“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.” Warren Buffett
Reputations are hard won and easily lost. For mom and pop businesses it’s not difficult to ensure the words and actions of the company representatives are aligned with the company philosophy. But for larger corporations that may have many branch operations nationally and internationally, divisions within divisions, and a whole host of contractors working on their behalf, it can be a challenge to ensure absolutely everyone upholds the corporate philosophy.
In terms of *Indigenous relations, there are serious risks associated with hiring contractors who are not in alignment with the company mandates and philosophies - it just takes one contractor who lacks cultural competency to do or say something offensive and a company can kiss goodbye carefully nurtured and fostered Indigenous relations. The company could also face project delays due to lack of support for permitting processes, blockades, lost revenues, tarnished investor relations, and long term reputational damage.
This potential pitfall can be addressed by writing into all Requests for Proposals (RFP) that all contractors must be able to demonstrate that they and their employees have taken Indigenous awareness and cultural competency training. State clearly in the RFP that preference will be given to firms who can demonstrate they have a culturally competent workforce.
Is it necessary for the training to be systemic? Yes. Window dressing won’t cut it. Anyone and everyone involved in:
- human resources
- government relations
- equipment operators
The need for the business community to provide Indigenous awareness training for staff was included in the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, released June, 2015:
“Business and Reconciliation
iii Provide education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”
We are in an era of increased awareness about and respect for Indigenous Peoples as indicated by the actions and words of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. Non-Indigenous Canadians are realizing the impact of colonialism, residential schools, recognition of their rights and title and how those rights impact projects, and the role of Indigenous Peoples in the economy. We are also in an era where more and more businesses are recognizing the value in a diverse workforce and are requiring their troops to take Indigenous awareness training. From my perspective as an Indigenous person and as a trainer, this is very good news.
When working with contractors it is suggested that companies encourage all contractors to take some form of Aboriginal Awareness and or Working Effectively with Aboriginal Peoples® training. Firms like ours deliver on site to both staff and contractors. Companies can also send suppliers and contractors to our public workshops offered in the spring and fall in Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.
*in support of the federal government adopting Indigenous Peoples as opposed to Aboriginal Peoples, we are also making the change. It will take a bit of time to get all of our materials adjusted.
Looking for more tips? We have compiled 27 tips on Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples in this free ebook: