Workplace communication and culture

Clear communication in the workplace is essential for your new employee’s productivity, safety and wellbeing. Bear in mind they may have difficulties with kiwi language, culture and the way people work here.

English may not be a first language for your migrant employee. They may have further difficulty with the kiwi accent. Even people who grew up speaking English may not understand how we say and do things in New Zealand. Make sure communication with migrant workers are simple and clear.

Effective communication

Your new employee may be used to a hierarchical workplace structure with managers who speak very directly. In New Zealand, employers often speak in a less direct manner, which can make our instructions sound like requests rather than orders.

For example you might ask “would you mind fixing this?” but your migrant employee may be expecting an instruction like, “get this done” or “do this.” Our soft approach may make them unsure how important the task really is.

We have developed a website where employees and employers can learn about barriers to good workplace communication. It includes brochures to download and video examples of how to communicate effectively with your new employee.

WorkTalk: NZ Workplace Communication

Workplace communication tips [PDF, 250Kb]

Kiwi language, informality, and culture

Kiwis can use a lot of informal language at work, including slang and swear words. This can make it difficult for migrants who may have learnt very formal English, and even for migrants whose first language is English. Some migrant workers can also be very offended by swearing.

There are also many industry-specific terms or acronyms used in New Zealand workplaces. Help your employee learn new words by writing them down, or taking the time to explain them as they come up.

It can be difficult for your new employee who is trying to adapt to communication styles in a different language and culture. For instance, in some cultures engaging in small talk and developing personal relationships with workmates is not the norm.

Being aware of these differences can help you to understand the communication challenges your migrant employee may be facing.

Keeping it clear

More on preparing for migrant staff