Step 4: Hiring and OrientationStep 4: Hiring and Orientation

After resumé submission, screening and the interview, the construction firm should have successfully hired some new Indigenous employees. Now what? You know that you need to treat these employees with respect and ensure they are successful, as you do with all your new employees, but how does the Indigenous culture play out in the workplace?

You need to make sure your orientation program is welcoming of your Indigenous employees. A well thought out orientation program that gives new employees the tools and knowledge they need to succeed in their roles not only helps new employees feel at home right away, but also makes it possible for them to start off on the right foot and quickly become productive. A positive and welcoming introduction to the organization is important for all new employees, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. A poorly planned or executed orientation program can turn an enthusiastic and carefully recruited employee into a turnover statistic.

Orientation allows employees to:

  • Understand the organization and procedures.
  • Build effective working relationships between new Indigenous hires and existing employees.
  • Meet performance expectations.

To assess how well your organization is doing to create an inclusive orientation program, use these tools below: Inclusive Orientation and Accommodation Checklist and a Checklist of Essential Documentation for New Hires.

Features of a Good Orientation Program:

Presents Information: Provide initial information using a variety of media, using audio, video and written materials to accommodate different learning preferences. Try to avoid presenting everything on the first day. New employees are trying to absorb so much information in the first days; it is more effective to break it down into more digestible chunks. Some skilled Indigenous workers will find it difficult to read a lot of information quickly, particularly if their educational preparation is not strong or English is not their first language.

Introduces Co-workers: Due to the importance of relationships in Indigenous culture, this is a vital step for retention. If time and work schedules permit, it is very effective to organize an informal gathering over breakfast or lunch where the new hire can make first connections with co-workers in a relaxed setting.

Assigns a Peer Mentor: A good practice is to assign a peer mentor or “buddy” to a new employee. Mentors should be carefully chosen for their experience, sensitivity, cultural curiosity and competence, openness and leadership qualities. Relieve the peer mentor of some work-related responsibilities in exchange for mentoring the new employee. In this way there is no resentment of the additional work involved, and time can be specifically allocated for this key task.

Communicates Performance Expectations Clearly: Clarify performance expectations; roles; responsibilities; expected interaction with co-workers, suppliers and clients; and the standards for performance evaluation. Provide frequent feedback.

Introduces the Workplace Culture, Processes and Procedures: Explore the job-readiness skills and workplace experience of the new Indigenous employee and tailor your information accordingly. Explain the accepted norms and behaviours in your workplace, as well as company processes and procedures.

Provides a Glossary of Acronyms and Useful Business Terms: Most new employees grapple with terminology that is specific to the organization and the industry.

Assesses Training Needs: Indigenous employees may lack specific skills that can be learned quickly on the job. You may have already identified some training needs during the selection stage. Review performance expectations with the new employee and discuss any training that may be required. This training will support the new employee in becoming productive as soon as possible. Review the section on coaching and mentoring to assess the type of training required. See the GREAT model for success as an example of how an ISET holder can help out by prequalifying candidates and then establishing a pool of qualified individuals who can be accessed once the candidate has successfully completed his or her skill or education training.

Provides Language Training (if needed):It may be helpful for some new employees whose mother tongue is not English or French to attend language training to improve their skills through oral or written communication.

Provides Reasonable Accommodation: While the Indigenous person has an important role to play in identifying accommodation needs, and an ISET holder will also be able to indicate any accommodations that may be required, individuals may be reluctant to announce any accommodation they may need upon arrival in the organization. The sharing of information and requirements between the employee and the manager with respect to accommodation is important. Provide an opportunity early in the orientation process to discuss when and whether the new employee requires accommodation for religious, personal, health or other reasons.

Includes the Family Throughout the Process: One of the best practices for engaging and retaining Indigenous employees is to build connections between their families and the workplace as much as possible. It is vital to begin this link during the orientation process. Consider inviting family members early to show them the workplace and welcome them.

Tool: Checklist of Essential Documentation for New Hires

Provide your Indigenous employees with the following documents to ensure they have the information to successfully navigate the organization.

  • Human resource policies and procedures, especially those relating to the protection of human rights (anti-harassment policy, accommodation policy, etc.)
  • Performance management and appraisal procedures
  • Introduction to Canadian workplace culture
  • Workplace Safety Insurance Board forms
  • Safety clothing
  • Probationary period
  • Union memberships, contracts and initiation, where appropriate
  • News bulletin boards
  • Job-posting locations
  • Statutory holidays and vacation days
  • Safety – First aid training
  • Attendance and proper reporting (i.e.: absence policies, sick leave, compassionate leave, opportunities to celebrate cultural traditions)
  • Important telephone numbers (internal and external)
  • Glossary of organizational acronyms
  • Cafeteria and dining facilities and expected conduct
  • Parking facilities
  • Service awards and scholarship programs
  • Employee purchases and ordering
  • Working hours (work schedules, arriving on time, etc.)
  • Pay procedures
  • Other workplace rules (e.g. no drug and alcohol use)

For employees who are relocating from remote areas to urban job sites, a unique set of challenges may await them. Indigenous workers face personal and family challenges in adapting to a structured work environment and/or an urban living environment, often at a considerable distance from their home community. Successful orientation may require you to support the employee through the process as best you can. Some common challenges include

  • Limited experience with workplace expectations such as attendance, on-time arrival, etc.
  • Loneliness when working or attending training away from home
  • Lack of familiarity with urban realities such as public transportation, bank accounts, finding accommodation, etc.
  • Lack of knowledge where the Indigenous population is in the city, where to access Indigenous services, community events and support
  • Family and community pressures to return to the home community

Accommodating Differences

Management practices and human resource policies are constructed from a perspective of the non-Indigenous Canadian culture and often do not reflect the realities of the Indigenous culture. Here are a few areas that you should review to make your construction company inclusive, accommodating and an employer of choice.

Accommodate - Traditional Spiritual Beliefs 

While you may not be aware of all recognized spiritual practices, you should be open to providing accommodation for all spiritual beliefs. A good point of contact if you are unsure of the importance of a request, or how to go about providing accommodation, is a local Elder or Indigenous worker. 

  • Consider allowing employees to work on statutory holidays in exchange for days off on their preferred religious or cultural holidays.
  • Consider allowing employees to accumulate overtime to use in lieu on religious holidays.
  • Some spiritual practices, as well as cultures and individuals, place great importance on community work. Allow company time (once a month, so many days a year) for community volunteer activities.
  • Consider allowing paid time off for significant ceremonies.
  • Consider providing additional personal days for spiritual observance or a death in the family.

Accommodate Work/Life Balance

Work-life balance is about people having a measure of control over when, where and how they work. This balance is achieved when an individual's right to a fulfilled life inside and outside paid work is accepted and respected as the norm, to the mutual benefit of the individual, business and society. For Indigenous peoples, being available to support their community and their families is a high priority.

  • Consider offering job-sharing, where two employees share the duties and responsibilities of a single full-time job.
  • Provide a list of local Indigenous organizations and phone numbers.
  • Provide names of other Indigenous employees they can contact.
  • Consider providing maternity leave that is longer than what is mandated by the government, and/or allow women flexible return-to-work schedules after a maternity leave.
  • Provide development/study breaks within working hours.
  • Offer opportunities for sabbaticals as a benefit for employees who have provided many years of service.
  • Consider extending any policies on providing paid leave following the death of a family member. Indigenous customs require individuals to take five days (or more) to return to the community following the death of a community member.
  • Consider if you can develop adaptable leave policies to support traditional activities during hunting or berry picking times.

Accommodate Different Remuneration Needs

  • Ensure that your company health care coverage includes holistic or naturopathic medicine, such as traditional healing, or access to Elders.
  • Provide stress management counselling and/or Indigenous community support counselling.
  • Provide coverage or credits for child care or elder care.
  • Partner with the local health or fitness club to offer employees and their families a discounted/partially covered membership.

Accommodate Differing Dress Codes

  • Indigenous males may have long hair. Only require them to cover or restrain if it is a health and safety issue, which is also required by women with long hair

Tool: Inclusive Orientation & Accommodation Checklist

  • Does our organization proactively develop relationships with new employees from day one?
  • Who is responsible for introducing the new hire to the organization? What exactly is being done now?
  • Does our orientation program include orientation sessions on the benefits of cultural diversity? Inclusiveness? Indigenous cultural awareness?
  • Are we giving the new hire access to a colleague who will offer support in deciphering the unwritten rules and protocols in our organization?
  • Are managers comfortable introducing new First Nations, Métis or Inuit employees to the team?
  • Are accommodation requirements communicated and discussed in a respectful and timely manner?
  • Do we approach accommodation requests as an opportunity to review practices and procedures strategically for the benefit of all employees?
  • Do we provide ongoing feedback to the new hire during the first few months?