Fostering An Inclusive Work Environment for Indigenous Talent

Published on : 7/8/22
  • Cultivating an inclusive workplace with opportunities for professional and personal growth is the core of a successful company. 

    We are determined to create an inclusive culture wherever we operate. For the Energy and Resources sector, that means fostering strong relationships with the Indigenous communities in the areas we serve. 

    According to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Norther Affairs Canada, Indigenous Peoples are the fastest growing populations and youngest population in Canada. This means Indigenous participation in the workforce will positively impact the future of labour in Canada. However, 85 percent of corporate Canada can be described as disengaged and unaware of local Indigenous communities and their potential to address labour and business needs. 

    We refuse to be part of the 85 percent equation. 

    Recruiting Success Through Local Engagement 

    We have a methodical approach to building effective partnerships with Indigenous communities in areas we operate. 
    The most crucial step is to build trust by having constant, honest and open communication. In many communities, like Fox Lake Cree Nation, we create partnerships in the form of joint ventures, providing employment opportunities and revenue sharing. 

    But whether we have formal partnerships or not, the recruitment process is the same. We reach out to the band office or community liaison officers and make sure expectations are clear for both parties: this is a mutually beneficial relationship. When we bring Indigenous talent into the workforce, we support the community by contributing to its economic and social development, just as we are meeting our labour needs. 

    Concrete Strategies 

    These are a few of our strategies for ensuring an inclusive recruitment process: 

    • Reducing our biases around hiring practices. In addition to avoiding biased language in postings, we look at alternatives to help community members enter our workforces. This could entail organising site visits and job fairs or looking at different approaches to work routines. We look beyond the typical skills and requirements for the job by considering the potential of the candidates. 
    • Being creative. Our hiring process includes questions on accommodation that employees might need in the workforce. Flexibility is key. We can reduce barriers by making minor adjustments, such as offering different work schedules or adapted work tools. 
    • Working with partners. Community leaders know their members and may have tools, resources and coaching opportunities to help prepare the workforce during the recruitment process. We work closely in identifying potential candidates, evaluating training requirements and selecting the appropriate training programs to follow prior or during employment.  

    Engaging and retaining talent 

    The work does not end at the recruitment level — it’s only the beginning. We are committed to ensuring Indigenous employees feel a sense of connection to the organization. That they have a sense of clarity, purpose and direction. The aim is for employees to understand how the work they do, at all levels, contributes to the organization’s success. 

    • Creating a sense of safety. We work to create an environment in which employees can feel physically and psychologically safe. Employees are involved in the process by communicating with our teams about what safety means to them. As employees live and work in remote sites, there is a great emphasis on responding to those safety needs and mitigating any risk
    • Celebrating differences and building a sense of community. The employee resource group, Sodexo’s Council for Indigenous People (CIP) works with the local communities and their elders to create a sense of belonging for Indigenous workers by acknowledging cultural events and traditions within the units. In addition, we hold space for conversations and exchanges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous workers to deepen understanding of Indigenous Peoples, cultures, and values. Finally, we offer an Indigenous history course to inform the worldviews of non-Indigenous workers and build a culture of respect and understanding. 
    • Internal development and promotions. In the Energy and Resources segment, up to 80% of the managers were promoted internally. We work at building employees’ skill sets so they feel empowered to take their future in their own hands. When units must close, we know we have a pool of workers who can be promoted or transferred and continue their employment, should they choose to.

    Training opportunities

    We invest in on-the-job training for Indigenous personnel, as well as site specific training and programming, including:

    • Red Seal culinary and trades apprenticeship programs 
    • Supervisory and management training 
    • Security guard training program 
    • Wellness and fitness coordination training certifications 
    • High school-level support 
    • Hospitality certification 

    In her words: Soledad Altamirano — Senior Human Resources Manager, Energy and Resources Canada

    What we are looking for is always leaving a legacy, leaving the community better than when we came in. Really giving people tangible skills.

    A success story at Sodexo isn’t strictly about internal promotions all the way up to Vice President. It might mean you leave us but then start your own business, like a restaurant. That’s a success story because you got these skills with a certification or apprenticeship during your employment at Sodexo. 

    My work is to try to broaden the hiring processes and implement a different approach. Within that process we have an opportunity to be empathetic and deter extenuating circumstances. I have conversations with hiring managers and ensure that any barriers to development are removed. 

    When we enter a partnership with a community, we say “We want to work with you. We want to understand your challenges and we want you to tell us your challenges.” It is all about communication. When we are faced with a situation that could lead to termination, we reach out to the liaison officer and inquire about the circumstances. Are we missing something? And we work together to find alternate measures. It is a commitment to the needs of the community. 

    Our approach also involves mental health training and awareness. In the Energy and Resources sector, we have certified trainers from the Mental Health Commission of Canada — me included. We receive tools to enable tough conversations and educate employees on addiction, resiliency and self-care. It’s a non-judgmental and empathetic look at mental health concerns. We commit to the mental health aspect because we don’t want to just terminate — we want to support and promote corrective actions. Hiring isn’t just hiring. It’s retention, right? 

    Committing to Our Values 

    In addition to an inclusive recruitment strategy, we take employee engagement and retention very seriously. We are humble and recognize that pursuing our commitment to truth and reconciliation requires ongoing reflection, difficult conversations and continuous improvement of our policies, practices and initiatives. 

    By living by our commitments and taking a stand against discrimination we can contribute to a more open, fair and inclusive society. 

     For more on our commitment to truth and reconciliation, read our first-ever Indigenous Report.