International CEOs in New Zealand have come under fire recently – with Herald Business Columnist Fran O'Sullivan calling out Fonterra, Fletchers Building and ANZ for being ‘star-struck by world-class CEOs’ who failed to perform. And suggesting that the solution is grooming New Zealanders within the business to step up.
I see three additional answers to this dilemma. Which don’t involve cutting New Zealand off from international expertise.
1. Broaden diversity frameworks to include internationals.
New Zealand has the 4th most internationalized population in the OECD, with expats and migrants comprising 24%.
Their offshore experiences and viewpoints are so valuable to the many Kiwi businesses aspiring to operate in global markets.
How can we ensure this amazing in-house resource gets utilized? Where’s the work on the barriers to advancement of migrants into senior management roles? Has the mainstream business community examined how its behaviours and structures impact local international talent?
New Zealand is well ahead of the US in the OECD internationalization ranking mentioned above. Yet 10 of the top Silicon Valley CEOs are ‘world class’ and of Indian origin.
Put simply – what are we missing out on?
2. Leverage our own globally mobile population.
So many New Zealanders work in major overseas companies. But we hear far less about returning Kiwis than expat CEOs being lured into top jobs here.
Air New Zealand is one business that overtly followed the repat strategy by bringing Christopher Luxton back from Unilever Canada, and eventually into the top job.
Why does this not happen more often?
Repat researcher and author, Tricia Alach, may have the answer: The process of finding a first job back in New Zealand can be a disheartening experience. They come back excited to share their skills and experience with New Zealand employers, only to find that they don’t experience the kind of warm reception they envisaged getting when they made the decision to come back home.
Boards, recruiters and executive teams could examine and learn from the attraction strategies of companies like Air New Zealand. And more importantly the business’ culture and attitudes which enabled a returning Kiwi to contribute both his international experience AND local knowledge.
3. Elevate cultural intelligence.
Theo Speirings, Mark Adamson and David Hisco undoubtedly had world class skills in their respective industries. Did they successfully transfer this experience into a New Zealand context?
The results suggest not.
But a backlash against expat executives would be counterproductive. Instead adjustment and education is required for both leaders coming from offshore, and the local businesses they enter, to prevent this happening again.
Cross-cultural specialist Shireen Chua talks about getting to a mindset where all parties are continually reading and adjusting to each other, bringing in their respective skills and experience to produce outcomes no group would have developed alone.
Imagine how NZ businesses could innovate if expat leaders and their Kiwi teams worked together like this?
Do you want to learn how to elevate the performance of international talent in your business? Get ahead of the competition and join local and overseas experts at the New Zealand International Talent Forum on 19 September. More information and bookings here. Places are limited.
Bridget Romanes is Principal at Mobile Relocation Ltd. Working in partnership with HR and executive teams, Mobile helps bring expat talent to fill key roles in companies and organisations throughout New Zealand.