Aboriginal inclusion focus of training

TDL Group, Noront embrace recruiting, retention strategies in workshops
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/20/2012

A couple of years ago, TDL Group was keen to put together a program for franchisees across Canada that would look at the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal groups.

The Oakville, Ont.-based company, a franchisor of Tim Hortons, had its own internal programs but wanted to take it to the next level, according to Chris Thomas, manager of labour strategy.

“With over 3,400 locations in Canada, we’re starting to look more now into having more and more of our business in a lot of communities where you have more Aboriginal people, you’re drawing off of people not only from a customer base but obviously from a workers’ base as well,” he said.

“Most owners or franchisees are going to be recruiting locally, so it’s always good to know a little bit about the history and background of people living in your community and, of course, the Aboriginal community is a little bit different than others.”

Pilot program looks at past, present, future

TDL, which has about 110,000 employees, put together a pilot program using the resources and tools of the Aboriginal Human Resource Council and its Mastering Aboriginal Inclusion workshops.

The two-day training took place in November 2011 and involved about 15 franchisees. It looked at the past, present and future, with a focus on Aboriginal history; how social, economic, cultural and political exclusionary practices affect today’s workplaces; and regional differences among the Aboriginal, Métis and Inuit Peoples.

“We just wanted to make sure that we had a better understanding of those sorts of regional differences that do occur,” said Thomas, who is based in Calgary.

Into the second day, the group discussed how to source talent, recruit from local communities and get that message out. Retention strategies and different practices were also discussed, along with partnerships within communities.

Then it was a matter of looking at the journey ahead, said Thomas.

“It’s the idea of ‘Here’s your building blocks, you know a little bit more about the history, you know more about what goes on currently today. How can you take that and make it work with your local community, with potential applicants and obviously for your business and move things forward?’”

Workshops all about inclusion

The Mastering Aboriginal Inclusion workshops are meant to provide a business case for inclusion and teach tactics for engaging First Nations, Métis and Inuit workers.

“The whole idea of mastery is that you can actually master these competencies and strategies and, as you master them, your company will become an employer of choice in the war for talent,” said Kelly Lendsay, president and CEO of the Aboriginal Human Resource Council in Saskatoon.

“Companies like McDonald’s, Loblaws, Tim Hortons… have stepped forward in their industry to say, ‘We see and want the Aboriginal market as a workforce, as customers and as partners. Let’s work together to make it happen.’ And so we connect communities with companies and we put together targets and measurement outcomes and then we help it unfold.”

A lot of the council’s training came out of research in the United States that looked at companies that were particularly successful with minorities, said Lendsay.

“One of the key drivers of change for a really good solid business case, what made a difference for the majority of companies, was management training,” he said. “Companies don’t just get better without some management education and training. It just doesn’t happen by osmosis.”

CEO commitment is also important, said Lendsay.

“That’s what employers liked about our approach — we brought both the social and economic to inclusion.”

Much of the training is based on a seven-stage inclusion continuum on which employers can track their progress. It starts with indifference
(inclusion is not on the radar screen) and goes through intimidation (inclusion is a forced compliance) and image (inclusion is more about public relations) to reach initiation (inclusion is a business imperative), then incubation (inclusion is nurtured as a core competency), integration (inclusion is a catalyst for growth) and, finally, inclusion (inclusion is fully embraced as the cultural norm).

“For companies who really don’t know where to start, it’s an actual map of assessing where are you are today and how can you climb up that continuum to a company who is fully embracing Aboriginal inclusion as a cultural norm,” said Leanne Hall, vice-president of HR at Noront in Toronto.

The 75-employee mining company operates a project in northern Ontario that is surrounded by more than 15 First Nations communities and located on traditional First Nations lands. More than 7.5 per cent of Aboriginal Peoples are employed in mining, nearly double the rate for the overall workforce, she said, and the mining industry is anticipating a labour shortage of 112,000 people.

“(When) your closest neighbours are your Aboriginal partners, it becomes really critical to look at the business case for Aboriginal inclusion,” said Hall. “So to look at partnerships with the communities is first and foremost in our minds.”

Hall herself took the Mastering Aboriginal Inclusion workshop and said she found it informative and dynamic. Some of the key points included:

• How to support a business case for Aboriginal inclusion.

• How to develop strategies to recruit, train, mentor and retain Aboriginal Peoples.

• How to position yourself as an employer of choice for Aboriginal talent.

• How to adapt best practices to fit your particular workplace.

“(The Aboriginal Human Resource Council is) very hands-on and they provide organizations with the tools and resources to really look at how they can, as a company, continue along with the Aboriginal continuum so, as a company, you can continually develop,” said Hall.

Noront is also a member of the council’s Leadership Circle, with companies meeting twice a year to discuss issues related to Aboriginal inclusion, including employment, training, retention, economic development and best practices.

And the training continues to evolve, with the council working on an online version that goes beyond managers and supervisors to reach time-strapped employees in all areas of the organization, because different parts of a company often progress in different ways, said Lendsay.

“It’s going to be an online suite of tools, training, templates to help different parts of the company… an enterprise-wide approach to inclusion,” he said.

“We’re going to design things like a 20-minute overview of Aboriginal inclusion. It’s sort of a reminder you need to give people enough (so they think), ‘Oh, I get it why my company is committed to this’ — they’re proud of it.”

TDL may consider the online modules, according to Thomas, but for now it’s evaluating how the pilot training went and making tweaks accordingly.

The company plans to roll out the program to other franchisees across the country later in 2012, he said, starting in the West where the company is seeing the greatest growth.

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