Recruiting and Retaining Aboriginal Employees

Recruiting and Retaining Aboriginal Employees

By: Christina Coolidge
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An article in the Globe and Mail written by Gillian Livingston and published on April 10, 2013 outlines 10 ways to get more Aboriginal people into the workplace. A “report from professional services firm Deloitte outlines 10 ways firms can re-examine hiring. ‘Widening the Circle: Increasing opportunities for aboriginal people in the workplace’ found that there needs to be a long-term commitment to build better relationships with aboriginal people, including greater collaboration, training, accommodation and cultural understanding

Here are Deloitte’s 10 practices to increase opportunities for aboriginal people in the workplace:

  1. Partner with high schools, colleges and universities.
  2. Provide students with internships to give them training and experience.
  3. Question standard job requirements.
  4. Review screening, hiring, and advancement practices to recognize unconventional talent and cultural differences.
  5. Conduct company-wide cultural training.
  6. Hire more than one aboriginal person.
  7. Promote aboriginal people to senior roles.
  8. Assess business and employment practices that could provide barriers to aboriginal people.
  9. Develop an aboriginal hiring and retention strategy.
  10. Communicate and celebrate successes.

As an Indigenous student and future employee, Deloitte’s list rings true for me in many ways:

  • To acknowledge cultural differences rather than ignore them is crucial in my life and the lives of other Aboriginal people; that in and of itself will either be a stepping-stone or a barrier, depending on its approach.
  • Promoting aboriginal people to senior roles could be one of the most effective avenues in recruiting and retaining Aboriginal employees simply due to the fact that it provides role modeling to people who are intensely connected to their communities.
  • Company-wide cultural training or sensitivity training is also an important step to bridging the gap between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people. There has been so much misinformation in the media as well as history books and to bring light to many of the myths and questions that have arisen due to this fact, have the potential to create great change; not just in a company, but in society in general.

As I continued to research I discovered the Aboriginal Human Resource Council. It offers a program called Leadership Circle, which is a “successful employer-focused strategy that brings together Canada’s leading inclusion employers. [Their] partners have the common goal of investing in the advancement of Aboriginal economic and social inclusion.” (Leadership Circle)


To advance the full labour market participation of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada and Indigenous Peoples around the world.


We create and market a wide range of products, services and networks that help Indigenous people advance careers and organizations create inclusive workplaces that position them as employers-of-choice. We do this through building bridges – with connections, partnerships and solutions – between Indigenous Peoples and business communities.


  • We help build partnerships that create promising practices for success
  • We treat each other and our stakeholders/customers with respect
  • We are open and receptive to new ideas
  • We are accountable to our stakeholders and our customers
  • We share our community’s respect for our elders and the land that nurtures and sustains us.

The benefits of hiring Aboriginal peoples go well beyond simply gaining access to their diverse skills. As those who now employ Aboriginal peoples have discovered, the advantages are long-lasting and wide-ranging. As an employer of Aboriginal peoples, you can expect to:

  • Find new market opportunities. By employing Aboriginal peoples you'll enjoy increased exposure to Aboriginal clientele, opening up valuable new market opportunities.
  • Gain a better understanding of your customers. Aboriginal staff will enhance your ability to better serve Aboriginal peoples by improving your business understanding of customers as will co-operative partnerships and collaborative community development.
  • Introduce diversity to your workplace. Aboriginal peoples bring more than special skills to the workplace, they offer new perspectives. That's as good for business as it is for the workplace.
  • Develop a stable and dedicated local workforce. Increasing the number of Aboriginal employees, particularly in remote areas, has proven to be a wise move; the turnover rate for Aboriginal employees at workplaces near Aboriginal communities is well below the national average.
  • Form positive relationships with a future workforce. The Aboriginal population is growing rapidly, creating a new profile for the workplace. It's estimated the number of Aboriginal peoples will increase by 50 percent in the next 25 years. (Aboriginal Affairs)

As we continue to grow in numbers, strength and determination, employers recognize the value in reaching out to our Indigenous populations. Implementing many of these recommendations and values into the daily workings of any company will ensure great opportunities and possibilities for the future of our people.

Christina Coolidge is currently attending SFU as a Communications Major. She is the Indigenous Program Researcher with the Career Services department. Christina is a member of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation and her matrilineal ancestry includes Cree and Scottish. She hopes to help build a bridge between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous communities in order to better understand one another and to live together in a spirit of unity.

Posted on May 10, 2013