cultural safety for the workplace; look into if one of these organisations can help you.

  • Look at who is making decisions for your company, is it reflective of a multicultural Aotearoa?

  • Can you use more Te Reo Māori in the workplace? Is there an appropriate time to include karakia and waiata into a typical working day?

  • Do you engage with local iwi? Is there anything you can do to support local Māori and Pasifika communities?

  • Recognise the value of cultural insights, don't assume you can lean on existing employees for cultural guidance without compensation or understanding that this role also includes additional emotional and mental labour.

Being an inclusive workplace does not have a quick fix, and it constantly needs to be revisited and improved. For example, the team here at Youth Employment Success is always looking to grow and further expand cultural connections. Inclusivity has always been a fundamental pillar of Youth Employment Success, but over the past two years, senior management has been actively exploring both the individual and collective responsibilities of the YES team to contribute toward creating a Tiriti-centric Aotearoa. In doing so, enabling the YES team to explore, engage with and implement important kaupapa Māori concepts and opportunities for education within the YES team and throughout the YES programme. 

Incorporating mātauraunga Māori into the day-to-day operation of the Youth Employment Success programme has enhanced the well-being and development of the YES team. In particular, the well-being and development of those within the team who whakapapa Māori it has also allowed us to explore the areas in which we need to develop our understanding and inclusion of matauranga Māori. Our efforts were recognised by The Grand Business South Awards 2022 with the Māori Business Award. However, we recognise our work isn't done yet, and there are still ways to improve further. 

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