Feb. 21, 2020

Businesses learn how to hire and retain Indigenous talent

Panel members share tips to develop Indigenous-focused recruitment and retention practices and strategies

On Feb. 12, more than 20 employers gathered to learn how to better support Indigenous post-secondary students and new graduates.

The event, called Sharing Best Practices, was the brainchild of Sarah Jacknife, a career development specialist with Career Services who supports Indigenous students. She designed the event to support employers in their reconciliation journey. 

“In my role, one of the gaps I have seen first-hand is that some companies are unsure how to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action #92, which urges corporations to provide access to jobs and training for Indigenous people and Indigenous awareness training for management and staff,” she says.

“In conversations with employers, I felt they had a genuine desire to support Indigenous candidates, but many were uncertain about how to develop Indigenous-focused recruitment and retention practices and strategies.”

  • Photo above: Ben Cooper-Janvier shares advice alongside, from left: Sarah Jacknife, Tyra Lightning and Reg Crowshoe. Photo by Laura Wan, for Student and Enrolment Services

Representatives from UCalgary, BMO, the Boys and Girls Club of Calgary and Suncor generously shared their best practices with employers in an interactive panel. Two current Indigenous students and Dr. Reg Crowshoe, UCalgary’s Traditional Knowledge Keeper in Residence, also added their perspectives. The event wrapped up with a presentation from Jacknife and Karen MacDonald, Indigenous student access program co-ordinator in UCalgary’s Writing Symbols Lodgeabout Indigenous cultural practices employers should be aware of and key demographics of Indigenous UCalgary students.

During the student and Elder panel, Ben Cooper-Janvier, a fourth-year accounting major at the Haskayne School of Business who has already secured a job with KPMG, shared his experience with the hiring process.

“The recruiting process was definitely intense, but I enjoyed the pressure. I really like talking and meeting new people, so networking came natural to me,” he says, sharing some tips he has for his fellow students. 

Networking goes a long way

“You should actually want to work at the firm you are applying for,” says Cooper-Janvier, highlighting the importance of getting to know the culture of an organization before joining. “It goes a long way to meet some of the people working there before applying. Reach out and go for coffees.”

Cooper-Janvier also has some advice for employers. “I don’t believe that employers should treat Indigenous people any differently. If we are to move towards an inclusive future, we need to avoid segregating peoples based on race,” he says.

“This does not mean forgetting the past or erasing culture — but simply that if there are two positions of similar nature, one should not be called ‘Indigenous - job title.’ Indigenous students and grads need the same support that non-Indigenous people need: professional development, career advancement opportunities, mental health support, and the usual employee benefits."

For Jacknife, the event was a great way to connect Indigenous ways of knowing to Canadian workplace culture. Employers learned how their organizations can create an inclusive space so Indigenous employees can share their stories, culture and identity. The event also highlighted how they can incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing and doing into their recruitment and hiring policies and practices.