Approaching Indigenous employment and workforce development

When we talk about Indigenous employment and workforce development, we are talking about the process of attracting, cultivating and retaining a skilled Indigenous workforce who are ready and available to take on jobs when they arise. In order to effectively engage any Indigenous community and develop a workforce from within it, it is vital to take a holistic approach.

Here are the key elements that will lead to the successful implementation of an Indigenous employment and workforce development program within your organisation.

  1. Commitment from the top down
    Within your organisation, senior management must be visibly on board and backing an Indigenous employment and workforce development strategy. This support will help the initiative to gain momentum and ensure that all employees within the organisation are invested in its success.
  2. Research and plan ahead
    It’s integral that you first understand the local community framework and the key stakeholders within it. This is to ensure that you identify the protocols which are unique to that community and understand any historical issues so you can prepare an appropriate community consultation framework.
  3. Identify the key leaders in the community specific to your project area
    There are Traditional Owners and key family groups within every Indigenous community. Each will play a specific role within that community and you will need to connect with the specific leaders who can assist you with your project. They will not only help you to identify potential candidates but also assist you with the establishment of a mentoring framework. Spending time within the community will cement strong relationships with the key stakeholders and elders built on trust.
  4. Clearly and accurately explain what you want to do
    Explain your Indigenous employment and workforce development strategy, including as much specific information on your project and the job requirements as you can. Make sure all information on available opportunities is correct and up to date otherwise it will result in delays in your project and possibly create a ripple effect of issues within the community. Be clear that Indigenous employees will be successful in gaining employment on merit and because they are suitable for the position.
    Social media, specifically Facebook, is a platform that is gaining momentum amongst many Indigenous communities as a way to gain and share information. So you may wish to consider using it to post jobs and communicate with the community. Finally, follow through is essential, so ensure that you remain connected with the community and update them as things progress.
  5. Seek the support of additional stakeholders
    Working within a network and establishing partnerships with organisations and stakeholders who can support the effectiveness of your Indigenous employment and workforce development plan is vital. No one can do it alone and you will need to take a holistic approach by incorporating service providers who offer things you cannot—for example, training organisations, medical services or other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers. To achieve success, it’s important that all key stakeholders and service providers work together and ensure transparency between them. It’s also best to seek approval with community leaders and members before engaging external stakeholders to avoid the deterioration of trust within the relationship. 
  6. Be thorough with your recruitment and training process
    Conduct a training needs analysis and an extensive skills audit to ensure you provide opportunities that best match your Indigenous candidates. Make sure you ask specific questions in the interview, especially those related to an applicant’s prior training. Clearly outline all details of the role so that the applicant is best able to make an informed decision.
  7. Include a mentorship program and cross-cultural awareness training
    Whether it’s something you do internally or in coordination with an external service provider, a mentorship program can make all the difference to the longevity of an employment relationship. Ideally these mentors would be from within the Indigenous community itself. Cross-cultural awareness training is an important part of promoting a positive culture and two-way understanding of different cultural practices within your organisation.
  8. Be realistic when setting targets and evaluating progress
    The reality is that any Indigenous employment and workforce development strategy will take time to become effective. It’s unrealistic to expect a 100% retention rate with Indigenous employees, especially at the outset. You will need to evaluate your approach regularly to fine tune it along the way.

How to develop an effective reconciliation action plan

Reconciliation can mean different things to different people. At its core though, it’s about establishing and nurturing respectful relationships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians with the intent to work together to close the gaps between the two. In essence, it’s about creating shared value.

We’re entirely supportive of companies who wish to establish reconciliation action plans and do what we can to help them create effective ones. While it’s always best to invest in seeking the advice of an Indigenous engagement consultant when establishing a reconciliation action plan, here are a few basic steps to get you started.

  1. Set up a Reconciliation Action Plan group
    You don’t want the development and implementation of your Reconciliation Action Plan to be the sole responsibility of one person. Establish a diverse group who is responsible for its development. Ideally you want a few key personnel from within the company as well as stakeholders from within the Indigenous community who can offer their perspective as well.
  2. Determine your reconciliation vision
    What role will your company play in the reconciliation process? Be clear about what it is you hope to achieve and ensure that your vision is both achievable and practical. Be specific and ensure that the strategies you envisage will be truly helpful to your organisation as well as the Indigenous community.
  3. Establish your Reconciliation Action Plan ‘actions’
    How will you go about effectively implementing your Reconciliation Action Plan? The workplace framework set up by Reconciliation Australia, which provides organisations with a structured approach to reconciliation, is a good place to start. They set out four different types of Reconciliation Action Plans that organisations can develop, depending on where they are currently on their reconciliation journey: reflect, innovate, stretch and elevate.
  4. Decide on a timeline and identify who will take responsibility for what
    A Reconciliation Action Plan is unlikely to succeed if you don’t identify key people who will take responsibility for seeing it through. Establishing a timeline will allow you to set measurable goals which can be monitored to assess the effectiveness of short and long-term strategies.

For more information on Reconciliation Action Plans, check out Reconciliation Australia. If you’d like some assistance in establishing a plan for your organisation, we’re here to help. Get in touch with our team today.

The long-lasting benefits of community engagement

Community engagement is when citizens within a community are invited into the decision-making process and play an active role in the discussions and deliberations regarding a project or program which may directly affect them. It’s something we’re really passionate about here at Pandanus because, over the years, we’ve seen exactly how beneficial it is for both the community itself and the corporate sector alike.

When it comes to engaging Indigenous communities, those benefits may not always be abundantly clear from the outset. This can deter the corporate sector from partnering with the community in the area, which from our point of view is a massive squandered opportunity.

Here’s what a company misses when they fail to engage indigenous communities in their projects.

  1. Far-reaching acceptance
    Engaging the local community in a project increases the likelihood that it will be more readily accepted within the area. Traditional landowners and Indigenous communities will be far more willing to sanction a project when they have been included in the discussions and decision-making process. In some cases, this can reduce any delays which may result from native title concerns and cultural heritage preservation. 
  2.  More effective solutions
    When a company draws on local knowledge by including the perspective of the local community and associated stakeholders, it sets them up to discover more practical, effective and long-lasting solutions. It also means they avoid the cultural faux pas of making decisions on behalf of another established and respected group of people. This not only benefits the project itself, but it also reflects positively on the company’s reputation.
  3. Access to a group of people with an in-depth understanding of the area
    One of the primary benefits that we’ve found over our years of promoting community engagement is the transfer of knowledge. We wholeheartedly believe that there is so much to be learned from the ancient and rich heritage of Indigenous culture and lore. The local practices and protocols are derived from thousands of years of looking after the land. What are you missing if you choose not to engage the local community to gain a better understanding of the land you’re going to be working with?
  4. A local network of invested community members
    When you have more people on the ground who are working towards a common goal, it’s more likely the project will be successful. The investment of the community itself can make all the difference throughout the entire project. It also increases trust and helps to improve communication and understanding within all sectors. This in itself can prevent future conflict from arising.

At Pandanus, we’re invested in helping establish strong and long-lasting community connections between corporate Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. With our network of key stakeholders and extensive experience in the field, we can help companies to map out the Indigenous landscape and start reaping the benefits of community engagement. To learn more about how we can help, get in touch with our team.