Diversity is recognised as a valuable asset to an organisation. However, diversity requires more than having a workforce consisting of people from diverse backgrounds. The skills and experiences of those people must be maximised to achieve optimal organisational success. In recent years the New Zealand Police (NZP) have been taking actions to recruit and retain a diverse workforce. The NZP have acknowledged that having a workforce that reflects the demographic makeup of the community they serve will be enable them to meet the needs of that community. The number of women, gay and lesbian, Maori and Pacifica, Asian and ethnic minorities in the NZP are all increasing. This minimises the stereotype that working in the NZP is a role best suited to white men although this remains the most widely represented group. This essay examines the current efforts of the NZP to increase their diversity by recruiting Asian employees. Suggestions as to how the NZP could further improve their diversity by increasing the percentage of Asian employees in the NZP will be made. These suggestions will be made by linking theoretical concepts to practical tools applicable to the NZP.
The NZP has historically been a workforce comprised predominantly of white men. The NZP are aiming to break this stereotype and to recruit more Asian officers. Wehipeihana, Fisher, Spee & Pipi (2010) outline three barriers that influence a persons’ interest in joining the NZP, the first is a negative perception of the police. Many immigrants may have intrinsic beliefs of the police based on the experiences in their home country where the police may have been corrupt (Ho, Cooper & Rauschmayr, 2006). Secondly, a lack of knowledge about what is entailed in a role in the NZP is poorly understood amongst Asian and immigrant groups. Many participants in a study by Ho et al. (2006) thought they did not have the physical attributes to make them a successful candidate for the NZP. Asian persons may thirdly, not be aware of the relevance of policing as a career to link them with their community. By identifying these three key barriers, efforts can be implemented to improve diversity through increasing the percentage of Asian employees in the NZP.
Increasing diversity for success is more than having a diverse representation of cultures in your workforce. Valuing diversity is critical for performance (State Services Commission, 2008). Increased group performance is achieved through diversity (Mannix & Neale, 2005). Increasing diversity is about getting the most from those diverse cultures, from the skills, attributes and experiences that people bring to an organisation (. Diversity within the NZP is important for communities and the nation. A diverse workforce enables the NZP to be more understanding of and responsive to the needs of the communities that they serve. Through work practices, a diverse range of ideas, cultural perspectives and work styles, the NZP are able to make better decisions and achieve better outcomes (State Services Commission, 2008).
In areas where there is a dense Asian population such as Auckland it is important that the workforce of the NZP reflects this demographic. The Office of Ethnic Affairs (2011) specifies that to serve a population you need to employ the population. Improved diversity through increasing the number of Asian employees in the NZP would lead to inclusion and cohesion of communities. NZPs’ current recruitment policy aims to recruit a workforce that is a representation of the ethnic makeup of the communities the police force serves (Clevely, 2013; Wehipeihana et al., 2010). Having a workforce representative of the community it is serving will enable the NZP to deliver services effectively. There have been documented difficulties for police in accessing information in ethnic communities and difficulties in investigating ethnic related crimes (New Zealand Police, 2004). By having a workforce with the skills to communicate effectively (e.g. Mandarin and Cantonese speaking) with Asian communities the role of the NZP is easier and there are better outcomes for Asian communities, NZP, and the nation. The impact of a diverse workforce not only positively impacts NZP but also the Asian communities that it serves. It has been recognised that there has been an under reporting of crimes by ethnic communities (New Zealand Police, 2004). An inability to speak or understand English as well as limited knowledge of the services of NZP have been identified as barriers to Asian communities seeking police help. A connection and an ability to relate impacted on the reporting of crime among minority groups (Ho, et al., 2006).
Diversity has been identified as a key ingredient for organisational success as it helps to attract and retain talented staff (State Services Commission, 2008). A key to achieving diversity requires changing perceptions of minority groups so that they see policing as a positive career option. Wehipeihana et al. (2010) identify diversity strategies already implemented by NZP; A television show currently airs, promoting women in the NZP and, in 2008, profiles of female officers were published in magazines. Te Haerenga Maori is a recruitment road show pursuing Maori. Specifically related to increasing the representation of the Asian community, the NZP are implementing multiple strategies. Posters and brochures have been developed aimed at Asian persons. Police recruiters have been present at events with a large Asian turnout such as the Ethnic Soccer Tournament, the Chinese Lantern Festival and the Chinese Youth Festival. Mandarin speaking police officers have been used in advertising (Wehipeihana et al., 2010).
In the NZP, white males are the majority group while Asians are a minority group. A minority group is not necessarily fewer in numbers but is subordinated to another group in some way (Bell, 2010). Asians as a minority group within the NZP experience identifiability, discrimination and group awareness. These three theoretical concepts will be discussed in relation to improving the diversity within the NZP. An important point to raise regarding identifiability is that when increasing the number of Asians in the NZP is discussed we must not stereotype and assume that this means recruiting only those that were born out of New Zealand, associate more with Asian culture than New Zealand and speak a language other than English as their main language. An Asian recruit to the NZP may be third generation New Zealander. This would still help the NZP to achieve goals through diversity simply by being visually identifiable as Asian to those in the community. Bell (2010) discusses diversity as a fluid concept; persons who identify with more than one group will add more skills, further improving the benefits of diversity for NZP.
Although diversity is fluid, people still tend to identify more with those with similar backgrounds to their own. Asian culture may be considered as having stronger attributes than ‘kiwi’ culture. Chattopadhyay (2003) discusses that there is a stronger sense of identity among minority groups than in majority groups. Therefore, although there is importance in employees of the NZP having an understanding of Asian culture (and that of other minority groups) it is also important that employees can continue to identify with their minority group, those people they have the closest assimilation to. Those people that identify primarily with more than one group have an increased ability to work with people from different backgrounds (Fitzsimmons, 2013). Inability to identify is an important theoretical concept when considering diversity in the NZP as if potential recruits cannot identify how they would fit in the organisation, or they do not feel the organisation is able to meet their needs they are unlikely to join. Inability to identify is a barrier to joining the NZP.
Discrimination, as a factor affecting minority groups, will impair the organisational success of the NZP. Discrimination can prevent individuals who would be capable, steadfast workers from being hired (Bell, 2010). Managing diversity is not only about recruiting persons identifying as of Asian ethnicity but is also about retaining them. If Asians, as a minority group feel discriminated against they are unlikely to stay in the NZP. Simply creating diversity through employing a spread of ethnicities does not result in diversity and lead to achievement of organisational goals (Foldy, 2004). There is no point employing a diverse workforce if the different groups do not work cohesively. Ely, Padavic & Thomas (2012) state that “learning cross-race interactions is critical for work teams to realize performance benefits from racial diversity but that diversity is a liability when society’s negative stereotypes about racial minorities’ competence inhibit such interactions” (p. 341). Discrimination gives a negative perception of the NZP to employees and potential employees and is therefore a barrier joining the NZP. Specific recommendations relating the impact of discrimination to diversity practice will be made later.
Group awareness is a concept to be considered when relating diversity with an increased proportion of Asian members of the NZP. Group awareness is a combination of identifiability and discrimination and is a subordination of identity due to discrimination (Bell, 2010). Discriminatory treatment of Asians within the NZP may be due to how the majority group identifies them, and discriminates against them without objectively assessing their intrinsic skills and qualities (Bell, 2010). People should be viewed by the skills that they bring to the NZP and not pigeon holed by stereotypes. An individual will be more productive when they are surrounded by people they feel accepted by (Foldy, 2004). Bell (2010) identifies that group awareness can affect employment opportunities. For this reason, the three barriers to joining NZP as identified by Wehipeihana et al. (2010) will be used in relation to identifiability, discrimination and group awareness to now make suggestions as to how the NZP can increase their diversity practice.
Diversity is an asset or a liability depending on how it is valued and used (Ely at al., 2012). Ethnically diverse teams can outperform homogeneous ones by bringing a broad range of skills and experiences but if the environment is not conducive to the expression of these skills then the diversity may in fact lead the team to underperform (Cox, Lobel, & McLeod, 1991; Watson, Kumar, & Michaelsen, 1993; O’Reilly, Caldwell, & Barnett, 1989; Pelled, 1996; Zenger & Lawrence, 1989 as cite in Ely et al., 2012). Only when all members of the organisation recognise and value diversity will there be positive outcomes (Ely et al., 2012). Diversity training therefore needs to be organisation wide.
When making suggestions as to ways to improve diversity practice within the NZP the distinctions between identifiability, discrimination and group awareness become blurred, therefore the following suggestions relate to all of the three theoretical concepts and hopefully will all minimise the three barriers to joining the NZP. Current efforts by the NZP to increase diversity are aimed at recruiting; the following suggestions are focused more on retaining the diverse workforce.
To create a supportive work environment where diversity is valued I would recommend a double mentoring system. Miller & Tucker (2013) recognise the value of role models within an organisation. Fine (1995) found that there is value in ( A double mentoring system would entail every new employee being buddied with someone with a similar culture to their own as well as someone from a different cultural background to their own. For example a 25 year old Asian male recruit may be buddied with 30 year old Asian female colleague who has been in the organisation less than two years. As well as, the new recruit would be mentored by a New Zealand European member of the NZP who has been with the service for many years. This would give the new recruits different perspectives of the job and the organisation. A double mentoring system would facilitate the sharing of local knowledge as well as providing on-going support (
Cultural training is a second recommendation for improving diversity practice and making a career with the NZP more attractive. People cannot be expected to work effectively and productively with one another if cultural differences are not understood by all parties involved. The Office of Ethnic Affairs (2011) supports this idea by recommending that employees learn about each other’s cultures.
If the above suggestions as to how to improve diversity practice were to be implemented there must be a review of their impact. Without reviewing if there has been a positive (negative) outcome the efforts may be a waste of time. Statistical measures of recruitment and retention could be used to assess the value of newly implemented practices. Questionnaires seeking employee feedback could also provide valuable insight in to diversity practices within the NZP. In the publication; ‘Working together with ethnic communities: Police ethnic strategy towards 2010’, the NZP outline measures of success of implementing diversity practices within the organisation. Increased cultural awareness of members of NZP is the first measure of success (New Zealand Police, 2004). Confidence is another measure of success of diversity practice, which is, increasing mutual confidence between the NZP and ethnic communities as well as improved confidence within the NZP in working with ethnic communities (New Zealand Police, 2004). The final measures of success relate directly to crime within a community. The NZP acknowledge that by valuing diversity there will be more consistent reporting of crime by ethnic communities as well as decreased offending by, and victimisation of ethnic communities (New Zealand Police, 2004). In 2013 Constables entering the NZ Police were the most diverse group ever (Clevely, 2013). However, there remains room for improvement. Given that there is a dense population of people identifying themselves as Asian in Auckland and an underreporting of ethnic related crimes the NZP should take further steps to improve their diversity practice.
In conclusion, diversity is more than a valuable asset to the NZP. Diversity provides employees with a better work environment and leads to better outcomes for ethnic minorities, majority groups, communities and the nation. The NZP have in recent years been taking significant steps to improve the diversity of their workforce but the makeup of the workforce does not yet match that of the community that the NZP serves. The theoretical concepts of identifiability, discrimination and group awareness all have an impact of the balance of diversity of Asian persons within the NZP. Each of these three concepts has been discussed as to how they are related to barriers to entry to the NZP. Following on from this discussion, recommendations were made as to how the NZP may choose to improve their diversity practice. Recommendations include a double mentoring system, cultural, diversity and discrimination training as well as forming affiliations with groups outside the NZP. The NZP needs to further increase their number of Asian employees, through diversity practices that will enable them with a diverse workforce to meet the needs of the community.
Bell, M.P. (2010). Diversity in organizations. South-Western College: Mason, Ohio.
Chattopadhyay, P. (2003). Can dissimilarity lead to positive outcome? The influence of open versus closed minds. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 24(3), 295-312.
Clevely, P. (2013). Police reach diversity milestone. Retrieved from http://www.police.govt.nz/news/release/police-reach-diversity-milestone
Fine, M.G. (1996). Cultural diversity in the workplace: The state of the field. The Journal of Business Communication, 33(4), 485-502.
Foldy, E.G. (2004). Learning from diversity: A theoretical exploration. Public Administration Review, 64(5), 529-538.
Fitzsimmons, S.R. (2013). Multicultural employees: A framework for understanding how they contribute to organizations. Academy of Management Review, 38(4), 525-549.
Ho, E.S., Cooper, J., Rauschmayr, B. (2006). Ethnic community perceptions of New Zealand police. New Zealand Police: Wellington, New Zealand.
King, E.B., Dawson, J.F., Kravitz, D.A., & Gulick, L.M.V. (2012). A multilevel study of the relationships between diversity training, ethnic discrimination and satisfaction in organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(1), 5-20.
Mannix, E., & Neale, M.A. (2005). What differences make a difference? Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 6(2), 31-35.
Miller, S.K., & Tucker, J.J. (2013). Diversity trends, practices and challenges in the financial services industry. Journal of Financial Services Professionals, 67(6), 46-57.
New Zealand Police. (2004). Working together with ethnic communities: Police ethnic strategy towards 2010. Office of the Commissioner New Zealand Police: Wellington, New Zealand.
State Services Commission (2008). Equality and Diversity: New Zealand Public Service Equal Employment Opportunities Policies. Retrieved from http://www.ssc.govt.nz/public-service-eeopolicy