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Downer New Zealand – Māori leadership a first step to diversity

Case Study

New Zealand Diversity Awards, 2016
Diversity Awards Category

Downer New Zealand – Māori leadership a first step to diversity

The cultural challenge

Downer New Zealand realised that it employed about 800 Māori workers but had very few Māori leaders to represent this workforce. The company recognised that to support the recruitment and development of Māori employees, it was important to develop those leaders.

Strategies for success
  • Downer New Zealand applied to Te Puni Kokiri for funding for the Whakahiki i Nga Rangatira Māori (Empowering Māori Leaders) programme.
  • Downer’s Māori leaders designed content for the programme, with input from the operational business and human resources. Three two-day workshops are held over a nine-month period, and include visits and stories from influential Māori leaders, sessions on developing strong networks, Tikanga and Te Reo, mentoring, self-awareness and career planning, and two days working with horses to develop leadership presence.
  • After a successful pilot programme, Downer committed to launching three courses across its North Island business.
  • Employees are nominated for the course by managers, and given support from a mentor throughout the programme.
Results and benefits
  • Retention of Māori employees – the retention rate of employees who have completed the programme is 86 per cent, higher than Downer’s overall retention rate.
  • Promotions for Māori staff – 13 of the first group of 30 received a promotion and others in the group took a step up in their current role.
  • Improved business relationships. Downer is taking concepts and practices experienced as part of this programme and applying them to everyday business practices. Time is being taken to establish relationships, rather than delving straight into business.
  • All participants now have a personal development plan, which encompasses career, personal, whanau and community goals.
More about Downer New Zealand

Downer has been helping shape New Zealand since 1870, when it was the original Public Works Department and Post Office. Today the business in New Zealand has around 5,000 employees providing services to clients across several sectors including roading, major civil works, telecommunications and facilities management.

“I’ve realised my time here was a journey of self-discovery, identifying who I am as a leader currently and what I am possible of becoming by applying myself.”

Te Whangara Group

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