As human resource professionals, Executive Directors are seasoned in how we screen for education, competencies, skills, knowledge, abilities and any of the previous which may be transferable. We are taught to ask specific questions that elicit the necessary details to assess whether an individual can meet the proficiencies required of most positions. What we need more than anything in today’s world is the ability to assess the cultural competencies of individuals we hire.
While there is no sure way to ensure the individuals we interview truly have exactly what it takes to be the model employee, there are certainly ways in which we can do our due diligence to explore this. Specifically, I would like to focus on assessing for cultural competencies. Often in interviews, the host or interviewer will pose a number of questions pertaining and related to cultural intelligence and conduct. These questions are important, and I advocate heavily that employers include them in their process. What I caution employers and HR teams is to ensure they do not stop there. When I interview potential employees, I ask for real life examples. I ask my candidates to demonstrate how they immerse themselves in intercultural relations both professionally and in their personal lives. Intercultural relations are not something that you do at work, leave on the desk for the night and pick back up in the morning or on Monday morning.
It is an entrenched practice, a set of values, deep beliefs, and piece of your core. It is something that you adamantly stand for. In fact, a workplace that does not promote strong intercultural competencies is not something you stand for, nor would you work for. Ask potential employees why cultural competency is a part of their practice, how they do this, what their values are around cultural competency, and what they believe happens in the absence of those competencies. Encourage potential employees to talk about times that the absence of cultural competency in the workplace hurt the employees and the organizations. Follow that up with a request for examples they have of how cultural competency grew a team, how it enhanced the workplace, how it presented vast opportunities for enriched dialogue and experiences, and how productivity and team ship thrived. Examples are key to ensuring that a candidate has not simply committed a textbook or article to memory.
As a more comprehensive process, I have often advocated that having a dialogue around cultural intelligence is critical. This dialogue in an interview might include a preamble about what cultural intelligence involves (knowledge, skills, and metacognitions) and then an exercise whereby the candidate is able to contextualize themselves within it. They might explain how they were raised, messages they received as children about cultural diversity, experiences they had in grade school, an important person’s influence into their intercultural development, or an audio visual message that stayed with them. They may go on to talk about their learning and experiences as an adult and how they come to find themselves interviewing with you. It is critical that they include the mistakes, errors, missteps, regrets, and missed opportunities their journey took them through. That is the skills component! Skills are acquired through experience and immersion, so this portion of the interview is critical. Confident allies who have truly acquired cultural competence are confident candidates who can talk about their learnings and from there hopefully feature their successes. From that point is still the added opportunity for your candidate to highlight how they continue to challenge themselves about their own current thinking, which is the metacognition component.
I encourage interviewers and human resource personnel to not rush this important part of an interview. Place equal value, if not more importance, on it. Be patient, listen carefully. Honour the difficult journeys that were far from perfect, perhaps more gifts came from them. Do not judge the journeys that are shared with you, they took courage. And most of all honour the hard work from our allies, we need them in our work places.
Indigenous Perspectives society will be launching updated Executive Director Training in 2020 and more information can be found at https://ipsociety.ca/training/leadership-and-human-resources/executive-director-training/
Rachelle Dallaire, Executive Director, Indigenous Perspectives Society
The Fall 2019 IN Perspective is out and available to read here. This season’s newsletter features the following:
- Executive Update
- IPS Updates
- Aboriginal Social Work
- Gladue Writer Training
- Cultural Perspectives Training
- Training Calendar
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“It is great to have respect for the cultural practices within the communities we live and practice in.”
Cultural safety is a huge step in the reconciliation of our Indigenous communities. It is my belief that everyone should be educated of our past, present and future identity as Indigenous peoples. There is always room for learning and growth as individuals, organizations and communities to help better understand cultural safety.
As an example of being aware of how you use cultural safety in the workplace. I had lost an uncle and was scheduled to attend a professional development workshop on the same day the funeral was. Our family comes from a strong line of culturally involved people. Our culture is very private but most often after a death in a family/community. The family will gather for four days after the death and the loved one will be buried on the fourth day. My uncle, the oldest of eight children and possibly a residential school survivor although it has never been talked about, had stated before he passed that he did not want anything cultural. While wanting to honour his wishes, there were mixed feelings about this in my family.
My Executive Director at the time asked me, “Are you sure you want to miss this workshop you are registered for? Even though it is just a celebration of life.”
This question upset me, I felt angry and like I had been punched in the stomach. I felt defensive and like I had to justify my choice thinking that if we had gone by our traditions and teachings, I would have been away from work much longer, and the statement from the Executive Director would be more insensitive.
I privately addressed the issue with my direct supervisor and stated that I was offended by the lack of empathy for my spiritual and emotional loss I was dealing with. He arranged a meeting with the three of us to resolve my cultural safety concerns. My Executive Director apologized. She was from a different community and had perspectives based on her own history.
Understanding is a huge factor in a positive outcome for anything culturally related. We are often coming together from different places and need to work together with empathy and compassion. For me, the saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” also applies to how we relate to each other as we grow professionally as adults. If we are in a positive/supportive community that values and uplifts us, our world will be a much better place.
When we consider what cultural competency is, we must reflect on how it shows up in our action, words, and behaviors. These are some of the most important aspects of cultural competency and it lies in our ability to be rigorously honest with ourselves and our intentions. This also includes the process of self-reflection and self-awareness. The key is awareness and a recognition of our inaccurate perceptions that we hold of Indigenous children, families, and communities. It requires a shift in our perceptions and can result in cognitive dissonance when confronted with a reality that is the polar opposite of what we believe, think, and understand about Indigenous people, and this is a direct result of our socialization and upbringing.
The self- reflection matters because we are at a point in time where awareness amongst the mainstream culture is awakening through reports such as the “Truth and Reconciliation Report” and the “Calls to Action” (2015). We are all challenged to consider Indigenous ways of being and knowing as a truth that has for far too long been denied and ostracized. Mainstream pedagogy has been thought to be superior to other cultures, and active efforts to negate the Indigenous worldview and ways of being disrupt the lives of many Indigenous children, families, and communities.
The question we must all ask ourselves is “How do we bring cultural competency in our work roles when helping Indigenous children and families?” There are stereotypes of Indigenous People that we learned growing up from our families, and these negative assumptions can taint and create cultural biases that continue to inform erroneous our beliefs we have of Indigenous people. As noted earlier, awareness is the key to overcoming the negative beliefs we hold about Indigenous people.