SMEs urged to embrace diversity or risk losing out
An Auckland businessman urges SMEs to factor in a person’s motivations, skillset and attitude when recruiting, rather than names, accents or country of origin. NexGen Group founder and director Niran Iswar (pictured) is a second-generation Kiwi, but his ‘foreign’ sounding name on his CV meant he had to bypass recruiters and human resource gatekeepers just […]
An Auckland businessman urges SMEs to factor in a person’s motivations, skillset and attitude when recruiting, rather than names, accents or country of origin.
NexGen Group founder and director Niran Iswar (pictured) is a second-generation Kiwi, but his ‘foreign’ sounding name on his CV meant he had to bypass recruiters and human resource gatekeepers just to get a look in for a job interview and, he says, it’s time – way past time – to change that.
“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,” says Iswar, who admits he at least had his New Zealand accent to help beat prejudice.
“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.”
Today Iswar’s Auckland based chartered accounting and business advisory firm has a large SME client base and a 100% diverse team of people from New Zealand, China, India, Thailand, South Africa, Korea and Taiwan and the firm’s client love the extra dimension international experience adds to the firm’s services.
Recently identified as a New Emerging Leader by New Zealand Asian Leaders (NZAL), Iswar is also one of four finalists in the Newmarket Business Awards 2018 ‘Young Business Person of the Year’ award – the market is recognising the talents that he and his diverse team have to offer.
“Diversity is a competitive advantage,” says Iswar. “Corporate New Zealand is increasingly diverse, as are many of their decision makers.”
While the 90-day-trial period has certainly helped close the diversity gap because it allowed many SME employers to overcome their anxiety around employing, for example, Chinese and Indian people, Iswar says there’s unquestionably still a long way to go.
As a result, Iswar is urging New Zealand SMEs to steer clear of jumping to conclusions about a potential employee’s abilities if they come from another country, and to instead embrace the potential benefits immigrants can offer.
“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 two percent.
“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 says immigrants naturally try hard because they feel they have to prove themselves and are willing to go the extra mile, often working longer hours.
“When you have people in your team working just five percent harder, it’s going to make a significant 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 the diversity in NexGen Group’s team means that ideas are challenged, different perspectives bring greater value to the table and a shift in culture brings new and unexpected opportunities.
“My wife works in the construction industry, which is very ‘bloke’ orientated. 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.