Living Culture at Fortis | An Interview on Diversity with Project Consultant Maggie Greening

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Diversity, Fortis

We interviewed Project Consultant/Resource Developer Maggie Greening this week to kick off our Living Culture at Fortis series, to discuss why diversity efforts need to address more than just culture.

 

Māori language (known as Te Reo) is one of the official languages of New Zealand. Kia ora is an informal Maori greeting and it means literally “be well/healthy” and is translated as an informal “hi”.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

“Kia ora (key-or-rah), I’m from Aotearoa (the land of the long white cloud) otherwise known as New Zealand (NZ). Now I’m sure you would have picked that up from my photo or the greeting. In fact, I am of Maori, Irish, and Spanish descent, but if I did a DNA test I’d probably be surprised, maybe even shocked to learn of other ethnicities that make me unique. I was born and lived in NZ before arriving on the shores of Perth, WA in September 2011. I never thought I would leave my mother land but family drew me to Ahitereiria (Australia).

Another unique bit of info about me is that I was raised by my maternal grandmother, which not until later in life did I really appreciate the cultural values that she instilled in me about family, relationships, respect and work ethic. On reflection, it set me up well to seek a career in social work and teaching/training.

So, culture is important to me as is diversity, it keeps me absolutely grounded in knowing who I am and where I came from and also having an appreciation and genuine interest for other peoples’ heritage and background.”

Maggie has almost 22 years’ experience in developing and delivering training for the services sector in both New Zealand and Australia, and for the past 10 years has had a focus on cultural diversity. She has been an integral member of the Fortis team since joining us in 2012.

Since then Maggie has applied her invaluable experience in working to develop learning solutions for a number different Fortis clients, across a variety of industries.

 

“My title is Project Consultant and Resource Developer”

Maggie’s day to day is consumed by identifying training needs, designing training programs and developing the associated resources. With rarely a spare minute, Maggie works tirelessly on several different projects day to day, ensuring Fortis is able to best meet the needs of all our different clients. For each project Fortis undertakes, Maggie is often involved from beginning to end.

Initially Maggie will often be engaged to develop a client’s training overview. From here she can be responsible for anything from development of the training program and the associated resources, to the training delivery.

Where a client’s identified deliverables are training or consultation, Maggie often finds that project management becomes central to her role in the project. Furthermore, if her experience has taught her anything, it is that relationship management is key, no matter what the project, client or industry may be.

 

What attracted you to the role at Fortis Consulting?

Maggie moved to Australia after working for the government of New Zealand for 21 years. Working in the equivalent of the Department of Child Protection, Maggie was a social worker for 11 years, before moving to the training/learning and development department for the following 10 years. Beginning as a social work trainer Maggie quickly excelled to become a team leader in the design team, where she refined her training design skills.

Fortis’ Cultures, Communications and Relationships at Work program attracted Maggie to a role at Fortis in early 2012. Maggie found a natural connection with the program, describing the importance of culture as a passion, one which stemmed from her background where understanding culture was incredibly important to her work with clients. Furthermore, Maggie believes that understanding your own culture is also very important when you’re involved in working with others.

Maggie’s contributions to the CCRW project remain hugely important to her. After successfully piloting the program, Maggie found the next project, the award-winning Keys to Diversity Program was a natural progression for Fortis’ work on developing diverse workplaces.

 

You’ve been at Fortis for 6 years now, what projects have you found the most rewarding?

When asked about what motivates her, even after 6 years here, Maggie discusses the need to know that her work on projects meets the clients’ needs. Maggie is delighted that Fortis has been nominated for, and received several awards for their CCRW and K2D programs, especially as this reassures her that her work has contributed to innovative and valuable solutions for clients.

Maggie is also highly adaptable. Moving from New Zealand where organisational training was focused on worker-client relationships, Maggie was required to develop a different approach to training in Australia where we look at worker to worker relationships. This adaptability has no doubt contributed to her success at Fortis, where Maggie’s project work can require her to be across the Aged Care industry and the Screen industry in the same day. The variety of work at Fortis enables Maggie to constantly be developing a network through building relationships with others in a variety of fields.

 

Why is diversity so important?

Maggie notes that she has seen more of a focus on diversity since she’s been in Australia, as opposed to when she was in New Zealand. In New Zealand there is a visibility of the indigenous culture and approach everywhere you go, from the time you board the national airline carrier, you are immersed in aspects of the New Zealand culture, to the time you land and enter any of the International Airports you know you have arrived in a unique place, the Greeting, the Haka (challenge), the Powhiri (welcome) and of course the All Blacks. Australia is very diverse and multicultural and you recognise that when you arrive. One of the unique things about Australia when I arrived I realised that there were just about more Kiwis living here than at home. This helped to adjust and recognise that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world you can always find your ‘place’.

Maggie believes diversity is important because we are dealing with it every day. Relationships are key, so you need to understand both your own culture and that of others to understand the complexities involved in relationships. Maggie has always had a genuine interest in people, and the way that their culture can affect their lives, for example by dictating their values or traditions.

Maggie also believes that there are cultures that affect people beyond a person’s ethnicity. For example, a significant number of individuals in Australia are involved in disability culture, as it impacts and affects many people live their lives and guides the way they live their lives. Where people are trained to be more culturally aware, we can have a better understanding of what disability may look like a culture, as in many cases we only recognise disabilities that are visible.

Maggie believes in working to understand culture so we can let go of stereotypes and understand the person we are interacting with, to develop better relationships.

 

What would you consider the largest benefits for a company to have a culturally diverse team?

The main benefit of diversity in Maggie’s experience is the richness it brings. Where you only acknowledge one perspective, you miss out on learning to understand a variety of others. According to Maggie, working in a diverse team teaches you to take a broader view, whilst also giving organisation’s access to a greater range of skills.

 

What are the biggest challenges to implementing a cultural shift in an organisation?

On the challenges of diversity in organisations, Maggie notes that many firms do not see the value in cultivating a culturally diverse workplace. For this reason, cultural training programs are often not a priority, and therefore struggle to seek funding. Maggie believes attitude towards cultural diversity training is a key reason as to why it is rarely implemented.

Maggie’s experience has taught her about the complexities of diversity, and that there are other types of diversity beyond just cultural. Maggie believes that key to relationship management is understanding people beyond their visible diversity, which is often their origin, ethnicity or visible disability. Rather, Maggie notes the importance of working to understand a person’s values and beliefs, although they often stem from a person’s cultural culture they can be markedly different for people of the same background. If we just address diversity, we are still putting people into boxes and potentially ignoring important differences in values, traditions, customs, beliefs and upbringings that have a key influence in people’s lives. This is why the concept of diversity can become so complex, however it also illustrates why it is so important to develop an understanding of culture and its influence on relationships.

 

Finally, what is your fondest memory of Fortis so far?

What drives Maggie in her work at Fortis is that the Executive Team (Executive Director Adrian Gurgone and National Director Mary Gurgone) share the same values. Fortis’ working environment is one of respect, where all members of the team are treated well. Furthermore, Adrian and Mary Gurgone share Maggie’s value for family, therefore it is not surprising that they have cultivated a working environment that complements family life.

Maggie enjoys working with Mary who spends lots of time with her grandkids and with Adrian who balances successfully running a business with being a heavily involved father.

In terms of her personal achievements, Maggie’s highlight has to be the CCRW project, as it had such positive outcomes for those involved. Maggie worked for almost two years on CCRW, between pre-project consultation, to the actual development and pilot of the program. The acknowledgement from clients as well as being shortlisted for the IPAA awards illustrates that Maggie’s contribution, as well as the remainder of the Fortis team’s work lead to development of a truly beneficial product that continues to evolve.