NZ’s corporate culture outdoing European counterparts

The French-born HR head of an iconic Kiwi organisation says New Zealand can compete with the best in the world when it comes to HR.

Last month, a key HRINZ judge claimed that New Zealand businesses may be lagging behind their European counterparts when it comes to CSR but now, one French-born HR head has said Kiwi companies actually outdo overseas organisations on multiple fronts.

“New Zealand is sometimes even going above and beyond [European companies], notably because of its culture,” insists Laurent Sylvestre, general manager of people and culture. “There are lots of things here in New Zealand that HR professionals in Europe can definitely learn from.”

Sylvestre, who worked as a national HR manager in both Paris and Le Mans, now heads up the people and culture team at Kiwi engineering icon Beca. He told HRM that New Zealand can easily compete with – and even outdo – some of the top global organisations when it comes to HR.

“I’ve worked for eight years in the corporate world in Europe and yes, I’ve seen cutting edge HR technology, HR philosophy and HR development tools but I’ve also seen some pretty poor behaviour in the way some companies treat people,” says Sylvestre. “Behaviour which is way worse than the way we treat employees in New Zealand.

“In New Zealand, you have a work life balance which is way higher than what you would find in Europe, you’ve got a sense of community which is way better than what you would find in most of Europe and you’ve got values at work which are way better than most of the companies you would find in Europe,” he continued.

While some New Zealand organisations often operate on a smaller scale compared to European, Asian or U.S. companies, Sylvestre says this size actually works to our advantage, with many companies being much quicker to adopt innovative people practices.

“Many European and U.S. HR practices can come across as pretty old school, not very nimble and driven out of massive corporate culture, usually due to scale,” he explained.

Despite the smaller scale, Sylvestre says that many New Zealand organisations are still successfully operating in a global marketplace which is testament to the country’s ability to compete.

“I think that globalization is such that every single business in New Zealand that operates in a global context has to run faster than the big boys in Europe and the U.S. to compete,” he told HRM.

“We are competing in exactly the same markets – take us for example in Asia – so our people practices, philosophies, technology, everything has to be better,” he continued.

“We can be better because we are more innovative, more nimble and hungrier. New Zealand has the opportunity to break out of the global HR mold and do some more unconventional and innovative stuff and lead the way globally,” he added.

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