Making the Workplace More Inclusive for Indigenous People: A Guide for Business Owners

Creating an inclusive workplace for Indigenous people encourages diversity, equity, and reconciliation in Canadian businesses. Educate your team, assess practices, support cultural needs, offer inclusive benefits, and foster Indigenous ERGs for meaningful impact.
Indigenous people in the workplace

Creating an inclusive workplace for Indigenous people in the workplace is essential for fostering diversity, equity, and reconciliation in modern Canadian businesses. As a business owner, it’s important to understand that promoting Indigenous inclusion goes beyond hiring practices. It involves acknowledging Indigenous history, respecting cultural practices, and making systemic changes to support Indigenous employees holistically. Here’s a guide on how to achieve this.

Understanding the Importance of Indigenous Inclusion  

Indigenous people bring unique perspectives, skills, and experiences to the workplace. Recognizing and honoring these contributions not only enriches your organization but also aligns with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, particularly Call to Action 92. This call encourages businesses to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation and to ensure equitable access to jobs, training, and education for Indigenous peoples. 

Steps to Create an Inclusive Workplace for Indigenous People 

  1. Educate Your Team

   Start by educating your employees about Indigenous history, cultures, and the impact of colonization. Without understanding the past, moving forward on the path of reconciliation is impossible. Consider incentivizing participation in educational initiatives, such as the University of Alberta’s free Indigenous Canada course. This knowledge base is crucial for fostering empathy and inclusivity. 

  1. Assess and Revamp Existing Practices

   Before hiring new Indigenous talent, assess your current workplace culture and practices. Ensure that your policies and systems are fair and equitable. This might involve revising recruitment processes, performance evaluations, and promotion criteria to remove any inherent biases. 

  1. Support Indigenous Cultural Practices

   Designate spaces within your workplace for cultural or ceremonial practices, such as smudging rooms. Encourage Indigenous employees to engage in cultural activities by offering expanded professional development budgets for learning Indigenous languages or cultural arts like beading and weaving. 

  1. Offer Inclusive Benefits 

   Traditional benefits packages may not meet the needs of Indigenous employees. Consider offering paid spiritual days for ceremonies, flexible leave for caregiving and bereavement, and remote work options to allow employees to live closer to their traditional communities. 

  1. Financial Support and Partnerships

   Show your commitment to reconciliation by supporting Indigenous causes and businesses. Implement donation matching programs for Indigenous-focused charities and partner with Indigenous vendors for services and products. This not only supports Indigenous entrepreneurs but also integrates Indigenous presence into your business operations.  

  1. Create Indigenous Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

   Establish ERGs to provide a supportive community for Indigenous employees. These groups offer a platform for sharing ideas, addressing concerns, and promoting cultural awareness within the organization. 

Indigenous People in Workplace

Implementing Truth and Reconciliation Initiatives 

  1. Host Learning Sessions and Workshops 

   Organize regular workshops and learning sessions that delve into Indigenous history, the significance of Truth and Reconciliation, and contemporary Indigenous issues. Invite Indigenous speakers and educators to share their experiences and insights. 

  1. Cultural Celebrations and Recognition

   Enhance your workplace environment with Indigenous art, artifacts, and displays. Celebrate Indigenous heritage through festivals, performances, and music. Recognize important dates such as National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 by organizing or participating in events and activities that honor Indigenous cultures. 

  1. Support Indigenous Talent through Mentorship 

   Provide mentorship opportunities for Indigenous employees by connecting them with Indigenous mentors, either within or outside your organization. This helps new and existing Indigenous hires receive culturally relevant professional support and guidance. 

  1. Review and Revise Recruitment Practices

   Ensure your recruitment process is inclusive by avoiding tools that discriminate against diverse candidates. Be mindful of educational requirements and consider comparable experiences. Use diverse interview panels and offer clear, understandable job offers. Focus on employment verification rather than traditional references to avoid biases. 

  1. Acknowledge and Address Systemic Issues 

   Be open to examining and addressing how urgency, perfectionism, and feedback processes might uphold colonial power structures. Create anonymous reporting mechanisms for unfair or discriminatory practices to foster a more inclusive work environment. 

 Conclusion 

Incorporating these strategies into your business practices will not only make your workplace more inclusive for Indigenous people but also contribute to the broader goal of reconciliation in Canada. By educating your team, supporting cultural practices, and revising systemic processes, you can create an environment where Indigenous employees feel valued and empowered to bring their whole selves to work. Taking these steps is not just a moral imperative but a valuable investment in the diversity and success of your organization. 

Embrace the journey towards inclusion and reconciliation, and make a meaningful difference for Indigenous people in the workplace. 

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