The Fort McKay Group of Companies was looking to make some changes when Mary Beth Green joined the organization as director of human resources.

The Fort McKay Group is one of the largest companies in Canada wholly owned by a First Nation, with more than 1,500 employees. All the company's profits go back into the Fort McKay First Nation, supporting elder care, youth centres and other community services.

Indigenous workers made up only 9% of the Fort McKay Group's workforce when Green joined the company. Senior leadership wanted to do better, which meant the company had to redefine its values, its recruitment process – and its purpose.

"We made a decision as an executive team to say our diversity statistics are just as important as the bottom line," Green said during a panel discussion at Forward Summit West.

Achieving diversity targets became part of the Fort McKay Group's bonus structure. Three years later, Indigenous employees make up 27% of the company's workforce – and the Fort McKay Group has tripled the number of Indigenous women and Indigenous senior leaders it employs.

Part of revamping the recruitment process was reevaluating job postings. Green noticed several job posts that wanted candidates to have a driver's licence for positions that did not require any driving.

"This happened in a couple different areas of our business," Green said, which led her to reexamine all the Fort McKay Group's job postings to ensure the requirements aligned with the skills needed for jobs.

Removing barriers from job postings has been a priority for TELUS as well. Theresa Lynn, strategic programs director for TELUS, noted that the recruitment process is exclusive by design.

"We have to rip it up and start from a place of inclusivity," Lynn said. "Challenge everything that comes across your desk. Is the job posting exclusive or inclusive?"

For Lynn, that meant reevaluating everything in a job posting. Do candidates actually need a college degree to do a job? Do they really have to work from the office, or can they work remotely?

Requiring candidates to apply for jobs online is also a barrier when the internet isn't available in many remote communities, Lynn added. She relies on job fairs to reach candidates who may not have internet access. TELUS also engages with its Indigenous employees to ensure job postings are barrier-free.

The interview process should attempt to remove barriers as well, Lynn added. She said TELUS always uses two interviewers, at least one of whom is of a diverse background.

"An interview shouldn't feel like you're standing in front of a judge and jury," Lynn said. "An interview should feel like a first date – we're figuring out if we like each other."

Forward Summit West took place in Calgary from May 17-18, hosted on Tsuut'ina Nation territory. The annual conference features panel discussions on economic reconciliation for Indigenous communities. MLT Aikins lawyers Billie Fortier and Bob Black both spoke at this year's event. MLT Aikins was pleased to be an exhibitor at Forward Summit West.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.