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Got 'em? Keep 'em! You've worked hard, learned lots and expended considerable resources to recuit Aboriginal people to your workforce.

1 Commit to the process

If your company is to be successful, there has to be a sustained commitment to recruiting Aboriginal employees, and then a concerted effort to retain them, and that commitment must start at the top and continue down through the entire organization. Senior management must buy in, see it as a priority, and it must buy in, see it as a priority, and it must remain a priority, even in the face of challenges and failures. And there will be failures. This isn't something a company can accomplish overnight.

2 Hold folks accountable

Make retaining Aboriginal employees a mandate of the company. Set goals and hold management accountable for reaching those goals, and have real consequences if they don't. Only when recruiting and retaining Aboriginal employees is set as a goal that must be achieved will it be considered a priority. If managers' bonuses are tied to their success at finding and keeping Aboriginal employees, they are going to work harder to find a way to do it.

3 Ask for what you need

When you advertise to fill positions, don't look for the ideal employee. Look for the employee that can do the job. If the position requires someone with a university degree and five years experience in the field, then those are the requirements you should look for. If the job can be done by someone with a high school diploma and three years experience, you aren't doing yourself any favors by inflating your requirements. People won't stay in a job for which they are over-qualified.

4 Train, then support

People fair better when they know what to expect going in, and when they have people to go to with concerns once they are on the job. Start the training process before employees become employees. Provide orientations on-site and let future employees experience their new work environment first-hand. Provide preemployment training to ensure new workers have the skills needed before the work begins. Provide mentoring programs to help them adjust to your way of doing business.

5 Welcome, welcome

It's only common sense that employees will stay in situations where they feel comfortable and valued. Provide cross-cultural training to your entire workforce so they understand Aboriginal issues and culture. Provide opportunities for your Aboriginal workers to take part in cultural activities in the workplace, and accommodate Aboriginal employees when they want to take part in cultural, spiritual, community or family activities outside of the workplace.

6 Achieve a critical mass

No matter how much training and support you provide or how hard you work to create a welcoming workplace, an Aboriginal employee isn't going to feel like he fits in if he is the only Aboriginal person within a workforce of 100. The greater the number of Aboriginal workers on staff, the less those workers are going to feel like they are odd man out. The less isolation an employee feels, the less likely he is going to leave in search of a workplace where he can feel more comfortable.

7 Show your Aboriginal employees they have a future

Employees have got to see a future for themselves within your organization, and that means opportunities for advancement and promotion. If you don't have Aboriginal people within management positions in your company, your Aboriginal employees aren't going to put much stock in their chances of reaching those positions. Hiring qualified Aboriginal people from outside the organization or providing management training to those within are two ways a company can achieve Aboriginal representation at all levels of the organization.

RELATED ARTICLE: Expert Advice--Quote, Unquote
"Those responsible for the recruitment and the hiring need to be held
accountable and responsible for making some advancements in those areas.
And until the senior executive becomes held accountable for the true
objectives in their performance plans, you're unlikely to get their
attention. But once it becomes something that they're going to be
measured against in terms of performance, they start to figure things
--Marty Klyne is the president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Gaming
Authority and chairperson of the National Aboriginal Economic
Development Board

"The number one thing is, and you can talk to people who have left
organizations, if they don't see people that are in middle management,
senior management, executive roles in an organization that are
Aboriginal, then they just think, 'You know what?... I'm here, and I'm
getting trained, but there isn't any opportunity here for me because
they're never going to promote me. I'm never going to be able to get to
that position, one of the top positions, here in the organization.' It's
really, really important that they have a mix of middle and senior
management that are Aboriginal."
--Brenda LaRose is the managing principal of Higgins International Inc.,
a Manitoba-based executive search and human resource consulting firm

"You get into those theoretical debates about the best candidates. 'We
want the best candidates to come and work for us.' The reality is if you
get the masters or PhD or even the bachelors in electrical engineering,
they might start off as linemen, but you know they're not going to stay
if they don't get opportunities really quickly beyond that ... At some
point the best candidate doesn't do you any good, either, especially if
they're over-qualified and really want more."
--Bob Joseph is founder of Indigenous Corporate Training, a company
based in British Columbia that specializes in Aboriginal awareness
training for government and business


Sources: Suenita Maharaj-Sandhu, human resource officer, Red River College, Winnipeg; Jamie McIntyre, director of sustainable development, Cameco Corporation, Saskatoon; Marty Klyne, president and CEO, Saskatchewan Gaming Authority, Regina; Brenda LaRose, managing principal, Higgins International Inc., Winnipeg; Bob Joseph, founder, Indigenous Corporate Training, Vancouver.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Dec 1, 2005
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