What do New Zealanders mean when they talk about making progress?
In a nutshell
- Living by your values is one of the indicators that make Kiwis feel like they are making progress.
- Many feel that they are making progress, but we are challenged by the fact that not everyone is. With one nervous eye on the economy and our job prospects, they head back to their roots and enjoy the small things and connect with nature.
- Companies need to tune into that tone of voice and celebrate the underlying character of fairness and connection.
A recent survey we carried out for ASB investigated how people see their lives in relation to progress and what contributes to that perception. Living by your values is one of the indicators that make people feel like they are making progress, so we have been looking at how this measure of progress ties into the Kiwi Codes.
With many of our family and friends living overseas, it’s likely you’ve received the annual round robin family Christmas newsletter from some of them. It’s not a common habit in New Zealand because while we are happy for people to forge their own path, we are less keen to have our noses rubbed in it… “Johnny got a scholarship and Susan is Head Girl and likely to be picked for the Olympic ice dance junior training squad and Dan has just been promoted to second in line to be the first man to fly a kite to Mars” … you get the picture – oh, and there will be pictures too.
‘Pull your head in’ is likely your response when you receive something like this. Because while we respect people’s progress and achievements, we like to see that it has been earned. This was a key learning from our deep dive into the Kiwi character through the cultural codes that guide how we behave and how we assess the behaviour of others.
The ASB/TRA survey showed us that two in ten New Zealanders feel that they are going backwards (i.e. making no progress at all). This was a hot topic in last year’s election. In particular, the focus was on whether our country’s recent economic growth was good for all New Zealanders or just a subset of the population, leaving too many people behind. The social equivalence code relates specifically to this issue and reflects Kiwi’s innate sense of fairness, but is also a source of tension when we think we are falling short.
The country has so far been largely immune to the tumultuous shifts in political and popular movements overseas but if half the population feel they are going backwards or just standing still we might want to consider what role companies need to play to improve people’s lives.
Further evidence is in the New Zealand Values study where we see an upward trend for how well people think the economy and business is doing, and a downward graph for social conditions. If business is doing well but people aren’t then our respect for and warm feelings towards brands is likely to take a downward turn too. The way we talk to people and the way we look at the products and services we offer needs to reflect the national mood.