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Dominion Post Article – 26 January 2009

Helping workers and family settle in NZ

Woburn International managing director June Ranson knows a thing or two about culture shock. In fact, that’s how the award-winning relocation and immigration consultancy began.

‘‘I have worked in so many different countries – Indonesia, Germany, England, Brazil, China. ‘

‘The biggest issue was culture shock. In Germany I longed for someone who knew how to speak English, and in England it was just sheer loneliness until I started work.’’

Ms Ranson set up the Petone based firm about 19 years ago to smooth the relocation process for employers and employees. The company now has an annual turnover of more than $1.2 million, six staff at its Petone office and 30 consultants throughout New Zealand.

It was recently named best global service provider at the Employee Relocation Council conference in Washington, based on client feedback.

The firm helps relocated workers and their families settle in their new surroundings, helping them find new homes and schools. It runs cultural awareness programmes to lessen the impact of culture shock.

‘‘Every one of these programmes is tailored and based on the backgrounds of people because if people don’t understand a culture and the families themselves feel uncomfortable the whole thing is going to fall over and companies can lose contracts.’’

The culture gap need not be large to cause problems and even British workers transferring to New Zealand can find the change difficult, Ms Ranson says.

‘‘For people from the UK, hierarchy and status can still be important. They think they are coming to a little England and they take that attitude into meetings with key companies and it goes down like a lead balloon.’’

Woburn also provides advice to employers on remuneration for relocated employees.

‘‘We look at the cost of living and the differential between the home and the host country and put together the appropriate package for that person embarking on that overseas position.’’

Employers reporting a relocation failure rate – in which people not bound by their contracts leave within the first 18 months – of about 68 per cent have found Woburn’s input reduces this rate to about 12 per cent, she says.

About 45 per cent of companies working with Woburn are from overseas, and include several petroleum companies. New Zealand customers include Carter Holt Harvey, Pumpkin Patch and government departments.

All jobs are individually quoted and a relocation package can cost anywhere between $2000 and $5500, depending on a client’s requirements.