Canadians are reminded more and more of the struggles facing Aboriginal peoples. Most of us read in horror yet have no idea how we can help. When we view the problem as a national crisis a solution seems overwhelming. What if instead we looked at possible solutions through the lens of a workplace challenge?
The principles embedded in corporate HR plans could hold the key to support the needed actions to help Canada’s aboriginal peoples, on or off reserve, to access employment, and a quality of life on par with other Canadians.
- Maintain Health and Safety
Every employer has to provide a safe work environment to employees. A safe environment is one inclusive of access to clean drinking water, buildings maintained to meet required code expectations, ability to refuse dangerous work, and a forum to complain, be heard and have corrective actions taken to address valid concerns when these expectations are not met. This standard for a safe environment, at home and at work, should be a basic right for everyone in Canada.
2. Conduct a Gap Analysis
Corporations assess the gap between the needs of the organization and existing resources and work to close it. Canada could assess the overall needs of First Nation Communities and work to close the resource gap by engaging and enabling Aboriginal peoples who choose to live on reserve to find meaningful work that is of interest and that supports their Community.
This has been done locally but a national focus on a long term, multigenerational plan would be more beneficial and require less resources than multiple seperate initatives. The infrastructure could be put in place to assess the common needs of Native Communities and record the gaps between the need and the existing resources. Specific local needs could be looked at as a subset.
3. Devise Strategies to Support the Organization
In an HR plan there are many components of strategy to support the organization’s needs. All of these would help bolster the quality of life of Aboriginal Communities.
- Training and development strategies to prepare Aboriginal people to engage in the workforce in a way that interests them and supports their culture
- Collaboration strategies to create partnerships with existing organizations that provide these services to new immigrants and other Canadians to learn from past work
- Outsourcing strategies to engage service providers and thought leaders to bring forward real solutions
Many successful businesses strive to solicit employee ideas and feedback in order to drive a culture of continuous improvement and increase productivity. For any initiative aimed at enhancing the lives of Aboriginal people to be successful the grassroots engagement and of Aboriginal leaders and influencers in the development of solutions is essential.
Any change initiative within an organization needs leaders who can live the values and exemplify the success of the project are needed to motivate others and create support from within affected groups. This type of initative would be no different.
5. Foster a Respectful and Inclusive Environment
When creating a healthy workplace culture the emotional needs of people need to be addressed. Canada does not have a history it can be proud of when it comes to Aboriginal relations. Although the work that resulted from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a good start, it did not go deep enough.
Modern people-focussed employers offer soft skill building opportunities and support to employees that include through conflict coaching, facilitated discussions/mediation, and other Alternative Dispute Resolution techniques. These types of initiatives could be funded on mass to reach individuals to help them work through the conflict with Canadian culture and find a path forward that meets their individual needs.
Any corporate initiative would be supported by a communication plan. Communicating the vision in advance and during the work is an important change management technique. Once determined, Canada would need to communicate the vision for building a future to Aboriginal peoples and to all Canadians to build hope and momentum and to create accountability for those communicating the plan.
7. Evaluate and Adjust
When corporations execute a plan they assess the effectiveness and make adjustments. Canada has been working to improve the quality of life for Aboriginal people, however it seems like the efforts may not be as successful as the intent behind them would like. The results produced need to align with the efforts invested.
Like any journey it could start with just one step…