The man in the mirror

Some of us will make an instant connection to those five words, nine out of ten people will follow up with the words ‘I’m gonna make a change’ but do nothing more than that. Like it or not, your unconscious bias will have a lot to do with how your song plays out.   

Mark Ambridge from Topcoat Auckland understands how unconscious bias works. Our minds are preconditioned to make unconscious choices. The volume of decisions we tackle day in and out would be mind-boggling if we had to consciously assess every single one. That means that there is a direct link between our unconscious reasoning and our conduct. 

Research tells us that a rise in diversity equals improved productivity.  Yet, when you make your next work choice it would be fair to say diversity isn’t necessarily the option your unconscious bias would choose. For Mark it’s a no-brainer. He says, “You need to think of diversity as a business decision and be aware of the many types of unconscious bias that could challenge your choice.” For example:

  • Affinity bias happens when we see a person we feel we have an affinity with ‘people who make me at ease, people similar to me’ … same country, same language, same same.  
  • Similarity bias is instinctive - we want to be with those we feel are similar to us. And the outcome is wanting to work with others like us, same same. 

Mark doesn’t suffer from affinity or similarity bias - he’s all about making a change. He says, “We’ve got a diverse blend of people at Topcoat, from Brent who started at the company straight out of school 20-plus years ago, to our new guys from the Philippines and South America. They’re all engaged, committed people that realise the benefit that comes as a result of growth through diversity.

“The bonus of having a diverse group of employees means that we see new skills coming through the business and develop new levels of tolerance – our work is a safe place for people to share tips with others and learn smart new tricks themselves. Our team also has a genuine appreciation of the value of difference and of the quirky nuances that different people can bring to a team.

“Don’t get me wrong - it hasn’t just happened. We’ve made a conscious effort encouraging all to participate … like social events such as loving Asian/South American/Kiwified BBQs, hooking a fish and burning off steam at paintball.  If one of the team is struggling with English we ensure they get the support they need, or if one of the team shows greatness we provide leadership pathways.

“There’s no competition in the workplace, just a higher degree of skill sets which contributes to improved efficiencies, productivity, turnover and quality of workmanship. Part of this is making sure that ethnicity, age or religious beliefs don’t give rise to preferential treatment – we are one team at work or play and we respect each other’s cultural and/or racial backgrounds without prioritising one over the other.

“By applying a conscious diverse approach to our recruitment, our business has benefited greatly. Our global crew are all fantastic people, eager to learn, enjoy what NZ has to offer and thankful to get the chance to work and live here full-time. The personal sacrifice these guys make being away from family/friends with the goal of setting up the people they love with a better life … WOW it's humbling!”

As an employer, when you are recruiting you have to trust in diversity when making the final choice. When you next troll through CVs and finally get down to a handful of potentials, if it’s still too close to call - opt for diversity! Pick the person that’s unique and not the same-same as the rest of your team - you won’t regret it.

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