This past June, Don Head, commissioner of Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), started a national conversation with staff of Aboriginal ancestry on how to achieve a more inclusive and representative workplace.
The consultation process is part of fulfilling a vision to make CSC one of the top 10 employers of choice in the public service. The goal is to address the systemic barriers to recruitment, career advancement and employee retention for Aboriginal employees at CSC. To do so, the commissioner is consulting directly with Aboriginal staff to hear their feedback on how CSC can more successfully create a barrier-free and inclusive recruitment, staffing and training model.
New ways of connecting
To help with the consultation process and the follow-up report and its implementation, Head established a National Consultation Team, of which I am proud to be part, to assist with the logistics and organization. One of my roles has been to serve as a social media advisor for the consultations.
As social media becomes more integrated into our daily lives, the use of these tools to build relationships with employees, as well as to inform and engage with Canadians, will increasingly become a requirement for how government departments communicate. As an ambassador of the organization, the commissioner uses Twitter to promote the Aboriginal employee consultation to his staff and to the public at large, as well as to recognize people who are doing great work at CSC in ensuring public safety. We have been encouraging staff we meet to use tools like Twitter to connect with the commissioner as well as other CSC staff across the country.
Cross country dialogue
So far, Head has consulted with Aboriginal employees in the National Capital Region, the Ontario Region, and is currently travelling in the Prairie and Atlantic regions. In the New Year, consultations will take place in the Pacific and Quebec regions, making this a truly national initiative to capture the stories of Aboriginal staff across the country.
As part of the consultation decorum, an Elder is invited to open and close the session with a prayer or a smudge to create a respectful environment for participation. This incorporation of Aboriginal cultural practices into our work has been an important element for successful consultations as it sets the stage for an open and receptive atmosphere to address the unique challenges that Aboriginal employees – and others – face while working in a correctional services environment.
The consultations that have taken place so far have seen an honest and frank dialogue between the commissioner and participants. This consultation process is an important first step to work together to develop solutions to the barriers faced by Aboriginal employees.
As CSC is committed to operating its facilities in an inclusive fashion, valuing the merits and strengths of all employees, Head held similar consultations with visible minority employees across Canada during the spring and summer of 2010. Next year, the commissioner will launch a round of consultations with persons with disabilities.
This consultation process has been an exciting opportunity for employees to play an active role in their organization, facilitate change within CSC, and ultimately improve public safety results for all Canadians.
Annie Joannette is communications advisor to the National Aboriginal Employee Consultation Team, Correctional Service of Canada. For the latest on the consultations, follow Commissioner Don Head on Twitter: @Don_Head_CSC or @CSC_SCC_en