How to Create a More Inclusive Environment for Indigenous Peoples

An interview with Kelly Lendsay, president & CEO of Indigenous Works, provides practical tips for organizations to navigate the complex world of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

1. DEI has become an important focus for organizations and employers in recent years. What’s driving that shift in perspective?

Companies are addressing the changing labour force and diversity in the workplace. Inclusion is really about the engagement drivers. How productive are people in the workplace? How do they feel included? How do they relate with their supervisors, their teams, your mission, your mandate? Productivity is about engagement. Companies that can create highly engaged employees do better in terms of their products, processes and stock price, so there is a business case for inclusion.

2. What can employers and organizations do to create a more inclusive environment for Indigenous peoples?

The most successful organizations have done these three things:

-Develop their knowledge capital
-Create strategies and practices
-Implement and measure them.

We need to shift from talking about how we feel about reconciliation to taking action, using an enterprise-wide approach. There are generally five parts to every enterprise:

-Corporate social responsibility
-Marketing and communications

When all five parts of the enterprise are working together—not just on Indigenous inclusion, but on all areas of diversity—you start to see some real traction and advancements.

3. If you could give organizations one action item to start today, what would it be?

Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action. There are 94 calls to action under different themes like education, justice, housing and business. Call to action #92 is directed at employers, at businesses, and there are four things it’s asking you to do:

Educate your employees about Indigenous history
-Break down barriers for employment opportunities
-Look at economic opportunities for Indigenous people and businesses
-Adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

When you do those four things, that’s starting to put reconciliation in action. But you have to read it, become familiar with it and then build it into your overall Indigenous engagement strategy.
It will take work—but the work will pay off. You’re going to get into new markets, you’re going to tap into new talent sources and you’re certainly going to raise both your social and your economic capital.

Alyssa Hodder
Director, Education and Outreach – Canada

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