Breaking down barriers

Published May 4, 2020

Wellington UniVentures has been helping a former Victoria University of Wellington researcher to turn the research she developed there into a business that’s helping employers to recognise, value and successfully manage cultural differences—enabling them to positively impact the way they attract, engage and motivate their employees.  

New Zealand is one of the most diverse nations in the world today, with over 200 ethnicities, and one in four people born overseas. This diversity, combined with the increasing globalisation of today’s business world, means a growing number of people from different countries and cultures are working in culturally diverse teams. 

The challenge—and opportunity—for business is that differing cultural values can lead to differing views in the workplace, on everything from business practices and work values, through to leadership and communication styles.

“How organisations understand and value these differences can either give them a competitive advantage in their marketplace, or cost them in terms of money and reputation,” says Dr Jaimee Stuart—a former lecturer in the School of Psychology and Fellow at the University’s Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research (CACR)—who designed and developed a training course to help businesses recognise and leverage cultural diversity.

Known as Building Cultural Competency, the course takes business teams through a practical, hands-on programme that teaches them the skills they need in order to value, listen to and effectively work with, diverse colleagues and customers.

“By building awareness and understanding of intercultural differences, organisations can improve business performance and retain employees and clients—and foster clearer communication that reduces misunderstandings,” she says.

When Jaimee moved overseas, Wellington UniVentures worked with CACR and Jaimee to draw up a licensing agreement that would enable her to take the intellectual property (IP) from the course into her own business—so that she could continue to create impact with it, anywhere in the world.

Gary Ward, Wellington UniVentures’ General Manager—Knowledge Services, says that the UniVentures team supports researchers from all across the University to extend the reach of their vital work.

“The opportunities and ways in which researchers aspire to—and can—achieve impact from their work is increasingly varied, so we offer a wide range of support services that extend across all faculties and their communities,” says Gary. “Helping to create a business out of IP that’s been created within the School of Psychology’s CACR is a great of example that.”