Summer of Our Decolonial Love - 10

By Mark Solomon posted 11-03-2017 09:28


I got a guy for that……


Dr. Eve Tuck just hosted @IndigenousXca, which features different Indigenous weekly hosts.  She was commenting on the current need in post-secondary to hire Indigenous peeps so lets dig into that a bit.  There has been a long list of Institutions in the last two years to put up postings for Indigenous faculty, well mostly faculty.  I actually get asked a lot, I mean A LOT, it usually goes something like this “Hey Mark, we have had a posting up for a while and can’t seem to attract any Indigenous candidates for the posting. Can you help us?”

Well, what are you offering….  It is a buyer’s market out there.  At Seneca we had a Candidate who had two competing offers, one was ours for employment.  I coached him to take the competing one.  I know you are all shocked but stay with me.  Lets run through some basics first.

Firstly, what are they going to do there?  Are you looking for a generalist?  Are you looking for someone with their skill set?  I worry that often when generalists are hired into departments where they are the only Indigenous person, that should/when reconciliation not be the flavor of the month, their Indigenous courses get dropped and they teach a generic gen ed.  This may happen as the Indigenous person needs the employment and the institution starts shifting its priorities, so they must go along to keep their employment.

Secondly, what is the atmosphere like for Indigenous employees.  Will the employee be the only Indigenous employee?  Is the person (s) that they report to culturally competent? Etc.  Just having other Indigenous folks greatly helps the transition into a large institution.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, why do you want an Indigenous employee?  Is this to keep up with the joneses?  Is it to off load all your reconciliation work on them?  Etc.  Honestly, I feel like these are the common reasons for hiring. 

I also see a bunch of hurry up and hire stuff going on.  I see wonderful Indigenous people hired who are asked to do things completely outside of their skill set.  For example, I have seen great front line Indigenous workers whose whole job is working with students and community, get promoted, and tasked to develop education plans, and play the politics of an institution.  There are some who can make the jump but some that can’t and it feels like institutions then blame them for falling behind.  Additionally, and I will be cautious in saying this, but I think this hurry up and hire has Institutions hiring people with questionable Indigenous heritage….(and I am going to leave that there).

So back to Seneca, why did I coach a wonderful Metis man with a PhD not to come to Seneca.  Well ultimately it was his choice.  The other offer was for an institution that was closer to where his young family was located and frankly, it was more money.  Yet he still wanted to come work with me….why?  Cause through the HR process I visited with him.  I was upfront about the challenges Indigenous employees face in our institution.  I was upfront in the expectations for the position.  I was straight forward in what I wanted.  I built a relationship with the candidate.  We became like family. 

Ultimately, we picked up another great candidate, through the networks of our Indigenous employees and I did the same thing as I did before.  He signed on the line and felt confident that this is where he wanted to be and retire from.  I know that HR processes are tight and confining but to fully be an institution that is decolonial you may want to decolonize your hiring practices where you can talk to people.  You have to have difficult conversations with people. 

I will leave you with one final note on HR.  Remember each time you hire an Indigenous employee you are taking them away from the Community to work in your institution.  I know you will all claim that they work indirectly for the community, but reconciliation hiring is causing a brain drain in Indigenous communities.  Access to our young thinkers is becoming harder to get.  So if you are just hiring to hire, your motives are not fully through through, take some time.  Don’t just hire an Indigenous employee to keep up with the institution down the street.