Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 23, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Northwest Territories, Government of the was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016):
- Government of the Northwest Territories created a government-wide Traditional Knowledge Policy to ensure that Aboriginal knowledge, values and experience are handed down from generation to generation
- Government of the Northwest Territories maintains an Aboriginal Management Development Program to provide developmental opportunities for Aboriginals entering management positions in order to enhance their leadership and management skills and knowledge -- and also maintains an Aboriginal Employees Advisory Committee to help increase workforce representation of Aboriginals in the public service
- Government of the Northwest Territories manages an Advisory Committee on Employability, which acts as a consultative body to the deputy minister's human resources committee and provides advice on ways to promote inclusion and increase workforce representation of persons with disabilities
Embracing diversity above the 60th parallel
About 35 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle along the legendary Mackenzie River, Celine Proctor is having the time of her working life in the remote Northwest Territories community of Fort Good Hope. For the past six years, the 65-year-old Dene woman has worked as a Government Service Officer for the Government of the Northwest Territories, helping the community's 515, mostly Aboriginal residents to access territorial and federal government services.
"People always ask me, 'When are you going to retire?'" says Proctor. "I say, 'I'm going to stay in this position until I drop.' That's how much I love it."
For Proctor, some of the greatest satisfaction comes from the opportunity to develop trusting relationships with clients by helping them one-on-one, including home visits to elders every Thursday afternoon.
But her enjoyment on the job also stems in large part from the supportive work environment created by the Government of the Northwest Territories. She says she particularly appreciates the opportunities for training and the territorial government's continuing effort to seek employee feedback through an extensive survey every two years. "There's open communication, and it's really good," says Proctor, who worked previously as an employment officer with the K'asho Got'ine Community Council. "I have never felt this way about an employer before."
Attracting, retaining and advancing more Aboriginal employees and people from other diverse backgrounds is a key priority for the Government of the Northwest Territories, says Deputy Minister of Human Resources Bronwyn Watters. The territorial government boasts 11 official languages - including English and French - and Aboriginal employees currently make up 31 per cent of the workforce. But it is working towards at least 50 per cent at all levels. "We're not there yet," says Watters, who immigrated to Canada from Australia in the 1970s. "Our overarching philosophy is to have a workforce representative of the population we serve."
That commitment is captured in the government's Traditional Knowledge Policy, an initiative launched in 1997 aimed at ensuring that all territorial government programs and policies reflect and respect "knowledge and values acquired through experience, observation,
from the land or from spiritual teachings, and handed down from one generation to another." "It's part of the DNA of the Government of the Northwest Territories," says Watters. "It's very pervasive and very important to us."
To enhance cross-cultural understanding, all new employees are required to complete the online Aboriginal Culture and Awareness Training Program. The Aboriginal Employees Advisory Committee, chaired by two Aboriginal deputy ministers, plays a key role in
developing the government's human resources strategy. Its recommendations have inspired affirmative action measures like the Aboriginal Management Development Program, which gives selected management candidates hands-on experience by pairing them with senior managers for two years. At the end of the program, candidates are guaranteed a management position.
To keep in touch with the evolving needs of its workers, the government's Employee Engagement and Satisfaction Survey is distributed to all personnel every two years. "Offering it every second year allows us to be more constructive in what we do with the results and
really use them," says Watters.
The Government of the Northwest Territories is also making impressive strides in other areas of diversity. More than half its ranks are made up of women. And its Advisory Committee on Employability focuses on improving opportunities for disabled people, and includes representatives from organizations such as the NWT Disabilities Council, CNIB Alberta and Northwest Territories, and the Yellowknife Association for Community Living. Watters says the effort has brought together the government, its unions, and community groups and strengthened those relationships. "We really want to work together," she adds. "There's a fairly acute awareness of people with disabilities, and people are sensitive to their needs."
This article appeared in the magazine announcing this year's Canada's Best Diversity Employers winners, published February 24, 2016 in The Globe and Mail. This article was prepared with the financial support of the employer, which did not write or edit its contents.