A successful Indigenous recruitment strategy is about people, not numbers

By Krystal Abotossaway
Talent Acquisition Strategic Sourcing Partner – Indigenous Peoples, TD Bank Group

I never considered banking as a career. Growing up, I thought banks were only about numbers, and that everyone who worked in them had to be great at math.

So at age 18, when a recruiter from a financial institution cold called me offering a Client Service Representative position after I had applied for a scholarship program for Indigenous students—I turned it down. I told the recruiter that I wasn't a mathematician, and that I didn’t think I had what it took to work in a branch.

Looking back, I'm glad I told that recruiter about my misconception because she helped me understand that banks aren't all about numbers, they're about people. She told me that if I liked managing relationships then the job was for me.  

Now in my current role recruiting Indigenous talent as a Diversity Strategic Sourcing Partner at TD, the same myth I used to believe is something I run into when I meet Indigenous students about why they should consider a career at TD. At the start of these conversations (at events, resource centres or a school), people aren't interested. But when I'm finished presenting, a few people will tell me they are now seriously considering a role at TD. It happens every time and is rewarding because I've changed their perspective on what it means to work here. They hear about my own story, and open their minds to their own possibilities.

According to Statistics Canada, the Indigenous population has grown by 42.5 per cent since 2006—more than four times the rate of our non-Indigenous counterparts in Canada over the same period. Based on projections, the size of this community will keep rising over the next two decades to potentially exceed 2.5 million people. We are, in fact, the fastest growing population in Canada.

To tap into this pool of talent, TD has a recruitment strategy that is unique from other financial institutions. Here are a few ways our strategy is different:

  1. Engaging with people is the priority over numbers being paramount. This means continuously cultivating relationships instead of looking for a candidate when there is a role to fill. For example, I'll start building relationships with prospective summer interns in January and keep circling back to answer questions, or share roles that match their skills based on what I learn about them as our relationship develops. Our strategy is focused on building relationships so that when an area of the organization is looking for talent I have a pool of resumes to draw from.
     
  2. We talk about community over dollars which reflects Indigenous values. If I visit an on-reserve community especially, and am asking for something then I understand the need to offer value in return. Instead of talking dollar amounts for community giving, I communicate our educational focus with Indigenous communities through Indspire, or financial literacy courses, or about planting trees where they live through TD Tree Days and our Inuit art collection. I discuss resume workshops or how people can find mentorship using our Indigenous Resource Centre. Our benefit to the community goes well beyond numbers.
     
  3. We ask professionals to tell their own stories. Part of the reason I hadn't thought of a career at a bank (and why this industry still isn't an employer of choice for Indigenous people) is because many of us don't have a family member working in finance for it to be top of mind.  To help build career role modelling we have a social media strategy that encourages Indigenous employees to tell their stories. We then broadcast them through social media so people can see themselves reflected in these roles. I recently spoke with criminology students who were surprised to find out we hire them to work in anti-money laundering. These students thought their only option was to work for the police because the connection was never made for them.
     
  4. We're interested in building trust through an individuals' culture. If a community has a bad experience with another bank we all suffer from that loss of trust. I'll often hear "but we already spoke with a bank," and then we have to work hard to explain why we are different. Building trust has to happen on an ongoing basis and on an individual level. During the application process, my first question is to ask "what is an Indigenous story that you've kept close to your heart?" My favourite is the creation story, of which there are many versions. I'm Ojibwe, and ours differs from an Inuit or Cree teaching. The best part of my job is learning about these and showing candidates that we value their individual experiences.

I still may not be great at math, but given the approach of our Indigenous talent recruitment strategy, I'd say our calculations are correct.

Krystal Abotossaway

Talent Acquisition Strategic Sourcing Partner – Indigenous Peoples

TD Bank Group