This research was prompted by a commitment to exploring how to enhance the engagement of younger workers, particularly young Pacific people. Employee engagement is the extent to which workers are connected to and committed to their work and their organisation, and the effort they make while at work.
It is important to better understand the factors impacting on and influencing the workplace engagement of young Pacific people, given that the proportion of young Pacific people in the workforce is increasing in the face of an overall declining labour force. As discussed in the literature review (Section 3), there is very little research on young Pacific people and work beyond statistics on employment, unemployment, workforce participation, educational qualifications etc. While the statistics are showing improvements over time, the status of young Pacific people remains negative compared with young New Zealanders overall. This is of particular concern because, while the youth labour force is declining overall, the proportion of young workers who identify as Pacific is increasing. From the literature it is evident that there is currently a paucity of information on young Pacific people’s engagement at work.
This research begins to address this knowledge gap by providing more understanding of young Pacific employees’ drivers for workforce participation, their career aspirations and expectations, and the enablers and barriers to participation, progression, and engagement in the workplace. This research also explores the relationship between young Pacific workers and organisations by exploring employers’ understanding of young Pacific workers’ engagement, their expectations of young Pacific workers, and their perceptions of the barriers and enablers to their engagement.
To address the research questions, the EEO Trust commissioned the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs to conduct qualitative interviews with 20 employees and six managers from six EEO Trust member organisations.
The research strengthened and built on the findings of the literature review, identifying the following factors as key enablers for engagement:
- Organisations recognising the importance of family and Pacific cultural values for young Pacific workers;
- Positive relationships with managers, developed through inclusive two-way communication and regular feedback on performance;
- Opportunities for career development and training; and
- Having a network of Pacific role-models and/or mentors in the workplace.
The implications of the study are:
- Organisations can draw on Pacific values by getting to know young Pacific workers’ families and involving them in resolving work issues when needed.
- Organisations can utilise Pacific cultural metaphors in order to incorporate Pacific identities and values in the workplace.
- Managers need to recognise the potential of young Pacific workers and actively motivate young Pacific workers who often lack self-confidence and belief in their abilities.
- Managers also need to develop pathways within their organisations that match the aspirations and competencies of young Pacific workers.
- Formal Pacific networks provide opportunities for senior Pacific managers and supervisors to mentor young Pacific workers.
This research provides useful initial insights into the relatively unknown area of engaging young Pacific workers in New Zealand. Much more research in this area is needed in order to formulate effective organisational policies and measures to engage and retain young Pacific workers.