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Aboriginal Employee Retention Checklist

Aboriginal Employee Retention Checklist

If you are experiencing a high turnover of Aboriginal hires, then your recruitment efforts are working but your retention efforts are failing. This could be due to a number of reasons. Here are some suggestions for your checklist:



Do you provide a comprehensive orientation?

  • introductions to co-workers
  • description of company, its history and goals
  • their role as part of the company’s goals
  • explanation of the organization’s Statement of Principles
  • policy on zero racism (including name and contact information of whom to turn to if subjected to racist treatment or remarks)  
  • full explanation of duties, responsibilities and expectations
  • site tour including washrooms and break rooms
  • review of policy statements

Is your orientation process interactive and engaging or dry and robotic in nature?Your orientation should be engaging and create a sense of belonging. If there are no other Aboriginal employees, include someone who is culturally competent, who has a good rapport with and the respect of the existing workforce, and a respectful and appropriate sense of humour. Consider engaging an Elder or an Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy  (ASETS) partner to review your orientation process. ASETS forms partnerships with Aboriginal organizations and has offices in every province and territory.

Does management support Aboriginal worker retention?
A “window dressing” approach to an inclusive and culturally safe work site is not sustainable or cost efficient. If an organization is committed to an Aboriginal worker recruitment and retention strategy, then the commitment needs to be systemic and the support needs to be there for management or the human resource department to effectively recruit Aboriginal workers and to ensure that the workplace is inclusive and welcoming.

Has your existing workforce taken Aboriginal Awareness training?
There is not much point in recruiting Aboriginal employees if their managers and co-workers are not educated in cultural awareness and sensitivity. A poorly worded question on tax or "token hire" can have immediate long term effects on a new hire.  An onsite, comprehensive course for the entire team, including the top brass, is an essential first step. Following that, we suggest you reach out to the local community from which your workers are likely come from, learn as much as possible about that community and incorporate that culture into the workplace where possible.

  • Engage an Elder to visit and speak to management and staff
  • Contact the local Friendship Centre for brochures and information on upcoming events
  • Encourage staff and management to attend cultural events
  • Hire cooks from the community to prepare a traditional meal for management and staff
  • Acknowledge National indigenous Peoples Day 
  • Acknowledge on your website and elsewhere the traditional or treaty territory your business is located in

Is your organization free of racism?
Racism can lurk in the boardroom as well as in the ranks. The entire workforce, from top to bottom, needs to be made aware that racism and discrimination are unlawful and won’t be tolerated.

“Racism is a broader experience and practice than racial discrimination. Racism is a belief that one group is superior to others. Racism can be openly displayed in racial jokes, slurs or hate crimes. It can also be more deeply rooted in attitudes, values and stereotypical beliefs. In some cases, people don’t even realize they have these beliefs. Instead, they are assumptions that have evolved over time and have become part of systems and institutions, and also associated with the dominant group’s power and privilege.” [1]

Does your organization have a Cultural Leave policy?
A successful retention strategy for Aboriginal employees is one that makes room for cultural needs and practices. Here’s an article with more information on Cultural Leave.

Is there a mentor/buddy program?
Imagine you are an Aboriginal person entering your place of employment – what do you see? Do you see a culturally diverse workforce? Do you see any other Aboriginal people? It can be pretty intimidating to be the only worker who is not the same as all the others, especially if this is your first job. If there are no other Aboriginal people on your payroll, consider matching new Aboriginal workers with someone who has taken Aboriginal Awareness training, and who is known to understand and respect cultural differences. Being responsible for the emotional well being of another person is a great responsibility so potential mentors should be offered training, support and recognition for taking on this important role.

[1] Ontario Human Rights Commission

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