When your team has a sense of wellbeing at work, they’re more likely to have higher motivation and effectiveness, and that affects your bottom line. Understanding how to support your Māori and Pasifika staff can help everyone be at their best.

Māori and Pasifika have specific needs – some of which differ from the rest of New Zealand. And in Auckland, we have one of the largest Polynesian populations in the world.

Our Pasifika community includes at least 13 distinct languages and cultural groups. Pacific people are linked with tangata whenua and embrace the bi-cultural foundation of Aotearoa. However, this doesn’t mean ignoring subtle differences among people. In fact, personalisation and cultural understanding are key.

What do our Māori and Pasifika employees need?

Skills.org regularly surveys its network to understand wellbeing at work. Their team has found that efforts to be culturally inclusive often fall short.

“In improving wellbeing, building ‘genuine care’ should be a key focus area for both Māori and Pasifika,” they say.

However, Skills found that Māori place more importance on a good work-life balance, a culture that looks after employee wellbeing and policies that look after staff wellbeing.

On the other hand, priorities for Pasifika are a job that makes them feel worthwhile, a good work-life balance and opportunities for training and development.

To fully support those with Māori or Pasifika backgrounds means embracing what they bring as a whole person. Practical steps can help you welcome new team members and improve performance. In turn, you’ll strengthen your business’s resilience through talent.

How can employers support Māori and Pasifika staff?

One of the most impactful ways to strengthen cultural support in your business is to provide new employees with role models, support and mentors of the same ethnicity. This can be especially important in the context of your business’s own cultural norms. Pairing someone with an experienced buddy from the same culture means they have someone who can empathise and who gets them.

Whānau plays an important role in the lives of Māori and Pasifika people. Pasifika parents often make decisions about their children’s careers, so it’s worth making and taking opportunities to engage with families. People need to know what to expect from an apprenticeship so they can set up the right support.

Competenz is another of our training partners who research and develop strategies to better support Māori and Pasifika. They gather insights from industry and the community.

“Pasifika people are proud. Many don’t ask questions because they don’t want to be seen to be failing. Many Māori learners are quite reserved. Getting to know them personally is the best way to encourage them to open up with questions.”

Teu le vā, ‘nurture the relationship’ 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 Pasifika 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.

What’s the opportunity?

E vave taunu’u le malaga pe a tatou alo va’a fa’atasi.
Our journey makers will arrive at our destination faster if we paddle our va’a/waka together.

Our Māori and Pasifika workers are an untapped source of talent and leadership. Competenz’s research found that Māori and Pasifika still have lower rates of enrolment in workplace trades training than other ethnicities. However, Māori and Pasifika learners complete their qualifications at the same rate as learners of other ethnicities. It means we’re missing out.

Welcoming more Māori and Pasifika into trades is one of the best opportunities we have to build a skilled and productive workforce in our industries and nation.

Employing people from varied backgrounds means you benefit from their different perspectives and problem-solving approaches. Plus, you’ll be helping create social change through a more diverse workforce. Having a team that reflects this shows you value your community’s diversity as customers too.

If your organisation would like to learn more about cultural competency, then we’re here to help.

Please register your interest with us now for a workshop evening, free for MPTT employers.