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3 Ways to Support and Hire More Indigenous Employees

If you're working on your DEIB goals, finding indigenous employees should be part of your diversity recruitment plan. In fact, these communities can be a huge untapped source of new hires. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Indians and Alaska Natives have a 28.6 percent unemployment rate, compared to the 14.7 percent unemployment rate for the general population in the United States—so if you're looking for talent from an underserved population, indigenous communities are a great place to start.  

But in order to successfully bring new hires from these communities on board, you have to connect with them first. The following are three ways you can support and hire more indigenous employees to increase their representation in your company and provide opportunities for them to learn and grow.

How to Support and Hire More Indigenous Employees

In order to boost your DEIB goals, and find new hires from indigenous communities, your organization may need to adopt new recruitment approaches. The following are ways to attract indigenous employees and support them in the workplace.

1. Expect to Make a Long-Term Commitment

When your DEIB plans include attracting indigenous employees, expect to make it a long-term initiative. In order to truly connect with these communities to attract new hires, you have to be prepared to make an investment and have patience during the times you're not getting the results you want.

One way to make this investment is by cultivating relationships, and making talent aware that your company has opportunities for potential indigenous employees. By partnering with organizations that serve indigenous people, you can learn more about their culture and find effective ways to connect with them—as well as provide information to help them succeed. 

Also, make your employer brand visible through activities like attending career fairs geared toward indigenous communities, and visiting schools to educate young people about your company and industry. Additionally, you can create internships for high school students to develop this talent early and offer scholarships to help alleviate financial concerns that can preclude them from going to college.

On the college level, you can partner with Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), which are institutions operated by tribal governments to provide higher education opportunities to members of Native American and Alaska Native tribes, as well as preserve their languages and cultures. These partnerships can further expose your company to indigenous communities and build relationships with students, professors, and administrators.

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2. Learn About Indigenous Communities

When recruiting talent from indigenous communities, it's important to learn about their cultural norms. This not only makes the workplace more inclusive when you hire indigenous employees, it can also help you better understand candidates throughout the recruitment process. 

For example, when you interview these candidates, you may find that they don't talk much about their own accomplishments and instead focus more on the accolades of a group. Hiring managers might mistake this tendency for candidates not having any accomplishments of their own to talk about or not being competent enough to pull their own weight on the job. But the fact is, members of indigenous communities have a collectivistic culture, so they don't necessarily feel comfortable patting themselves on the back and would much rather emphasize group accomplishments instead of their own.

Understanding differences like this is key to effectively interacting with prospective indigenous employees. As a result, it's important for everyone at your company, especially those in managerial positions, to learn about indigenous cultures so the workplace is more inclusive for this talent. Also, if you already have indigenous employees working at your organization, get them involved in hiring and onboarding so they can provide valuable cultural insights.   

3. Think About Retention

Supporting and hiring indigenous employees should include retention strategies. In order to attract and keep new hires, you must find out what these employees need by taking cues from workers past and present. If you have indigenous people in your workforce, conduct surveys to find out what they want and what your company can do to keep them. 

Also, create an employee resource group for indigenous workers, which will give them an opportunity to come together, build meaningful relationships, and voice their concerns about what’s going on in the organization. Your company’s leaders should attend ERG meetings to learn more about these communities in general, as well as how employees feel about the organization and what can be improved to make their experience better.

Similarly, if you have indigenous employees that leave your organization, find out why during an exit interview. But keep in mind that people from these cultures may not feel comfortable being frank about their dissatisfaction with your workplace. To get the information you need, ask current indigenous employees to participate in exit interviews so those leaving feel more at ease speaking their truth.

Supporting and hiring indigenous employees is not easy, but it’s worth the time and effort. By adopting these DEIB strategies during recruitment, you increase the chances of finding, as well as retaining, the talent you want.

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