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Diversity key to businesses thriving in future

Diversity key to businesses thriving in future

Although business confidence in New Zealand is growing, now is not the time to sit back and relax, as the global war for talent and an aging workforce threaten to stop small and large businesses alike from thriving in the future.

Businesses are starting to pay much more attention to their long term sustainability, and creating diversity across the organisation to combat the major challenges of attracting, recruiting, retaining and developing the best talent.

It’s an issue that the Sustainable Business Council (SBC), and many of its member companies are focused on.

Sustainable Business Council Executive Director, Penny Nelson, says that a lack of diversity across a workforce - among other factors - can lead to a shortage of fresh ideas and retained intellectual capital, dangers to the longevity of any business.

“Making sure there’s a good mix across age, gender, experience and ethnicity expands the talent pool, contributes to new thinking and creates a culture where everyone within the business, and the business itself, can thrive,” she says.

“We believe our Social Role of Business project assists our member companies to develop skills and resources to establish positive, productive and lasting employment relationships.”

For SBC member company BNZ, diversity is about creating a culture that unleashes the potential of each individual within its workforce, which it believes provides the business with a distinct competitive advantage.

As part of a broader diversity agenda packed with practical initiatives, BNZ undertook an audit last year into the ageing nature of its workforce and the risks associated.

BNZ CEO, Anthony Healy, says that what the bank found was pockets within the organisation which had a concentration of older employees.

“The potential loss of knowledge and industry fluency was frightening.

“This review and reporting on our talent pipeline and succession planning gave us a strong case to implement a pilot programme around our mature workers,” says Mr Healy.

“The pilot programme began in February this year and is based around helping mature BNZ employees plan for the next phase in their lives.

It takes a holistic view of the mature employee and considers their identity, financial aspirations, career, health and relationships as part of their employment agreement with the bank.

The results of the pilot will help us with how we work as an organisation and how we work with employees across all stages of life.”

Also this year, BNZ has undertaken its Te Pihinga Māori cadetship programme as part of its diversity focus. It has seen 12 talented Māori from across New Zealand begin six month cadetships within their own communities, and has been deemed a huge success for the bank.

Mr Healy says that a career in banking is often misperceived among Māori and, as such, the bank struggles to find Māori candidates interested in applying for jobs. The cadetships are going some way to changing that perception.

“And we have 12 passionate and dedicated staff members bringing important perspectives, knowledge and networks into our organisation, which has been invaluable.”

An added benefit for other SBC members, and all other businesses, is a free resource BNZ has put together to share what it has learned through its study of its own diversity.”

“We hope other businesses join us in making a conscious investment in encouraging each and every New Zealander to perform at their best in their own way, a key driver of a high performing economy,” says Mr Healy.

Penny Nelson says BNZ’s approach is a great demonstration of a business taking the lead in addressing societal issues and creating a more sustainable business for the future.


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