Knowing and understanding the workplace culture of a country you want to work in is very important for your potential success and happiness. It will help you to know what is expected of you, to be aware of potential differences and learn how to fit in.
New Zealand’s work culture is best experienced when you have a Kiwi can-do attitude. The usual idea of good worker in New Zealand is someone who gets on with things independently and finds solutions. This is due in part to their pioneering history. The early settlers, both Maori and European had to be resourceful and innovative to solve the day-to-day problems that settling a new land presented. No matter their origins, the Kiwis had to tame a rugged, diverse and unpredictable landscape, which has left an imprint on the culture of today. Kiwis are expected to work and think things through alone, but also thrive in a productive collective.
This independence has also influenced the management style of New Zealand’s workplaces. A Kiwi manager will usually take a more hands off approach, with less structure in the workplace. This doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate you asking for guidance, as effective communication is important in New Zealand too! The manager in a workplace is a respected member of the team, but they are also part of the team and are usually happy to join in and help out. For this reason, most employees in the workplace will operate on a first name basis, with very little focus on status, qualifications and ego.
New Zealand isn’t a huge place and neither are the businesses there. Most of them have less than 14 members of staff, with small and medium enterprises (SME’s) making up almost half of the country’s economic output! The size of the business really does effect the workplace culture, as the general staff are in much closer proximity to the leadership of the company. This means you are more likely to be noticed or hold some influence over the direction of the business. With fewer layers of management, you can see the organisation for what it really is and understand your role within the working machine.
Smaller businesses also means less specialisation, as workers in New Zealand are expected to help out and fill a variety of other, smaller jobs within the workplace. This means that flexibility is an important thing for an employee to have, along with a desire to skill up and broaden their qualifications. Those with experience of management and can teach skills that may not be common knowledge to the average Kiwi are extremely desirable in this regard, as they offer a lot to the small businesses.
A small team also means that staff get to know each other better, meet outside of work and hold casual chats with each other. Networking, making new contacts and friends is all part of the New Zealand work experience. Friendliness and a willingness to engage in small talk will quickly endear you to the group. This casual nature is also reflected in the dress code of most offices. These small Kiwi businesses have a family atmosphere and encourage feedback from all areas of the team, so don’t be afraid to make suggestions and put forward your ideas.
Finally, New Zealand offers some of the best work-life balance available anywhere in the world. No matter where you are in New Zealand, you are always close enough to a bike trail, hiking path or beach, so Kiwi’s really value their time off. Family is also very important to New Zealanders, so it is good to see that most employees are granted leave for family occasions in most cases. With a fair, flexible and relaxed view on life, New Zealand has one of the best work cultures in the world.