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Employers Challenge: Open Your Minds to Immigrants

Media Release 22 November 2006

Challenge to Employers: Open Your Minds to Immigrants

One of Auckland’s senior recruitment consultants is challenging employers to put their money where their mouth is and start opening their minds – and jobs – to immigrant applicants.

Kim Smith, Senior Consultant at Robert Half Finance & Accounting, says a recent international survey by parent company Robert Half International reflected very favourably on New Zealand employers’ attitude to immigrants.

In the Robert Half Financial Directions Survey of more than 2500 finance professionals across 13 countries, 81% of New Zealand respondents thought immigrants added cultural diversity to the workplace, 57% believed immigrants could help to improve processes, 40% thought immigrants frequently had experience in more advanced procedures and 28% believed immigrants often had qualifications and skills that could not be gained in New Zealand.

New Zealand finance professionals also thought it only fair that their companies should help immigrant workers learn the ropes: 62% said companies should actively try to integrate migrant workers; 40% believed they should offer training; 40% believed companies should offer mentoring to new migrants; and 28% believed they should provide language training for migrants.

But the day-to-day reality simply didn’t match these lofty ideals, said Kim Smith. Even highly skilled migrant applicants faced enormous hurdles finding employment in New Zealand.

“I constantly hear employers saying ‘But they won’t understand how we work’ or ‘They are not going to fit in with our team,’” she said.

“It is astonishing that at a time when those same employers are complaining about a lack of skilled workers they are out-of-hand rejecting highly qualified and capable applicants purely because they were raised in a different culture.

“These are people who have actually chosen to live in New Zealand – they are highly motivated to ‘fit in’ and learn the work culture. They are also often very technically sound, very smart and a much underutilised resource in New Zealand.”

On the whole, employers were not reluctant to hire Australian, American or British immigrants, but hesitated over those from non-Western countries, and frequently raised language as a hurdle.

Kim Smith said New Zealand employers should think carefully about the survey and start putting in practice the sentiments expressed: actively trying to integrate migrant workers by offering them training, mentoring and, where necessary, language training.

“Let’s stop putting up unnecessary hurdles and instead look at how these highly skilled migrants can help New Zealand companies innovate and grow,” she said.

On a more positive note, Kim Smith agreed with the survey’s findings that New Zealand companies were open to working in a global marketplace and were confident about holding their own against low-cost countries such as China and India.

Of the 13 countries surveyed, New Zealand topped the list for reporting their company was taking steps to be internationally competitive (34%), that they had gained a better understanding of cultural differences (57%) and that they were more aware of different regulatory requirements (49%).

New Zealand also scored very highly in the number who thought their companies would have to become more efficient and work smarter to succeed in the global economy.

Nigel Barcham, Managing Director, Robert Half International ANZ, challenged the rest of the world to follow in New Zealand’s footsteps.


“New Zealand firms have firmly grasped that they are now operating in a global marketplace and are actively taking steps to ensure their competitiveness,” he said. “This is precisely the sort of attitude businesses all over the world are going to need in such a fast-changing global environment.”

ENDS

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