The key findings

This section presents 5 themes identified by the researchers through analysis of the interview and case study findings. The following section in this summary presents implications for businesses wanting to create inclusive workplaces for kaimahi Māori.

There are benefits to being inclusive

Kaimahi Māori said that working in an inclusive workplace helps them to feel they belong and are respected for their uniqueness (ethnicity, and for some, gender, sexuality and disability). They feel their business is the ‘right place to be’ as they feel accepted and valued. Inclusion involves both feeling supported and supporting others.

For some, inclusion aligns with tikanga Māori values, though there is general acceptance among the research participants that inclusion is by its very nature broad and all-encompassing. The use of te reo Māori and tikanga Māori in the workplace increases feelings of inclusion for kaimahi Māori.

Inclusion is seen as a win-win for employers and kaimahi Māori as it can help retain workers and lead to greater productivity. Many kaimahi Māori described past workplaces as not inclusive so those who do find an inclusive workplace value it and can have a greater commitment to that business.

Inclusion is for all

Inclusion is seen as focusing on belonging and the uniqueness of each person and is not restricted to supporting Māori culture or any other specific culture. It involves supporting all differences across cultures, genders, sexualities, disabilities, mental health challenges and so on. Having a strong inclusion culture that provides support for everyone creates a workplace climate that attracts a diverse workforce.

Many successful businesses with high levels of inclusion have a strong interest in, and engagement with, their community including marae, iwi, and business networks. This aligns with Māori cultural values around whānau and whanaungatanga.

As well as creating better and more inclusive work climates, engaging in activities beyond their business means gaining more support from the community, creating a mutually beneficial relationship.

Leadership is key

When business leaders and managers role model, support, and apply inclusion in the workplace, then inclusion becomes a workplace reality. In larger businesses a formal inclusion policy can be helpful in encouraging inclusion in the workplace as policies signal intent and can encourage accountability. In New Zealand many businesses have relatively small numbers of employees, and for these businesses, inclusion is likely to be driven from leaders rather than from policy. For all business sizes, policy without leadership can be seen as tokenism by kaimahi Māori.

Kaimahi Māori identified the importance of Māori being represented in leadership positions within the business. Without Māori leaders, kaimahi Māori can doubt whether there is a genuine commitment to Māori and Māori culture, even in businesses that initially feel inclusive. Without seeing a Māori leader, kaimahi Māori may not see how they can fully fit into the business.

 There are multiple pathways to inclusion

The research identified several pathways that businesses can take to achieve stronger inclusion in the workplace.

  • One pathway is for businesses to create inclusion for kaimahi Māori through a dedicated strategy including developing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for leaders relating to inclusion in the workplace.
  • Another pathway is a firm commitment around time allowed for cultural requirements including tangi, and also supporting cultural activities in work time.
  • Businesses though need to be aware of aronga takirua, the cultural double shift, when kaimahi Māori act as cultural guides and navigators in the workplace along with their usual workload. This can sometimes be at the expense of kaimahi Māori wellbeing.

Genuine engagement, good relationships with staff throughout the business and processes that support inclusion are seen as key to having good inclusion in the workplace. A way to build and enhance inclusion is to encourage open dialogue between management and kaimahi, encourage employees to talk about issues of inclusion in the workplace and allow employee input on inclusion activities.

The research shows that kaimahi Māori are critical of approaches towards inclusion they see as tokenistic. If inclusion is not seen to be genuine, the very people that workplaces are trying to attract and retain are instead likely to leave the business.

Several businesses, not all of them Māori businesses, used Māori cultural values to build a strong inclusion climate. This included having a strong whānau focus but also using tikanga Māori to cement the goals, strategy, and vision of the business (for example, being guided by the principles of Te Tiriti). Many acknowledged the natural fit between Māori cultural values and inclusion by having a focus on te reo Māori, tikanga Māori and Māori cultural values representing the importance of kaitiakitanga, networking and whanaungatanga.

There can be inclusiveness challenges

Challenges identified in this research include:

  • high workloads created in part by aronga takirua. This reflects the additional work roles that kaimahi Māori typically undertake in the workplace when acting as cultural guides and navigators.
  • discrimination in the workplace. Many kaimahi Māori said they experienced discrimination in past jobs which contributed to the moving to another workplace. While a strong inclusive climate appears to reduce workplace discrimination for kaimahi Māori, businesses need to support staff against discrimination from both co-workers and customers.
  • the level of bureaucracy and excessive red tape when accessing workplace support.
  • workplace experiences around bullying which has a negative impact on workers’ wellbeing.

Some of the above challenges are likely to affect all workers, although cultural experiences around high workloads are more likely to impact kaimahi Māori.

The research | Implications for businesses >