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SMEs urged to embrace diversity or risk losing top talent

21 Jun 2018

New Zealand’s small and medium businesses need to embrace diversity or miss out on hiring the best talent for the job – something NexGen founder and director Niran Iswar knows all too well.

He is a second-generation New Zealander and helps to run an Auckland-based firm with diverse team from New Zealand, China, India, Korea, South Africa, Taiwan, and Thailand.

The large SME client base loves the extra international experience that diversity adds to the firm’s services.

However to get to where he is, throughout his job hunting process he had to bypass recruiting and HR gatekeepers because of his foreign-sounding surname.

He says that needs to change – and the change is well overdue.

“If you have an Indian or an Asian name on your CV, you’re up against a brick wall in the small to medium enterprise job market in in New Zealand.”

“I’m proud of my name and I didn’t want to change it. However, if I could get potential employers to hear me speak, to hear my Kiwi accent, I was at least in with a chance.”

Iswar says that the 90-day trial period has helped many employers beat their anxiety about hiring those from different backgrounds, Iswar says there’s still a long way to go.

“Diversity is a competitive advantage. Corporate New Zealand is increasingly diverse, as are many of their decision makers.”

He believes New Zealand SMEs should avoid jumping to conclusions about a candidate’s abilities if they come from another country and instead embrace the benefits.

“People from around the world have different cultural factors that affect, for example, customer service and money. For example, in China the average savings rate is 30%, and in India it is about 25%. Here in New Zealand we’re at about 2%.”

“Within the Indian culture, for example, one focus is on how to manage, and trade and grow money, and as a result we have some experience and tips that we can share on how to do that. It’s time to stop using ‘no New Zealand experience’ as an excuse – we live in a global economy,” says Iswar.

He believes immigrants feel they need to prove themselves so they try hard, often working longer hours. If there are people working 5% harder, he says that will make a difference to the bottom line.

“A real issue on the horizon is an increasingly tougher labour market. With the new Coalition Government tightening up on immigration, finding good staff is going to get harder. Better to get in now and start diversifying the workplace before the corporates snap up all the good people.”

Iswar says his wife works in a very ‘bloke’ orientated construction industry.

“As the number of women increase within that environment, she can see a tangible change in the level of respect people pay each other – they’re having a different conversation, and it’s healthy.”

“My advice is to pay closer attention to the person’s motivations, their skill set and their attitude – you’re almost always going to find these are favourable – and less attention to their name, accent or country of origin,” says Iswar.

Iswar has been named a New Emerging Leader by New Zealand Asian Leaders, and is also one of four finalists in the Newmarket Business Awards 2018 ‘Young Business Person of the Year' Award.

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