Regardless of the type of business that you operate, professional development should be a priority. Training opportunities not only assist in skill development for your employees but also increases employee engagement. Of course, training can range from technical skills – for instance, learning a new software program or how to run a new piece of equipment – to soft skills, including communication techniques or leadership skills. One area that your organization should ideally focus on is diversity training and education, which is now more important than ever.
With Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, along with hundreds of unmarked graves being found at the sites of former residential schools across our country, we need to ensure that all of us – including the people that we employ – are properly educated and informed. To do so, there are lots of great resources available. For example, the University of Alberta offers an online Indigenous Canada course, free of charge. For more information about this course, please see here. To encourage employees to take a course or training in this area, it’s ideal if you allow staff to use work time for the program. Depending on the course, maybe this means staff carve out an hour or two a week to complete it over a several week period. (Of course, staff can also work on the course on their own time if they choose to do so). Note that staff should hold the time in their calendar to work on the course. For instance, if an employee doesn’t have a standing meeting or other commitments on Friday morning from 9:00am – 10:00am, they could block this time out.
Other initiatives that your organization can become involved in include National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21st and Orange Shirt Day on September 30th. In addition to activities or events that your organization may plan for these days, take the opportunity to include an educational component. For example, invite an Elder to come in and talk to your employees. In Saskatchewan, the Office of the Treaty Commissioner (OTC) has a speakers bureau, and individuals can be booked to come in and speak at your organization. See here for more information on the OTC speakers bureau.
In addition to education related to Indigenization, there are many other diversity-related opportunities that your organization can embrace. One way to spotlight diversity is to create a committee: there could be a call for members to volunteer, and as an added bonus, would provide these employees with an opportunity to be involved in work that differs from their day-to-day duties. This committee could plan events on a monthly (or quarterly) basis that would allow employees to learn about a variety of topics. For instance, topics could range from cultural presentations or events, to bringing in a speaker from a local disabilities association. At the end of the day, there is virtually an endless selection of topics to choose from!