Bringing about positive change with the Indigenous Employee Resource Group

5 minutes read

Growing up in Grande Prairie, Alberta, located in the Peace Region in Northern Alberta, I was proud to be part of the Métis Nation of Alberta.

Although none of my family members worked in banking, when it was time for me to think about a career, I was drawn to the industry. For 11 years, I enjoyed rewarding work in retail and commercial banking for financial institutions both large and small.

When I joined BDC, it was partly because I wanted to apply my skills to supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs. I appreciated that there was a customized offering, the Indigenous Entrepreneur Loan, for Indigenous business owners, and a portion of the interest revenue from each loan is donated to a charity of the entrepreneur’s choice. But what really ignited my interest was the opportunity to work with leaders who are Métis.

I’m a married, 33-year-old father of two, but representation is just as important to me now as it was when I was just starting out. It’s hard to express how meaningful it is to have the chance to follow the career pathways of other Indigenous professionals.

Empowering Indigenous employees

I knew BDC was the right fit for me even during the recruiting process. The job posting acknowledged that it was important to hire First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. The hiring panel was interested in my experience as a Métis banker and were eager to learn what I could bring to the team.

From the very beginning, I have been given a platform to speak for myself as a Métis employee. Leadership is not just listening to my words and repeating them; they’re handing me the microphone to share my perspective directly. I’ve felt free to speak about issues that Indigenous entrepreneurs and Métis employees face, and I know that the concerns we bring to the table will be confronted head on.

Employee resource groups: Bringing people together

I learned just how serious BDC is about empowering its employees when I made a suggestion in our Indigenous Employee Resource Group (ERG) my first week on the job. Employee resource groups allow Indigenous employees and allies to get together to discuss ideas and concerns for employees and Indigenous entrepreneurs.

During the recruitment process, I noticed that BDC job postings didn’t acknowledge that people could work remotely from their communities—whether that was on a Métis settlement in Alberta or on a reserve as a First Nations member.

This might seem like a small nuance, but the wording on job postings has an impact. It’s been reported that women are less likely than men to apply for a job unless they fit nine out of 10 of the requirements. If our job postings aren’t explicit about what remote work means for Indigenous candidates, the right people may not consider that joining BDC is a possibility for them. That’s a missed opportunity for an organization that is working on being more inclusive to everyone.

As Indigenous employees, our garden isn’t just being watered—through the ERG, we’re being tended and cheered on for growth.

I voiced the concern on a Thursday. By Tuesday, all eligible BDC job posting were updated to reflect my suggested change. Today, specific job postings indicate that, as long as they have access to high-speed Internet, BDC employees are welcome to work remotely, on reserve or within their communities, anywhere in Canada.

I was blown away at the speed of this change. In that moment, it was clear to me that BDC is serious about improving our inclusive practices.

Important work that gets recognized

Since then, I’ve looked forward to our monthly Indigenous ERG meetings. Among the multi-faceted work we do, we have created self-discovery tools for Indigenous employees and entrepreneurs, and resources that non-Indigenous employees can use to support the Indigenous economy in Canada.

The Indigenous ERG is a vital part of my job satisfaction at BDC. What makes it special is that it has the full support of leadership and there are mechanisms built in that ensure that the people running it are not overwhelmed or burned out. Our direct leaders are supportive of the time and energy that we put into the work we do as a group.

As Indigenous employees, our garden isn’t just being watered—through the ERG, we’re being tended and cheered on for growth. Change isn’t always as fast as we would like, but it’s exciting to see the fruits of our labour brought to market and put into practice internally.

I’m proud to work for an organization that ensures Indigenous entrepreneurs have an opportunity to work with Indigenous employees who understand the barriers and challenges they face. That prioritizes ongoing education, expects everyone to bring an inclusive mindset to their role, and is actively recruiting to strengthen the diversity of our team. And I’m grateful that I have an opportunity to feel valued and heard as an Indigenous employee while I do this important work.